Talent Management initiatives always start out with very high expectations. Having a wealth of information on your employees enables more sound decisions on how to be leverage the largest asset you have – your people. It seems so simple doesn’t it? Yet time after time talent management initiatives have failed to live up to initial expectations. Either you cannot get your employee information from a single core system, the data is outdated, you struggle with privacy concerns in certain parts of the world, or you don’t have a single source of data for security authentication resulting in separate user IDs and passwords.
“No matter what the issue is, the root cause is often the lack of a strong set of core employee data“
Over the past seven years I’ve personally been involved in the selection and/or implementation of over two dozen Talent Management solutions both as a buyer myself and as a consultant assisting others through the process. In nearly every project I’ve been a part of, access to a single, authoritative source of employee data has resulted in unforeseen delays and challenges. In some cases it actually can cause a project to fail.
Vendors in the talent management space have developed amazingly robust, highly effective solutions that can help you solve big business issues. They will show you all sorts of dashboards, metrics, analytics, robust talent matching capabilities, and even lay the groundwork for strategic workforce planning – highlighting the skill gaps between the workforce you need and the one you have. Unfortunately, the ability to realize the full potential of these powerful technology solutions is entirely dependent upon the ability to source the appropriate data.
The challenge is generally two fold:
- Organizations don’t have a unified source of employee demographic information. Larger organizations may have this data scattered across multiple systems, and multinational organizations may have more than one Core HR system, either separate in each country, region or line of business. Additionally there is a very clear correlation between the degree of decentralization a company has in its operations and the likelihood of redundant HR systems being used throughout the organization.
- There is often a disconnect between how the Talent Management organization sees the organization of labor in the company and how the job structure is maintained in the Core HR System(s). This includes lack of or inconsistent use of job families, proliferation of job codes to satisfy the desire to make the business card title the official job title, and plenty of other reasons.
Organizations that purchase a best-of-breed talent management solution often realize these challenges too late in the implementation that they are forced to make decisions that sub-optimize the deployment effort. The result is what drives users crazy with things like redundant data entry, unsynchronized User ID’s and passwords, or job titles and/or reporting relationships which differ from reality.
To be fair, having a best of breed talent management solution isn’t necessarily the cause of these problems, but rather the tool which exposes this critical flaw that many organizations struggle with. The same issues arise with a Core HR-based solution for talent management, except that there are often fewer surprises since there the number of locations in which core data can be defined is limited to one system. The warts are more exposed and having a single solution for both core and talent management is less likely to result in a silo’d approach to the project – with Talent Management, HR Information Systems, and IT all involved.
My advice to all buyers in the market is to be sure that you take the time to fully evaluate the data structure and quality in your core HR system before you go too far down the path of selecting and deploying a talent management suite. If you don’t heed this advice, you may never realize the value stated in your business case, and fulfill the promises that you’ve made to the organization when selling the idea of a solution internally. Unfulfilled promises can quickly erode stakeholder support for an initiative and risk complete failure.