The proliferation of cloud-based talent management software has never been greater and set the stage better for a true revolution in the way companies can drive sustainable, competitive advantage through their people. Basing these applications in the cloud provides cost advantages, greater flexibility, efficiency and agility than on-premise systems. But the effective execution of the cloud lies not simply in the utilization of limitless tools and templates now available in chosen system(s), but in the ability to exploit these applications to connect with our people in more meaningful, more human, more effective ways than ever before. As we look at a few examples, we can begin to understand both the risks and the possibilities with these applications and how the cloud can further brighten, not shade, the connection to our workforce.
Performance management has become, perhaps, as disillusioning as any existing talent related business process. Eyes roll and disengagement spikes as workers continue to experience an administrative, impersonal approach to their value as a performer. Cloud-based modules now provide a variety of new features, including more space to write comprehensive comments about performance and new timing functionality to auto-save performance comments. The risk, of course, is that the boundless comment field becomes a proxy for face-to-face formal and informal feedback, a practice that has regrettably become scarce and/or marginalized over time, especially in our “virtual” workplaces. Instead of summarizing and confirming what should be discussed verbally in a live setting, the template now threatens to replace whatever dialogue might have already existed. To mitigate this risk, leaders must utilize the new features to optimize the written mode of communication as a supplement to the verbal one already in place. The performer’s search for clarity can be gained, and long-term engagement sealed, through a multi-modal approach to open and honest performance feedback.
Talent profiles can now be defined and made visible in greater detail, incorporating more specific behavioral components associated with standard job competencies. Cloud-based applications have set a new standard around the granularity of our view of a given job. The resulting expectation is that the organization will be fully accountable to that standard across the entire talent system. If not, the profiles become “cloudy” and the workforce skeptical. Learning objectives for role-based curricula should align with the behaviors specifically outlined in the system. Performance must be fairly assessed against the sub-competencies so carefully defined in the profile. Applicant screening processes should leverage these detailed role profiles to drive superior candidate pools. Indeed, the opportunity for a truly systemic and integrated approach to the management of talent awaits the company ready to fully embrace the cloud.
There are now new performance subject areas within systems available for employees or managers to report more fluidly on development goals. Such reporting capabilities allow for a running commentary or “diary” of progress and constraints associated with predefined development objectives. Of course, sometimes the root cause of impeded progress or unbridled success is hidden or below the waterline, liberated only by an open dialogue about a project or goal. Valued self-reflection coming out of these applications can inform the peer discussions, team meetings and management conversations that follow. Organizations must not allow the application to define a development culture; rather, the emerging capabilities offered by cloud based technologies must support the culture and ensure that the processes these technologies automate are advancing, not replacing, the human dimension of talent management.
Talent leaders understand that with progress comes risk. If sophisticated talent applications monopolize the communication channels within our business, our workforce will be hidden from our view. On the other hand, if we leverage the capabilities of cloud technologies in the right way, the future of our business and the commitment of our people will never be brighter.