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Transforming Talent Management: The Impact of Social

and Digital Tech

May 8, 2014
Courtney Hunt


Transforming talent management requires digitization and leveraging social and digital
technologies to promote and enhance communication, collaboration, and engagement.
This post presents some of the ways in which social and digital technologies are
transforming talent management throughout the employee life cycle. All of the
practices are currently possible based on available technology; however, none of them
are fully developed or widespread – yet.

The Digital Era isn’t coming, and it’s not just getting started. From a technology
perspective it is fully established, with roots that extend back to the middle of the
twentieth century, and a future that extends as far as anyone today can imagine.
Ongoing advances regularly remind us that the most profound changes are still to come.
We tend to think about social and digital technology more from a personal or consumer
perspective than their business or professional applications, but as the Digital Era
continues to progress, many of technology’s most profound impacts are likely to be in
the world of work. In addition to changes in product and business development,
knowledge management, data analysis, and other operational processes, transforming
talent management will be a key priority for organizations striving to be employers of
The human capital implications of social and digital technologies impact virtually
everyone, regardless of the type of organization they work for, their profession, their
functional area, or their career stage. That means that the talent management functions
in all organizations, as well as the professionals who staff and lead them, have a critical
role to play in ensuring the efficient and effective transition and transformation from
Industrial Era models and processes to their Digital Era upgrades.
It’s no surprise that talent management has already become more “high tech.” Many
employment related activities have been digitized, and there has been a corresponding
increase in employee self-service. It’s important to remember, however,
that digitization is not the same thing as digital engagement, and that the rise of “high
tech” solutions doesn’t necessitate the loss of a “high touch” approach to managing an
organization’s human assets.
Transforming talent management requires digitization, to be sure, but it also involves
leveraging social and digital technologies in ways that promote and enhance
communication, collaboration, and engagement – not just between an employee and
the organization, but between and among employees themselves.

. Today’s tools and technologies are much more advanced than the individuals and human systems that could (and should) employ them. which in most organizations (and virtually all large ones) is now almost completely digitized and automated. and social referrals (i.e. particularly for hard-to-fill roles with unique skillsets.. Job boards. like Monster and Career Builder. and Pinterest) are a great way to promote an employer’s brand and offer realistic previews of work life. In fact. many of them haven’t progressed past the idea stage yet. even when there isn’t a current opportunity to have those folks be a part of the organization. where the greatest advances have been made. having current employees share position openings with their online personal and professional networks). not all of the practices are fully developed or widespread. however. Most organizations are still getting started with their digital transformation efforts. Anyone who has searched and applied for jobs in the past 10 years is very familiar with how technology has transformed the application process. social sourcing (i. . It’s important to note that everything I describe is currently possible based on available technology. and give organizations themselves an opportunity to determine if a prospective candidate would be a good cultural fit and potentially successful.e. Online games and simulations can also be used to get a sense of what working for an organization would be like. reviewing a candidate’s public activity in social networks to identify potential hiring risks). as well as career site scraping services like Simply Hired and Indeed. Some employers are recognizing the value of digital alumni networks or communities to maintain strong relationships with former employees. One of the primary motivations for doing this is that the employees may return one day and/or make referrals to or from their personal and professional networks. talent networks enable organizations to establish and maintain relationships with professionals in key areas like IT and engineering. but they have been struggling to maintain their relevance in the past five years due to the rise of social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter (which are also used for job posting and advertising). and the degrees to which they’re leveraging new technologies in conjunction with their talent management practices vary widely. YouTube.. Both social networking sites and search engines are now used for candidate searching and sourcing.In this post I present some of the ways in which social and digital technologies are transforming talent management throughout the employee life cycle. Talent Acquisition The logical place to start when talking about the impact of social and digital technologies on talent management is talent acquisition.e. so it’s just a matter of time before these ideas become realities. Social media has actually transformed every stage of the recruiting process in significant ways – so much so that the traditional recruiting funnel can be recast in “social” terms. And at the bottom of the funnel is social screening (i. searching for candidates who meet certain criteria on networks like LinkedIn). people and culture in organizations. But the effective deployment of new technologies is on the radar of all top talent management professionals. There are other ways in which social and digital technologies are impacting talent acquisition that may not be as well-known or commonly understood.e. were early players in the digitization movement. Social media sites in particular (such as Facebook. Similarly.. At the top of the funnel are activities like social advertising (i. placing job ads on social networks like Facebook).

