With expectations that hiring activity will increase this year and next, HR departments at a large number of global employers say that talent and performance management technology systems will be one of the most critical HR service delivery issues they will face in 2011, reports an annual survey conducted by Towers Watson a global professional services company.

According to the survey, 41% of the 444 companies surveyed indicated talent/performance systems as one of their top three HR service delivery issues for 2011. Streamlining HR processes and systems was listed by 27% of the respondents, while 25% cited greater involvement in strategic business-driven issues as the other top three HR service delivery issues for this year.

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“As the economy continues to improve, the need for robust talent and performance management programs and enabling technologies has never been greater,” said Michael DiClaudio, practice leader of Towers Watson’s HR Service Delivery and Technology practices for EMEA. “Companies view talent and performance management technologies as a critical component of their workforce attraction and retention initiatives, and also as a way to enhance HR’s role in helping the business to meet its strategic goals.”

The survey also found that companies are making greater investments in HR technology. More than one-third of respondents (34%) said they are planning to spend more on HR technology this year, with one in eight expecting that increase to exceed 20% over last year. Only 16% plan to reduce their spending on HR technology.

“We haven’t seen this level of increase in investment in HR technology since before the economic downturn. The fact that technology spending is up this year is a clear indication of the high level of return that companies are seeing when it comes to technology as a means for improving both HR efficiency and effectiveness,” said DiClaudio.