The human factor is vital for HR success.  According to CEB, too much focus on technology can be a mistake in integrated talent management. Neglecting the importance of experienced HR staff could be fatal for a business that strives to retain and nurture a capable workforce. The key to success lies in striking the right technology balance for the HR function. The most successful organisations are those with effective talent management strategies. The correct systems should enable the HR team to assume a more strategic and advisory role rather than act as an inhibitor.

Capable staff that can serve as advisors and have a good understanding of business and employee needs are a true asset to any organisation. Technology must empower businesses to get the most out of the HR team by automating processes so that staff are freed up to focus on more strategic initiatives that will positively impact the bottom line.

Transforming HR

At a time when all budgets are under intense scrutiny, any technology purchase must demonstrate a significant return on investment. The increased availability of cloud technology provides firms with a cost-effective means of transforming the HR function by removing the hefty and expensive burden of IT maintenance.

This means that HR departments can increase efficiency by moving away from administrative tasks and take on strategic talent management planning. As technology transforms the role of HR, it benefits staff as well through self-service. Line managers and employees can take processes such as logging absences and managing shift changes into their own hands without engaging HR. By transferring these responsibilities outside the HR department, more time and resources can go into adding value into the business.

Extracting value from the data

HR often generates more data than any other business area. Absence, payroll, learning activity, recruitment campaigns and all other HR administration creates a vast dataset which has historically been under utilised. As some HR departments start to add social media interactions into the mix there is real potential to use rich data to inform decision making. As HR moves higher up the C-level agenda, executives want to gain insight into the impact of talent management initiatives. As the data grows in importance, so too does the capability to make sense of that information.

Getting a handle on this data can be a complex and laborious process. As a result, HR professionals are increasingly using analytics tools to make sense of it all and free up their time to focus on more strategic activities.

Engaging employees

Successful talent management strategies should encompass the entire employment process, from attracting new hires, through training and development, and succession planning. As part of this, firms must actively use techniques that measure employee engagement. Having the freedom to voice ideas and feedback is itself often a driver of employee contribution. As long as feedback is actually acted up on, it can have a significant positive impact upon motivation and commitment.

Firms must put measures in place to identify and address organisational hot spots and employee engagement issues. This includes bringing together regular, time stamped data from online employee surveys, performance reviews, and data held in the HR system such as employee absence. Engendering an engaged workforce is an integral piece of the talent management process. It’s vital in optimising employee performance, and consequently that of the business.

The right technology strategy

So how can firms ensure they take the right approach to talent management? Firstly it’s important to select a system that is user friendly for all employees. As companies increasingly move towards using self-service as part of the HR function, it’s essential that anyone will be able to learn to use the system quickly and easily. The ability to configure the system will also be necessary so that HR professionals can tailor the technology to the firm’s exact requirements. After all, no two businesses are identical. But firms must also be wary of overcomplicating their systems through heavy customisation which can take longer to implement and incur significant ongoing maintenance costs.

Having the right functionality is another must. The systems must be able to cover the complete employee lifecycle, from hiring to retiring. The technology must also be able to draw from a consolidated data set to provide the valuable analytics to inform HR decisions and high-level strategies for talent management and business growth.

What’s more, businesses must be confident in their choice of technology partner. They should look for a proven track record of successful implementations and any technology provider must be able to provide a list of credible client references, demonstrating their capabilities.

Striking the balance

The key to successful talent management lies in striking a balance between the human touch and technology. While it’s vital that HR professionals are capable of giving strategic input on how best to empower the workforce, the importance of technology should not be underestimated.

By using technology, firms can transform their HR administration and operations. As a result, HR directors elevate their role from a process function to a catalyst for organisational change. With a more human touch they can identify new talent sources to support growth and provide business value by acting as an adviser, empowered by reliable and powerful information.

Iain Moffat, Director of Product Strategy, MidlandHR