is another way in which social and digital technologies can enhance processes and improve the employment experience for individuals. As with recruiting and other processes. Formal learning management systems and platforms are also beginning to incorporate social technologies in a variety of ways. can enhance the learning experience both during and after a course. in addition to increasing commitment and engagement through interpersonal connections. but most of which will be developed in the years to come. virtual new hire groups can be formed in an organization’s intranet. with social software applications evolving next. many organizations have also started to leverage tablets and other mobile devices for learning.” And a variety of wikis can focus on the things that are most important for new employees to learn and know. identified subject matter experts. Learning Learning management is probably the second most advanced area when it comes to adopting and adapting to new technologies. has transformed the new hire experience. digital communities of . online courses – which have proliferated in the past couple of years. as well as using simulations and games to help employees develop specific skills. the initial advances are in the area of digitization. and can even have them create their own learning and development plans. organizations are increasingly using a range of digital tools for assessing employees’ skills.Onboarding Helping new employees make the transition into their roles and responsibilities. Informal learning – which is now also referred to as social learning – is greatly enhanced by social technologies as well. both free and fee-based. such as payroll set up and benefits enrollment. One of the obvious digital impacts is the increased use of elearning and online learning platforms with self-paced study. Anyone who has started a new job in the past decade is probably familiar with how digitization of various activities. organizations are better able to facilitate employee learning as they perform their job duties and complete work activities. Allowing employees to take a more active role in their own learning and skills management enables organizations to develop and maintain a more complete and accurate knowledge and skills database. They’re also allowing employees to play an enhanced role in identifying their key skill sets and training needs. particularly with respect to specific policies and procedures. In addition to offering training through a variety of multimedia channels. that address a virtually unlimited range of topics. as well as learning the culture of the organization and how things are done. features like advanced search. as well as with the instructor. Creating course-based cohorts that allow people to continue to interact with each other via a digital community – even when their shared learning experience is face-to-face – can promote both knowledge transfer and retention. Finally. The intranet can also be used to facilitate virtual buddy systems and enable mentors to help new hires learn “how things work around here. open. this is probably the greatest opportunity and area of growth for organizations of all types and sizes. And we can’t forget MOOCs – massive. intranets and other internal platforms that have incorporated social technology elements. For example. some of which have already been implemented. Along with the networks themselves. In fact. Through private social networks. with chat and/or discussion features that allow new employees to help each other navigate their initial experiences. Promoting connections and interactions among participants. But there are lots of other potential applications. which in turn enables them to maximize the value of the workforce in which they’ve already invested. There are also countless instructional videos on the web.

we need the foundational knowledge and skills to be able to use them well – and this foundation should probably be provided via more formal training. new social technologies. which in turn can increase employee citizenship behavior and job performance. For the past several decades we’ve generally taken what I refer to as an LIY. because of more advanced technologies. As our tools get even more sophisticated.practice. Specifically. What many of them offer is a social “atta girl/atta boy” system that enables any employee to provide thanks or recognition to any other employee who has helped them or someone else in some way. new features like gamification and social recognition are intended to do just that. Now managers can capture and provide feedback to employees nearly continuously.. Although organizations may invest in teaching someone how to use a specific application related to their job. but even in another city. This informal feedback can also be directly fed into the formal performance management process. YouEarnedIt. which can be converted into specific rewards. These rewards can include company-oriented items like extra time off. organizations are better able to assess the skills of their workforces and develop more sophisticated approaches to planning. rewards and recognition initiatives. Going paperless is now a standard in many organizations. state or country! As organizations move forward with leveraging technology to enhance learning initiatives. With a more complete and accurate skills database and employees who have better tools and more motivation to engage. wikis and more enable employees to access and learn from colleagues who are not just next door or down the hall. approach to digital knowledge and skills. which can help increase completeness and accuracy and minimize surprises. or Learn It Yourself. and branded swag. particularly those that allow employees to create and maintain their own organizational profiles. so that they always know how they’re doing and where they stand. The goal of these platforms and tools is to increase employee morale and engagement. WooBoard. There are a variety of software platforms (e. lunch with the CEO.g. it’s probably in an individual’s best interests to pursue those kinds of development opportunities on their own. . performance evaluation doesn’t have to be a major bureaucratic process that only gets completed once or twice a year. Left to their own devices. most people – and I include myself in this group– are much less efficient and effective at using these tools than they could or should be. Although most people don’t think of performance management as something that can be fun and energizing. Performance Management Performance management is also being transformed by social and digital technologies. Career Development As noted earlier. they make virtually no investment in helping individuals learn how to use general digital tools like Microsoft Office and even email. so organizations can leverage them in a way that best fits their culture and employee populations. can enhance an organization’s efforts at helping employees develop themselves as professionals and manage their careers. Employees collect badges and points for the positive impact they’ve had on clients and colleagues. it will become increasingly important for them to address issues related to digital literacy and digital competencies. and high-end cookware. many people need to be “taught how to learn” in the Digital Era. In other words. but the changes are evolving beyond that. If organizations aren’t going to provide the formal training workers need to do that. Small Improvements) that digitally leverage game elements and social tools to enhance an organization’s performance. as well as valued personal items like dinner and entertainment certificates. tablets. The platforms are very flexible.

