HRO Today invited a few leading technology companies in talent management to weigh in on the state of the market. They explain why ERP systems fall short, what’s in store in the future, and how to serve global clients.
Jack Coapman (JC) is area vice president at ADP pre-employment service. Previously, he was vice president of sales and marketing for VirtualEdge, a recruitment technology company acquired by ADP last year.
Judy Duff (JD) is the vice president of Kenexa’s global talent management portfolio strategy. With more than 20 years of extensive experience in enterprise software product and program management, she has been instrumental in introducing Kenexa’s software program management function and driving product management and product strategy.
Fred Harding (FH) is vice president of global alliances at Taleo, a global talent management software company. The company’s products are used in 100 countries by more than 1,300 employers. In the third quarter of this year, more than 1.3 billion transactions were processed on its products.
Jon Holden (JH) is the RPO practice lead of MrTed Limited, a leading provider of on-demand talent management solutions. He has global responsibility for the RPO and HRO marketplace and helps organizations to transform both their service delivery via shared services and offshoring methods and providing the end customer with a world-class model that delivers the best candidate on demand to the business.
Kevin Marasco (KM) is senior vice president, marketing and sales support for Vurv. He is responsible for worldwide corporate marketing, product category marketing, communications, public relations, brand management, pre-sales activities, and sales knowledge management.
HRO Today: Integration is the watch word of many systems today as we see development programs to include pre-employment skills and behavioral assessments, automate background checking, and even on-boarding and orientation. What is the next frontier of capability in the hiring process that will be integrated by the major players into the enterprise talent management platform?
JC: Since ADP’s perspective is through the eyes of the recruiter, anything that assists in getting the right/best candidate is important. Our research shows that the biggest pain point of recruiters is finding qualified candidates. The next frontier of capability could include access to social networks to build top-of-
funnel activity and integration of performance/succession processes to zero in on the right internal candidates through workforce planning.
JD: Kenexa uniquely combines talent management, assessment, and employee engagement software, services, and content. Engagement is a critical frontier in talent management, both candidate engagement from initial contact through on-boarding and employee engagement in their immediate role and their career development. The goal of recruiting is productive employees, and productivity is driven by engagement.
FH: The next paradigm shift in talent management will occur with the availability of a “unified” (as opposed to “integrated”) data model that leverages a universal talent profile as well as a common skills and competency taxonomy on a centrally managed, on-demand enterprise platform. Today, for example, many organizations have a process in which the candidate profile used in talent acquisition functions (i.e., staffing/recruiting/hiring) and the employee profile used in performance management functions are based on different data structures and are typically managed on different application software code bases. Integration has been the method for linking these two functions and sharing data. However, integration of data does not necessarily create a seamless process. Imagine the possibilities for optimizing a talent management program as a single, holistic process if these typically disparate functions co-existed and inter-operated in real time.
JH: Integration is always a hot topic for both RPO vendors and end customers. The process should always aim to be as seamless as possible with minimal manual work-arounds. For example, a typical end-to-end process starts at requisition and finishes at on-boarding.
There are numerous steps you have mentioned that take place outside of the typical ATS lifecycle, but by integrating external factors, the transparency increases, and easier decisions can be made. What happens to the talent when it is hired and on-boarded? By digging deeper into performance management, RPOs are capable of tracking the performance of the hire and identifying a much more proactive recruitment program to deliver the best candidate on-demand to the business. Are we starting to blur the lines between HRO and RPO in the process?
KM: The next frontier of integration in the talent acquisition space will fall into two areas: expanded capabilities in the newer elements of talent acquisition—essentially the bookends of the traditional hiring process, sourcing and onboarding; and, business process-level integration into other areas of talent management. New technologies and methodologies are improving capabilities and expanding the integration horizon. Today’s talent acquisition systems offer capabilities that did not exist in the first- and second-generation systems. As technology continues to emerge in these areas, so will integration. I expect to see continued expansion of integration capabilities into sourcing tools like social networks, graduate and alumni programs, as well as on-boarding and orientation capabilities such as new-hire socialization and training and development tools/content. We will also continue to see powerful enhancements with business process-level integration into areas outside recruitment.
