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Using Automation to Make Your Talent Management Practices Fairer and More Consistent

Contributed by Sean Conrad, Halogen Software

Some of the common complaints people have about talent management processes are that they are subjective, inconsistent and unfair. Some employees are given performance appraisals and others aren’t, performance ratings are subjective, criteria for hiring or promotion is unclear, compensation has little do with performance, etc.

Since talent management is ultimately about people managing people, it’s impossible to completely remove the subjectivity or even prejudice from your processes. However, automating them can go a long way to making them fairer, more consistent, and ultimately more effective. Here are some of the ways automation can help:

Consistent Definitions of Competencies and Performance

Competencies should really form the foundation of all your talent management processes. They’re also sometimes called behaviors, values, skills, or performance standards, etc. For example, they should be used to:

  • shape job descriptions, which drive job requisitions and hiring decisions
  • anchor performance appraisals so you evaluate and reward “how” as well as “what” the employee accomplished
  • identify the skills your organization needs to cultivate for succession
  • underpin your employee development programs

Most organizations have a list of competencies important to their business. But they often lack consistent definitions of each competency, detailed descriptions of the various levels of performance, and a list of learning activities designed to help develop these competencies. And more importantly, they have no way of ensuring that their competencies are used and applied in a consistent way. With no shared access or repository, it’s easy for managers to write their own competency definitions or modify them to suit their purpose. Next thing you know, you have 17 different “competencies” that all essentially have to do with answering the phone, used in job descriptions, performance appraisals, job requisitions, etc. Trust me, I’ve seen it.

By consolidating your competencies, definitions, and behavioral descriptions in one centralized library, you improve access to them, but more importantly, you ensure a shared, consistent definition and understanding of performance. Now, your job descriptions, job postings, performance appraisal forms, develop plans, performance improvement plans, etc., all use the same competencies and performance standards. And managers and employees are working from a common, consistent definition of performance.

Consistent Processes

Another common complaint raised by employees is the lack of consistency in the way talent management processes are administered and applied. For example, it’s hard to ensure that 100% of your employees receive an annual performance appraisal, on time or at all. Managers may use their “creativity” in completing forms, and add/remove/modify sections or rating scales at will. You may also find different approval processes in use in different parts of the organization. All of these inconsistencies allow subjectivity and possible human prejudice to color the way employees are hired, evaluated, developed, rewarded and promoted.

Automating your process allows you to define your process workflow (the steps and order in which they’re completed, who’s responsible for completing each step, and the due dates), required approvals, forms, rating scales, and apply these across the organization in a fair and consistent way. While it’s important to have the flexibility to accommodate the special requirements of particular groups of employees, the decision to accommodate specific needs should be made at the organizational level, not the individual level. Automating your processes and forms allows you to ensure they’re used in a fairer, more consistent manner.

Clear and Consistent Performance Requirements

Every job in your company should have clear performance requirements, ideally captured in an up-to-date job description and in your performance appraisal process.

Every employee should have a job description that includes things like:

  • Job details and summary
  • Core and position specific competencies
  • Education and experience requirements
  • Required certifications and licensures
  • Custom data important to the role (e.g., physical demands, working conditions, etc.)

Employees should also be given performance appraisals that clearly outline their job responsibilities, and the competencies and goals they will be assessed on.

Automating your talent management processes allows you to ensure that clear and consistent performance requirements are set for every employee. By automating the process for assigning/reviewing job descriptions, you can ensure that every employee has and has read their up-to-date job description. By including the competencies and goals they will be assessed on in their performance appraisal form, or by running separate competency assessment and goal setting processes, you ensure that performance requirements are communicated. Because job descriptions and competencies are pulled from a shared library, you ensure that performance requirements are consistently applied to employees in the same or similar roles.

In addition, automating your processes also allows you to track the exact status of all these activities, so HR and leaders can immediately see if an employee has not been given clear performance requirements, and take appropriate action.

Improving Access to Information

Automated talent management systems typically give employees one centralized place to access:

  • Their job description
  • Their goals
  • The competencies on which they will be assessed
  • The development activities assigned to them or available to them
  • Their past performance appraisals
  • Their compensation history
  • Descriptions and requirements for job openings in the organization
  • Etc.

They can also often view (sometimes in limited way to ensure confidentiality):

  • The organization’s higher level goals
  • Descriptions for other jobs in the organization

By automating your talent management processes, you improve employees’ access to information and drive a measure of accountability and transparency throughout the organization.

You also give managers easy access to this information for all their employees. Having all this data at their fingertips helps them to be fairer and more consistent in their talent management practices.

Ability to Easily Aggregate Data and Spot Exceptions

Automating your talent management processes gives you another powerful tool for identifying and addressing inconsistent or unfair management practices. By allowing you to easily and efficiently aggregate and compare the data from your talent management processes, you can quickly spot trends or irregular practices and investigate their cause. For example, you can easily identify a manager who typically assigns all or some of their employees higher or lower performance ratings than most others. You can see if managers are adhering to their compensation budget and assigning increases that follow the organization’s salary scales. You can also see if decisions on hiring or promotions are being made fairly, according to measured candidate qualifications, and see the proportion of internal vs. external hires. When the data from your talent management processes reveals exceptions, leaders or HR can take appropriate action to restore fairness and consistency.

Conclusion

Because they allow you to drive consistency in performance expectations, job requirements, processes, forms, and rating scales, and make inconsistencies easier to spot, automated talent management systems allow you to overcome some of the subjectivity and human prejudice that plague people management practices and ensure all employees are supported in their performance, development and advancement.

Sean Conrad is a Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of talent management solutions. He’s passionate about helping organization improve the consistency and value of their employee management practices. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen blog.

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