Providers are answering the call to deliver total talent management suites.

By Debbie Bolla
Long gone are the days when talent acquisition solutions delivered only applicant tracking and assessment. Now those basics are just that—basics. The growth of the industry has been on the fast track, with help from improvements in technology and the desire of employers to get ahead in the war for talent. Providers are responding to the changes and challenges with innovation and applications that are driving systems to accommodate more. Integrated talent management suites are now being used worldwide to unify processes, strengthen employer branding, and take advantage of Web 2.0 capabilities.

“Integrated talent management is a much-talked-about topic,” notes Derek Bluestone, VP of product marketing for Kenexa. “When you combine all solutions on one platform, you get the concept of a unified talent record that combines all the information, from pre-hire to on-board, into performance management of the employee. It makes all that data available to managers so employees can be as productive as possible. An integrated talent management solution is what customers are looking for and where they will get the most bang for buck.”

Kenexa launched its new technology platform, Kenexa 2x, in May to bring together pre- and post-hire talent management solutions. Recruitment, mobility, on-boarding, and performance management are available on one platform. This technology enables customers to improve productivity, increase cost savings, and raise employee engagement.

Bluestone says that research and client feedback fueled the design of the new platform. Having multiple processes automated on one platform is aimed to reduce inefficiencies that slow down internal processes, including quality of hire and time to fill.

The recent report from Aberdeen Group, Integrated Talent Management, found that organizations unifying their talent management systems at least partially had 54 percent of key positions with ready and willing successors identified, compared to only 34 percent of organizations without integrated systems. Recently, Aberdeen Group commented in a report about Kenexa 2x: “Kenexa’s continued evolution of its integrated solutions in both pre-hire and post-hire is positioning the company to enable the flow of data and workflows across processes and systems, which Aberdeen research has shown to be critical to improving organizational performance.”

Other industry leaders are seeing technology drive similar market change. “The market is evolving, and years ago it was about automation and how to drive costs out of the efficiencies,” says Ginny Gomez, VP, product management, Peopleclick Authoria. “It’s evolved into making sure processes are compliant around regulations and focusing on analytics and metrics. Practitioners want transparency into what’s going on in their organization and how the solution is being used. Where I think we are today, now that these metrics are available, is practitioners are looking to leverage that data to align talent with business objects.”

Taleo is another market leader that is seeing the value in talent management suites. “We are getting a lot of good feedback from our customers about talent intelligence,” says Ashley Stirrup, VP of product marketing for Taleo. “Pulling all the information together and doing analytics to understand the workforce helps drive business. Companies are really looking for a single view of talent and being able to do something with it.”

This transparency provides organizations with a better view into their own internal talent. Having data and analytics for talent acquisition allows organizations to be smarter about whom they hire and where they source.

“When recruiting is done in a vacuum or a stand-alone solution, there’s a lot of things that get lost along the way,” explains Susan Van Klink, VP of product sales and strategy for SuccessFactors. “One of those things is the ability to know more about your own internal talent than external talent. This hinders the ability to find good talent and move them within the organization. When you can’t connect your recruiting to performance on a unified platform, you won’t have data or information on hires.”

Talent management suites that provide the entire gamut of processes on one platform are helping to avoid this obstacle. Talent executives can become more strategic in hiring and succession planning when there’s visibility among employees in an organization.
“It’s not just about getting the right talent, but it’s about identifying that right talent and retaining them,” says Gomez. “It’s about identifying your high performers and making sure they stay by getting them what they need to grow.

Strength Through Social Media
Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. These social networking sites have made a home in our lexicon and play a strategic role in acquiring talent. According to the study Talent Acquisition Systems 2010 from Bersin & Associates, 41 percent of companies indicated social networking as a must-have when considering advanced features they would like in their talent acquisition systems.

Taleo’s version 10 has the functionality to integrate with social networks, including the ability to post jobs to Facebook or set up an RSS feed. “It’s an important vehicle for lowering the cost of talent acquisition while increasing the reach,” notes Stirrup.
Networking sites are also portals for generating interest about jobs. “There is a great use case for talent acquisition and Web 2.0,” says Gomez. “There’s the ability to have individual employees who can tweet about job openings or post to a group of contacts in LinkedIn. It’s about taking Web 2.0 capabilities to source and recruit from a talent perspective.”

But the case is still being built. While nearly half of the respondents to Bersin’s Talent Acquisition Systems 2010 study want access to social networking through their systems, most are neutral about the current performance.

“I do think there is a lot of evolution that is yet to come,” agrees Stirrup. “None of the social networking tools have really been built with the idea of how do I find the best people. It’s more about encouraging an unstructured dialogue between people. We plan on investing in capturing the unstructured information in a way that gives you data to assess your workforce.”