HRO Today: Many systems are good at managing hiring, but few integrate with the in-house HRIS systems to automate information about employee retention in a single, seamless reporting system. When will talent management systems offer HR the opportunity to manage the data about the lifecycle of an employee rather than stopping at the date of hire?
JC: Certainly, all of this information is stored within the enterprise somewhere. Several vendors are trying to become the single point of record for all employee information. While this sounds great, enterprises might not view the overall talent management solution from a single vendor as strong throughout all the pillars (recruiting, performance, succession, learning, compensation, etc). Advances in data integration are making it quite easy to move/access data throughout the enterprise. We are beginning to see organizations leverage the result of these processes (such as results of performance management initiatives) to guide or direct other business processes (such as recruiting).
JD: Kenexa’s ATS systems do integrate with in-house HRIS systems both directly and through our on-boarding solution. In both cases, clients are able to configure which data elements are passed through to the HRIS system. We are also able to configure off-boarding integration to complete the employee’s record in the ATS and adjust their status from an internal candidate to a former employee. We support making these strategic connections as a best practice for comprehensive assessment and continuous improvement of recruiting and talent management practices.
FH: The underlying challenge is not in the exchange of data, but in getting the business logic of each of the applications to synchronize and work as one holistic system. In today’s market, there are a few vendors who offer a suite of talent management products that have, over time, been assembled through acquisition and positioned as being part of the same product line. One of Taleo’s differentiators is having a large and experienced R&D team on staff, which provides the engine to organically build key components of the talent management application suite using common architecture, data model, and business to drive each application. This is the approach that we believe will enable customers to truly manage the lifecycle of an employee actively, rather than indirectly via a data warehouse that collects data from each stage in the talent management lifecycle.
JH: Most organizations view talent management as handling the top 200 executives. How you manage these and identify them are on-going issues. The recruitment may be the initial (simple integration) feed, but there the needs of the two systems become diverse. Also, recruitment frequently addresses the transactional volume side, and talent management frequently does not address this group.
KM: While it’s an ongoing journey, top-tier systems provide powerful capabilities today and are continuously getting better at providing both broad and deep visibility and decision support across the employee lifecycle. For example, customers using our compensation planning software can access full performance history and succession data while doing planning and allocating merit and equity rewards—all from within one system. Managers no longer have to log into a separate performance system or pull out an outdated, coffee-stained performance review document. New technologies (e.g., web services, XML), methodologies (SOA), and deployment options (SaaS) are opening new doors for talent management vendors. And we’re taking advantage of them.
HRO Today: Talent management systems have often been assailed for being long on features but short on functionality when it comes to ease of use. How does your current or upcoming generation of technology offer the front-line recruiter the easy, portal-driven interface that everyone has been seeking to make processing candidates and data less arduous?
JC: Within the ADP VirtualEdge system, a recruiter can do just about everything within the pre-employment process without having to leave our application. This includes sourcing, screening, building relationships, background screening, tax credit processing, I-9 processing, offers, etc. All vendors are intent on removing as much “low-value taskwork” from the process as possible.
JD: Kenexa continues to enhance our product usability with extensions to single-click access to common functionality, user preferences and defaults, role-based user interfaces, and process automation. Our goal is to enable automation of all purely administrative tasks. Of course, tasks that require human judgment cannot be fully automated. However, they can be simplified with user- and client-configured defaults, and form auto-population. Also, recruiters, hiring managers, administrations, managers, executives are each presented with interfaces that bring their most common tasks to the forefront.
FH: Making life easier for a front-line recruiter is about much more than a pretty user interface, and the challenge goes much deeper than what the user can see on his screen. Taleo’s approach to achieving this objective has been to build a strong foundation—a highly configurable architecture together with a scalable and adaptable data model and then leverage that foundation with a highly configurable presentation layer that allows the user to select and set personalized preferences for how they view and sort requisitions, candidates, results from assessments and background checks, as well as how they are guided by workflows in the system. Taleo Enterprise Edition’s latest release, version 7.5, also includes common Web 2.0 features that personalize the interaction with the system and reduce the number of clicks for the recruiter.