aspirations. training and development. counselors guide individuals through a series of card sorting exercises to identify their most important values. Leaders at all levels can form virtual support groups with their peers to discuss specific challenges and opportunities. Those changes have extensive human capital management implications. More effective systems that are better populated with current and accurate employee data provide a stronger foundation for organizations to create more reliable and flexible succession plans. organizational structure. for example. And of course junior leaders can access leader wikis and other tools to develop the knowledge. enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of their interactions. as always. I welcome your comments and questions. Leadership blogs. A company called Fuel 50 has a solution that demonstrates how digital technologies can facilitate career engagement and planning in organizations. can help more junior leaders learn from the philosophies. Social and digital technologies also better enable employers to identify high potential employees by leveraging more data points. desires. In the meantime. They have taken career counseling to new levels. etc. and succession planning. paper-based approaches.staffing and career pathing. Not only that. Fuel 50’s platform not only digitizes the exercises by using tablets. as well as a variety of software tools (and more analytics) to facilitate the process and ensure it is meaningful and successful for both parties. ranging from human capital strategy. social and digital technologies are changing the nature of work itself. applying sophisticated analyses. for example. Leadership Development There are also several ways in which the implementation of social technologies can enhance an organization’s leadership development efforts. skills and abilities they need to increase their effectiveness and be more successful. This is a great example of how high tech can also be very high touch. I’ll address those changes in a future post. and staffing – to job design. The resulting card stacks are then fed into a system and analyzed. performance management. Everwise. leaders can also form groups to share best practices. and can also form cross-generational and cross-functional mentoring groups. styles and experiences of more senior leaders. is building an ementoring platform that uses data and analytics to create the best possible matches between mentors and protégés. Final Thoughts In addition to transforming talent management. it enables counselors to provide feedback and discuss the results and their implications with individuals in real time. and eliminating the biases and errors that can come from human judgment alone. and compensation. Organizations can further enhance mentoring efforts by adding more opportunities and channels through which mentors and protégés can communicate with one another. Both within specific tiers and across tiers. . and counselors schedule follow-up appointments to discuss the results. the data gets fed into a system that can help an organization with staffing. They also emphasize their use of “real people” in conjunction with technical tools – yet another example of the necessary interplay between high tech and high touch. career pathing. With traditional.

explains. which I was invited to contribute to the Summer issue of HRPS’s People & Strategy Journal: Managing Human Capital in the Digital Era.PS – Here’s a link to a related article. others will want to wait until platforms have been proven.” .’ mobile apps will get most traction in workforce management — the nuts and bolts of time and attendance and absence management — where they perfectly meet the needs of a distributed. HR is traditionally not known for early adoption. “HR loves talking about social media.  As organizations and business leaders position themselves for the future. to the Internet — which have all scared HR to death. Evaluating Early Adoption Truth be told. Being on either extreme could be detrimental. “Just like the introduction of all new technology — from the telephone. mobile workforce. Bill Kutik. it will eventually come around.” While some people will try all of the latest and greatest options. Case in point: the slow adoption of social media. “Every vendor has either released or is about to release a mobile application for smartphones and soon for the iPad. While much of it is a ‘nice to have. technology columnist for Human Resource Executive magazine. Fears emanating from the legal department have stuck HR in its tracks. Kutik says. It’s important to evaluate each and sometimes take a chance. to e-mail. but so far has done very little with it. 1. the following five workplace challenges will continue to change human resources.” One early trend Kutik believes is gaining traction is mobile.

