Mid-Year Review: Suites, Talent Management, and Social Networks

As we passed the summer solstice here in the Northern hemisphere a few days ago, we completed our journey through half of 2008. It’s been a year where the economy, political environment, and nature itself have all stressed the rhythm of our daily routines.

Change most often occurs when systems are stressed and have to respond in order to survive. It is at the intersection of pain, technology, and economics that new products and services arise.

At first, these changes are frightening and require both learning and daring to adopt them. But once accepted and woven into the fabric of daily routine, they become indispensible. This was the case with applicant tracking systems and career sites on the Internet. And it is still evolving.

So far this year, I see at least four major trends emerging. There are probably more than four, but these are the ones I can make sense of and that seem big enough to warrant being called trends.

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The first is the economy and what it portends, and the second is the maturing of the concept of talent management as a larger and more strategic field than recruitment. The third is in some ways an outgrowth of this, an evolution of applications from discrete products to suites that contain integrated and synergistic applications. Fourth is the growth and diversification of social networks as integral and ongoing platforms for sustainable recruiting.

  1. The economy will impact recruiting and change the emphasis. Obviously, not all is well in the economic picture for 2008. Energy prices and weather issues have significantly changed the employment landscape. While employment will be robust in healthcare, energy, and retirement-related sectors, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, and transportation will continue to see cutbacks or freezes. People with management skills will be in demand. Many employers are expanding college recruitment and internships as a way to bring in potentially loyal and less expensive labor and to build a talent pipeline. There will continue to be a demand for technically skilled people such as engineers and computer experts. I believe that the number of recruiters employed by an organization will decline over the next two years, forcing recruiting leaders to retain experienced and technically savvy recruiters who can leverage the Internet to expand candidate sources and be more productive. There will be growth for those who have skills in employee development, training, leadership development, succession planning, and workforce planning, along with more usual recruiting skills.
  2. The concept of talent management matures. While not a new concept, it has taken more shape and achieved credibility over the past few years. Most human resources functions now are using the term and use it to encompass such areas as competency analysis, performance & compensation management, onboarding, succession planning, career planning, and learning. Many HR departments are finding that merging at least recruitment and training makes a lot of sense and the leading-edge firms are integrating many of the other elements as well under one leader. By combining recruiting, learning, onboarding, and performance management, an organization can expect to see a tighter coupling between each of those elements and that should improve employee competence and output.
  3. Talent management suites arise. Again, not a new concept but better executed are the numerous talent management suites that are now available from vendors that include Taleo, Vurv, Authoria, and Virtual Edge. These often replace the individual applications that HR departments bought and struggled to integrate with each other. They fit nicely into the new talent management structures that are appearing, but require HR functions to examine how they integrate the processes and functions within the organization. The applications are most effectively deployed when there is a single person or team that can establish common processes and enforce them through the performance management process. As headcounts come under scrutiny and costs are carefully controlled, any efforts to improve efficiency and remove waste will be rewarded. These tools, along with a restructured HR function, give human resource leaders the opportunity to move into strategic corporate influence positions.
  4. Social networks will continue to mature. While certainly over-hyped and poorly used at the moment, social networks will become core to good recruiting and talent management. Applicant tracking systems suffered the same over-hype and poor use until recently. Now, most recruiters know how to use an ATS well and what to expect from one; the same will happen with social networks. To ignore social networks or dismiss them would be a mistake. LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, and the hundreds of other sites that have sprung up will mature and offer more tools for both candidates and recruiters. These are first-wave products and will evolve or disappear within a few years. Specialty social networks such as Affinity Circles are already showing what a more focused network can accomplish for recruiting. My own belief is that career sites will be eclipsed by social networking sites that are proprietary for each organization. Some firms are experimenting and using open platforms such as Ning or more focused platforms like Standout Jobs. Candidates will appreciate the ability to better explain their capabilities and showcase their accomplishments. Recruiters will appreciate the additional information and the ability to build a relationship, keep potential candidates connected and in the loop, and get references and make connections that were never before possible.

I think the remainder of 2008 will be a year when recruiters will be forced to build productivity and learn to better use the myriad technologies at their fingertips.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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