Building Employer Brand
Industry executives know the effectiveness of a strong employer brand. Branding has the power to bring top talent into an organization, and talent management systems can drive employer branding. Web portals can be designed to exude the look and feel the organization is aiming to portray. From application to on-boarding, these systems can help the brand resonate with the employee. And a good end-user experience encourages employee engagement and productivity levels, which ultimately have an effect on the bottom line.

“The first experience a candidate has is with a web page, a candidate portal,” notes Bluestone. “Their experience there dictates what their impression of the company and brand they may join will be. We want to validate the employee’s reasons for joining, making sure it’s the right fit.”

Employers today are exploring their brand-value proposition and the brand promise to potential talent, as well as how it affects the talent acquisition process. “It is about using the brand for the entire lifecycle from sourcing a candidate to interviewing them to the on-boarding experience,” says Gomez. “It’s a part of the entire process. And social media has made companies’ brands go viral. This makes them want to ensure they have a tight value proposition and brand promise.”

Global Players
Every silo of outsourcing is faced with improving global functionality. Multinational companies have a bevy of challenges in terms of communication, currency, and compliance. Some talent acquisition systems are responding to meet their needs by configuring solutions with multiple languages and tools that understand labor laws.

A buzzphrase among providers is “global local”—having a global reach while understanding local needs. “We take a more comprehensive approach to support global organizations,” explains Rick Vigilis, senior manager, North American operations for MrTed. “We define what standards they want globally but localize it.”

Kenexa’s Brassring 2x solution is localized in 30 languages, and can manipulate different customs, and legal and privacy concerns to support multinational organizations. Bluestone emphasized the importance of localization to candidate experience during the recruiting process. “Globalization requires localization, not just translation,” he says, “Localization is a much deeper and broader investment in linguistics, customs, culture, legal, privacy, and regularity concerns.”

Multinational companies are also looking to consolidate systems to be able to assess talent in one place instead of many fragments. “We see companies are looking to bring all talent processes on one platform globally,” explains Van Klink. “Siemens is a great example. They believe people excellence drives business excellence.” The global organization is bringing all talent processes onto one platform and solution, including goals, performance, succession, recruiting, and compensation. They will be rolling out the SuccessFactors product to more than 420,000 employees in more than 80 countries in 20 languages.

Taleo also offers a single platform that provides granular access for the ability to meet local needs of a multitude of companies. Stirrup says that they have Fortune 500 clients, including JP Morgan, that leverage Taleo solutions across the globe in 90-plus countries to build a single brand worldwide as well as drive best practices.

What is Now and Next
The talent acquisition market has made several changes and improvements over the last few years. Could this be driving previously untapped markets to get into the talent acquisition game? There has been some recent traction from high-volume industries, including retail, healthcare, and hospitality. Systems are now configurable to the different types of labor—full-time, contingent, volunteer—that these verticals support.

“Retailers previously were more technology lackers, and now are looking to take advantage of some of the tools that are available in the marketplace,” says Gomez. “There’s more adoption in healthcare due to tracking licenses and certification.”

Addressing the needs of contingent workers is playing a major role. Retailers are experiencing the convenience and transparency some solutions provide. “We’re helping to address their hourly needs,” says Stirrup. “Particularly around the holidays, one of our clients needs to hire 65,000 in the period of six weeks. They utilize tools like having candidates automatically schedule interviews to streamline the entire process.”

Perhaps the next innovation for talent acquisition solutions is mobile capability. According to Kenexa research, by 2013 more people will be using smart phones with access to web-based applications than laptops. In fact, in the first three months of 2010, Apple outsold iPhones compared to its computers. With this in mind, Kenexa launched 2x Mobile, which is implemented as an app running on a mobile device. The talent management solution connects to a software-as-a-solution platform so HR managers can handle recruiting, on-boarding and performance management tasks on the go.
Only time will tell how quickly organizations adopt this—or not. Handling talent on mobile devices does have its critics.

“There are specific use cases for mobile phones that make more sense, but to take an entire enterprise application and make it work over phone, I am not sure that’s the right approach,” says Gomez. “I think you need to look at how that application would be used over a mobile device, and then build those specific uses. If I want to simply move a candidate through a hiring process, I can do that over a phone. But the whole process may not make sense.”

Another next generation step for talent acquisition solutions is contact management. According to Bersin’s Talent Acquisition Systems 2010 study, 41 percent of respondents are seeking contact management, and 55 percent are achieving it through their talent acquisition provider. Contact management helps in building strong talent pipelines and establishing long-term relationships with candidates and former employees.
“There’s huge power if you can easily locate different candidates and keep in touch with them,” says Van Klink.

It also allows the opportunity to source high performers in order to fill critical positions and key leadership roles. “Cutting-edge companies are starting to think about it and providing it as a strategic service in their overall talent acquisition group,” says Stirrup.

Tags: Employee Engagement, Recognition & Rewards, RPO & Staffing, Talent Acquisition

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