JH: By offering the recruiter intelligent searching, flexibility in workflow processes and capability to handle mass processing. This must be set against the candidate experience; more data at point of applying make it easier for recruiters but put off the candidate. MrTed addresses this by offering the candidate a structured but configurable application process, allowing data to be parsed and populated automatically.
KM: Talent management systems must balance form and function. It’s fortunate to see that a key decision driver for many of our customers is system design and intuitiveness. It is often, quite simply, why we win. Designed with a “consumer mindset,” Vurv products are developed for end-users. We utilize clean graphic design, intuitive “one-click” workflows, and a rich Web 2.0 user experience including capabilities such as drag-and-drop, interactive charts, and personalized displays. We also enable users to “personalize” the experience and interface. They can drag and drop relevant page elements onto and off the page; they can re-arrange columns, rename items, and prioritize the page according to the information that’s relative to them. This makes them more effective and more efficient.
HRO Today: Localization is a big issue in the space as some systems can provide a front end in multiple languages, but they may not be customized for workflows to an individual country’s regulatory or cultural needs. In addition, many do not have a back end in anything other than English. How close is your company to a truly global offering with language support—front and back end—and customized processes for multinational companies?
JC: ADP certainly has proven capability in the language (front end and back end) and workflow areas, but I don’t believe anyone has the one-size-fits-all solution clients would like to see. We continue to build out customized workflows that can be part of an easily supported solution for the global arena.
JD: Kenexa offers a truly global ATS, with multiple languages available for both front and back ends, and multiple configurable processes for multinational companies. Beyond translation, the system enables multiple workflows, tailored for different languages and locales. We enable multiple privacy consent workflows and different data collection and purging per-country and/or per-language. We collect applicant data in culturally sensitive ways, such as appropriate name order, whether or not to ask for middle name, address order, and so on. We enable multi-lingual requisitions, where the same requisition can be posted in more than one language, receive applications in more than one language yet be tracked as a single requisition. Also, candidates can search for, view, and apply to jobs in multiple languages in a single career site. In all ways, we enable our clients to decide when to provide tailored experiences per country and/or language and when to standardize worldwide, for the candidates, the hiring managers, and the recruiters.
FH: From its inception, Taleo was architected to be multi-lingual and to enable localization of business process through configurable workflows. Taleo’s architecture allows customers to not just have a “localized” front end with the right labels on buttons but complete “immersion” for the candidate throughout the entire workflow and application process. Taleo’s ability to address multinational localization requirements lies in a robust data foundation that can adapt to localized process requirements, laws, languages, and currencies without the need for system customizations. Today, Taleo supports more than 1,300 customers in more than 100 countries and 25 languages around the world. Our technology has been successfully deployed within some of the most complex, multinational organizations with ever-changing localization requirements.
JH: Our motto is “think global, act local.” Our solution is already a truly global application. MrTed currently supports more than 45 front-end languages and more than 25 back-end languages. It is important to stress that language translation is a small part of a global platform. Our strengths are in localization, flexible processes, which mean that the application enforces compliance and conforms to country-specific cultural needs. This has been the foundation of the platform for the last five years and has seen us expand in five continents.
KM: You can thank the first- and second-generation systems for that reputation. Today, we offer a truly global offering. That is one of the reasons we are seeing so many companies switch from legacy systems. One of our customers just replaced seven disparate recruiting systems from five different vendors around the world with one instance of Vurv. In addition to cost synergies, they now have much greater process control and visibility into their talent. Vurv operates five regional data centers located in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific to provide local hosting capabilities for global customers and to simplify compliance with regional data privacy requirements.
