4 Ways Social Technology Is Impacting Talent Management

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Jul 20, 2012

Josh Bersin, President and CEO of Bersin & Associates, asserts in a recent blog entry that as the HR software market continues to mature, we should expect deeper integration of social features that drive collaboration, enable real-time feedback, and give employees (and their bosses) more visibility into what’s going on in their organization.

After all, says Bersin, “nearly every HR and talent process in a company is ‘social’ in some way!”

Software vendors are working diligently to launch new social tools for talent management that improve the way the workforce grows, manages and engages. Early adopters of social talent management technology are seeing some immediate value-adds.

Here are four ways social technologies are having a positive impact in talent management:

1. Enabling open door policies

Dominion Enterprises, a marketing services firm based in Norfolk, VA, has always had an open door policy, inviting its 3,000+ employees to share feedback and ideas. But leadership struggled to sift through and act upon all the input they received. They realized they needed something more: a central platform for gathering, sharing and developing ideas.

“While we had channels for feedback and input, it was hard to get traction around ideas,” explains Susan Blake, VP of HR.

Dominion implemented UserVoice Feedback software, which allows employees to submit ideas, vote on others’ ideas, and discuss them. After giving UserVoice a test run in one department, they rolled it out company-wide in March. The software had immediate impact, giving management the tools they need to give their open door policy new life – with employees from every department offering suggestions for improving products, policies and processes.

Based on employee feedback, Dominion has implemented several product improvements and is reconsidering their PTO policy. By showing employees that their feedback results in real changes, they’ve seen a spike in employee engagement. “To say UserVoice was a catalyst is an understatement,” says Blake.

2. Connecting experts

Today’s enterprise social technology has turned traditional employee directories into a strategic tool for both employees and leadership. While you can still track down your coworkers’ contact info, interactive talent directories in innovative products like Saba’s People Cloud do much more.

Employees can create detailed profiles that list skills, competencies and interests relevant to both their current roles and their career goals. This enables colleagues to locate internal experts, as well as to find internal viable candidates for key hires. It also allows employees to garner attention from peers and leadership by regularly lending expertise hand or sharing articles of interest.

3. Improving performance visibility

While social talent management systems feature a lot of employee-facing functionality, vendors are also delivering on a major challenge for leadership: visibility into employee performance. Using the same signals that indicate an employee’s daily activity and contribution, leaders can monitor and evaluate a new, more dynamic set of performance metrics along with the old. This enables leadership to benchmark performance and engagement in real-time.

SilkRoad Technology’s Point is a great example of this. Point graphs employees’ influence, and lists their connections and expertise–and brings these into play in the review process. By continuously collecting performance data from all over the organization, conversations around performance are no longer limited to a 10-question review template.

The breadth of data that systems like Point collect provides a more rounded picture of each employee, which is particularly valuable during performance reviews.

4. Motivating career management

One of social talent technology’s greatest value-adds for employees is in career management functionality. Systems like UpMo – the first enterprise talent network – are offering users a unique approach to career pathing by putting employees in the driver’s seat.

With UpMo, employees grow their internal network and their skills profile simultaneously, making them more appealing candidates for opportunities in the organization. Like other social talent technologies, there’s even a bit of gamification built in, which encourages usage and makes the process more engaging. Employees can give each other shout-outs for a killer meeting (a +1 in Presenting), or thanks for explaining Cloud computing (a +1 in Cloud).

This highly social product, which just launched a free version, brings new energy to career management by keeping employees focused on growing within their organization.

Social technology has hurdles to clear

While the products described above offer significant value, social technologies as applied to talent management still have room to evolve, in two areas. First, some vendors need to stop thinking of social functionality as a standalone platform or an add-on to existing products.

“Unfortunately, existing HR talent management vendors see social as another set of features to be added on top of what exists,” says Rob Garcia, VP of Product at UpMo. “From a product architecture and strategy perspective, this is a recipe for disaster.”

Instead, vendors should re-think how to make social a core, foundational piece of functionality that can enhance every application and module in talent management software.

Seamless integration with other systems is also important. For example, simply having a single sign-on across systems could greatly boost user adoption.

“It’s a real problem if every product requires another log-in or user profile,” says Joe Fuller, CIO at Dominion. “We want single sign-on – it’s the biggest complaint.”

Many companies also want better data sharing. For instance, in light of their success with UserVoice, Dominion began reviewing performance management software. Because they were already using Salesforce, Rypple was their first choice. They loved the product, but decided to wait until Rypple was more deeply integrated with Salesforce (which bought Rypple last year).

What do you think are the greatest opportunities for social technology to drive innovation in talent management? What hurdles are there to clear before we see widespread adoption?

This originally appeared on Kyle Lagunas’ Software Advice blog. 

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