Talent Management

5 Questions to Ask When Evaluating New Talent Management Systems

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Brandon Williams

Brandon is a Principal at Educe and has more than 10 years of experience advising organizations on how to…

A quick online search will show you that there are more than 100 different talent management systems available to improve interviewing, hiring, onboarding, training, retaining, and promoting the most important asset of your organization – the people. This post is meant to help guide you in asking the right questions to find the best technology vendor to meet your needs. 

Question 1: What do you need? 

It may sound basic, but many companies skip the first step of evaluating new talent management systems – clearly defining requirements before starting the search. You may currently be running manual processes for performance but have decent applicant tracking and learning management systems – if that is the case, and neither of the other tools need to be replaced, then you can hone requirements that are specific to how your business needs to manage skills checks, annual review cycles, performance improvement plans, goal setting, etc. Or perhaps you’re wanting to upgrade the learning experience for your users and need to evaluate a replacement for your current vendor. Have you defined the new features you’re looking for that you don’t currently have? Maybe you’re looking to transform the way your workforce identifies and develops skills to meet the growing needs of your business – do you have a clear understanding of the areas you need to develop or how you will measure growth? Once you have a thorough understanding of your requirements and priorities, then you can move on to the questions that need to be addressed to get the platform that best meets your needs. 

Question 2: What do you already have? 

The number and variety of talent management systems in the marketplace can be overwhelming. Before sending out requests for proposals to one of the many vendors, first consider thoroughly investigating your existing HR technology infrastructure to identify tools that are already widely adopted or at the center of your existing employee experience. Do you know what those systems are capable of versus how your organization is using them today? Many platforms offer multiple modules – what you may know only as an LMS could potentially meet other career development or learner experience needs. If you are simply enabling a module within an existing platform or working with complementary technology owned by an existing partner, the burden of setup and administration may be smaller. Conversely, your existing vendor may offer a discount for enabling modules – you will want to resist the urge to focus on price alone and stay true to your requirements. Many providers have built modules to stay competitive, but some features may not be aligned with their core expertise.  

Question 3: How configurable is the software?  

Now that you have identified your requirements and evaluated the technology you already have, you are ready to start contacting talent management system vendors. Given that many of the best companies have moved to a SaaS (Software as a Service) model, you will want to use this opportunity to identify how the product will conform to your needs. For example, how closely do the out-of-the-box features meet the needs of your workforce – is most of your workforce equipped with laptops or anchored workstations or do you have a bring your own device (BYOD) atmosphere that would necessitate the software being accessible via a mobile application? Do you have different requirements based on the type of worker – hourly versus salaried or union vs. non-union, for example? Can you modify how the system looks and responds to meet the needs of each employee group? Do you want managers or other department administrators to have self-service options, or would you prefer that your central admin team is responsible for everything? 

A related element to evaluate along with the configurability of the software is how tightly it will integrate with other tools already in use at your company (if you choose to evaluate new vendors rather than enabling a module of an existing platform). The most common approaches to integration are via API or flat file. Here are some pros and cons of each: 

  • API Pros: Often real-time, which can both create a better user experience and keep your data in order 
  • API Cons: Data elements may not all be accessible, could require additional complexity in setup with your IT team or a professional services vendor, and include possible additional costs for middleware if your internal IT does not support hosting.
  • Flat-file Pros: “Tried and true” option typically offered without additional costs
  • Flat-file Cons: Less frequent updates, typically only scheduled a couple times per day 

Question 4: Is the vendor’s enhancement cycle clear? 

Once you determine that the various tools will meet your needs, you will also want to question the long-term growth potential of the talent management systems you evaluate. If there is consistent research and development for the product you can be more confident in the “future-proofing” of your investment, whereas with a smaller or newer company there may not be the resources to keep up with what you need long-term. Conversely, you may find a larger company is not investing in its technology and have offered it in its current form for years. You will need to evaluate these enhancement cycles to help you plan your own roadmap – if there are constant releases, will you find the cycle disruptive or beneficial?  

Question 5: Are there implementation or ongoing support costs? 

The best software on the market will require some sort of professional services guidance at the start, whether it be services inclusive (i.e., you pay for implementation as a part of the annual license cost) or through an organization who is certified to work on the software – often training you while configuring your system and integrating it with your talent ecosystem, as discussed above. While you may choose to keep these consulting resources on board longer term, you should also understand the support model of the vendor. Many have ongoing support built into their license cost and offer a “follow-the-sun” model that can support global organizations regardless of where their administrators and end users are located. A key consideration of your evaluation may also include uptime, or the amount of time an organization will allow various elements of their production environments to be out-of-service. 

If you take the time up front to be thoughtful about the questions above as you move through your talent management system selection process, you will save yourself time and energy overall – both in the implementation process as well as the duration of your contract with your chosen vendor.  

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