Closing technology gaps for human resource departments

A gap is appearing between the promise of cloud-based talent management technologies and the value those technologies deliver.

A gap is appearing between the promise of cloud-based talent management technologies and the value those technologies deliver.

The cloud promises lower implementation costs and a faster time to value, while talent management promises value across the employee lifecycle, from acquisition to leaving the company – but some HR professionals have noted a gap emerging between the two.

Suppliers that minimise complexity, address integration and provide content and guidance up front can bridge the functionality and usability gaps that would otherwise prevent users from realising the higher return on investment (ROI) associated with cloud-based technology.

Get the basics right

Today’s HR professional has a large and varied technology landscape to consider. Incumbents such as SAP and Oracle have augmented their core HR portfolios through acquisitions and many alternatives are available. HR suppliers are positioning systems that cut across the employee lifecycle.

Traditional silos of core, talent management, recruiting and succession planning seem to be disappearing. Yet users frequently find what is true in theory may not work in practice. Some users fill usability gaps with cumbersome manual processes while looking for a system that can deliver on the promise.

As a current user in a marketing and consultancy organisation said: “We need to get to a higher level of talent management. There has to be a technology system for that.” Users are looking for technology that lets them manage the full employee lifecycle in a way that fits their corporate objectives, and a supplier who can provide the technology, service and content to ease the path to adoption.

Integrations matters

While users are looking for a fully featured system from a single supplier, they are not interested in a monolithic environment. A recent discussion with a Taleo user highlights these points: “A system has to be reasonable, show immediate success and help me build momentum,” he says.

Although many cloud-based HR systems claim to deliver value across the full employee lifecycle, many still rely on third-party technologies to deliver on important features such as learning and few – if any – are actively integrating HR data with financial systems of record.

“Executives have a financial dashboard. It would be great to pump HR data into those dashboards. Today, I walk our executive through HR metrics,” says the Taleo user.

Package content with guidance

Users expect their cloud software will fit how they work without significant upfront investment in time or consultancy. For example, including a corporate look and feel to letters and job postings should be intuitive and not require a consulting engagement. Extending that look and feel to review forms automatically is a natural next step.

Suppliers need to come to the table with packaged content and integrated systems that a user can customise to fit their environment. To minimise user frustration, suppliers need to go a step further. Customers need to easily find the content, be guided through using that content and understand the boundaries of their own efforts well before they pick up the phone to call support.

On average, cloud-based talent management implementations take about a month from agreement to production, with time dedicated to creating and distributing logins and training primary users. For most users, there is now, at most, a five-month grace period for the supplier.

Either the user gets the software to work in their environment, or they give up trying. Given that cloud software is implemented by business users rather than IT, it is not unusual for responsibility to be passed from user to user and for ongoing usage to fall to someone who was not part of the initial roll-out.

Communities and responsive support can bridge usability gaps, but a frustrated user with a monthly subscription is more likely to shop for a new system than seek help. This behaviour has already been quantified for customer relationship management (CRM) customers where research found 52% were willing to consider switching in the first six months of deployment.

Comprehensive HR

For users, the promise of an all-in-one HR system in the cloud has yet to be realised. Functionality gaps create awkward workflows that are partially online but still require manual intervention. Spreadsheets are used to pull data together across multiple environments that each hold a piece of the talent management story. Rather than trying to figure it out, users are looking for the next best system. HR technology suppliers who have a roadmap for managing the employee lifecycle holistically; a strategy for getting there; and a proactive approach with their user base are more likely to succeed.

This is an extract from the Nucleus Research note: Closing the skills gap for human resources. Jane Hendricks is a principal analyst at Nucleus Research specialising in HCM.

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