Vurv products are currently available in more than 20 languages and more than 150 locales, and they support global currencies, time zones, date formats, and other international requirements. Approximately more than 15 percent of our annual revenues come from customers based outside of North America, and we maintains personnel in each region to offer localized sales, support, and services. Of the more than 2.5 Million active Vurv users, more than 500,000 are based outside of North America.
HRO Today: Why have the niche providers such as yourself been able to survive the efforts by the major ERP providers to develop software platforms in talent management? What do you have that they don’t?
JC: ERP vendors have long been considered a mile wide, and an inch deep. This is especially true when we look at recruiting capabilities or modules offered in the space. The ERP vendors are making advances in this area, but I believe best-of-breed vendors have a better focus and understanding of these types of processes and a business organized to quickly address changes in the marketplace.
JD: Kenexa offers best-of-breed solutions delivering deep recruiting capabilities. We stay at the forefront of strategic recruiting and retention, with product functionality, supporting services, and expertise.
FH: Niche players in the talent management space have the advantage of being able to focus much more rigorously in their chosen field than an ERP whose resources and products are spread across many disciplines. As a result, a niche player is able to offer a customer more expertise and a best-of-breed solution that is more precisely tuned to helping them solve their domain-specific challenges. In addition, our software as a service (SaaS) delivery model eliminates the need for costly infrastructure investments and maintenance costs by delivering the application directly to the end user via a simply web browser. This delivery creates significant flexibility for the end user without the long-term maintenance costs.
JH: ERPs are great for what the initials stand for: Enterprise Resource Planning—combining financial and operational data. They are not flexible enough to deal with multiple processes when hiring people and often have limited capability for attracting talent. By integrating with the ERP solution, the clients receive best-of-breed applications, giving them wonderful MI and a holistic view of their organization.
KM: It boils down to a much better ability to manage talent at a lower total cost of ownership and a quicker time to value. When it comes to managing talent, ERP systems are several years behind in functionality. ERP usability is also frustrating to end-users like employees, managers, and candidates. In fact, they often refuse to use it. Vurv’s products are built for end users with intuitive “consumer-like” interfaces that are easy to navigate. ERPs are also costly—it costs so much in services and customization to get them to work, they have to give the modules away for free. The cost of a typical ERP implementation in a Fortune 500 company is between $40 million and $240 million, according to AMR.
HRO Today: Will talent management and performance management software systems eventually merge? If so, what is your company doing to prepare your product for that evolution?
JC: Eventually. We are always looking at
methods to combine technologies for the best interest of our respected clients. Our integration of recruiting technology, background screening, tax credit, and I-9 processing is a great example of this.
JD: Kenexa delivers both talent management and performance management software and the ability to pass data from one to another. Beyond that, we are actively exploring the critical strategic connections that will move the integration to the next level.
FH: Yes, and they have. In September 2007, Taleo announced the release of Taleo Performance, which is built on a unified talent platform utilizing Web 2.0 components as well as leveraging the same highly scalable architectural foundation that we built Taleo Enterprise on. This new product includes modules for performance management, goals management, career management, and succession planning. This solution has been designed to enable “continuous” and ongoing performance management and gives managers a single view of all the information they need to motivate, develop, and align talent with the company’s business goals.
JH: Yes, but in a limited way. Recruitment is important and can have a strategic influence (especially if you get it wrong), but it is a transactional process. Real talent management goes into areas of profiling, psychology, and a wide variety of methods of developing people. The systems out there make it easier to identify and track, but the actual development of talent is achieved in many ways—experiential, training, mentoring, coaching, etc. Recruitment has more defined processes that is replicable across many organizations and can be the feed. Talent management will also not address the needs of volume recruitment programs. MrTed is actively partnering with a performance management provider to offer best of breed to our RPO and end customers.
KM: We define talent management as a holistic term that encompasses recruitment, onboarding, performance management, succession planning, compensation management, and employee separation. We eventually anticipate recruitment and performance management merging, but not as soon as other elements such as performance and compensation, performance, and succession, etc.
We have a common enterprise technology platform, a common user interface, and shared objects across modules and are working towards integration at a business process level.