Naomi Bloom. a consulting firm specializing in the application of HR technology. managing partner at Bloom & Wallace. And since the retail workforce may be young and used to communicating via their smartphones. you’d better consider delivering most of the transactions and analytics that your employees and even those first line managers use.” Bloom cited the investment that Kronos has made in going mobile as an example of meeting a growing need by both the business and its employees. rather than starting with the question of what to automate. human resources professionals will be tasked to figure out when processes should be automated. directly to their smartphones. HR leaders are starting with the desired business outcome and working backwards from there to answer questions. Information Curation Kutik says it best. shares how companies are evaluating digital solutions. “If your business results are driven by optimized workforce scheduling. Balancing High Tech and High Touch Being able to recognize the need for a technology solution will be a significant business advantage.” With increasing technologically advanced options. versus when a human face or voice is the best route.2. as is absolutely the case in most retail businesses. then you must focus some of your automation investments right there. “We are all desperately in need of a good editor. “Increasingly.” . HR will have to evaluate what functions can be automated and still provide desired levels of service. 3.

pay for . people are working on technologies to solve the problem. “Organizations that offer completely integrated support for line managers are still difficult to find. "Plateau has built on an integrated architecture introducing integrated and highly-scalable solutions for career development. No more. It will be critical to have an effective means of filtering necessary and relevant information. The new term in the digital space is curation. the effectiveness of the HR function paralleled that upward progression. 4. Companies like Saba have spent considerable resources integrating social networking that can be used for development and knowledge transfer. the ability to sort through loads of information — including applications from various platforms and employment data — will be a skill worth honing.HR is experiencing a flood of information. Stacey Harris." continued Harris. but suppliers are making dramatic headway. on the digital front. Happily.” Harris explained that. principal analyst at Bersin & Associates. As such. says development of line-manager capabilities should be a top priority. “Our research found there was a one-to-one correlation between the effectiveness of an organization’s line managers and the overall effectiveness of its HR function. "Organizations such as Triple Creek provide competency-driven mentoring programs over the web. In simplest terms. While Kutik labels curation an “awfully fancy word” he does acknowledge the necessity for picking and choosing among various information sources. HR needs to place a priority on management and leadership training to ensure line managers are able to effectively convey expectations and outcomes. “Few people remember that Yahoo began by having human editors read and evaluate sites for their quality and determining how they would appear in searches. compensation. Relying on what our friends link to on Twitter is not going to solve the problem. performance management tools and competency maps. Training for Accountability Many of these challenges come down to being better communicators in order to effectively leverage the digital space. as a company’s line managers increased their management capabilities. companies need to partner with providers who deliver excellent support and service and deep understanding of its audience's needs.” For recruiters. with learning curriculums.

the easiest to do are very rarely the most valuable!” There’s no question that HR needs to create data structures that will deliver information on business goals not only to help the company understand their workforce.performance. If we’re trying to speed up and improve the selection of quality hires. “When it comes to metrics." 5. Bloom notes. accurate database for storing and accessing relevant HR information. then we’d better be looking at elapsed time to productivity and quality of hire. as Harris points out. Metrics and Measurement Bloom says. but also to optimize their talent-related processes. “Data that is scattered among . “The most important metrics for any business investment. including those in HR technology. are the business outcomes that the investment is intended to achieve.” Then the challenge. is most companies don’t have a single. and employee profile management — all which are used in line manager support.

pulling together data from the HR and talent management systems then analyzing data with the same analytic tools used in their other business intelligence platforms. These advancements will bring greater opportunities to align human resources with business goals.multiple systems and acquired in varied formats can make it difficult for most organizations to provide a clear picture of their current workforce. HR professionals will need to remain aware of these challenges and develop their own strategies to stay within the path of progress. SuccessFactors has similar analytics and planning tools. . Many organizations capture only limited employee details in master data systems. there are still new developments to look forward to. Additionally. While many advances have been made in the human resources digital space.” Harris noted that SAP has made substantive progress in this area.