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Segmented Talent Management Systems
David Creelman

If you talk to Callidus Software they will tell you about their Monaco On Demand SPM suite that includes hiring assessments, onboarding, coaching, objective setting and pay-for-performance. To the ears of an HR manager that sounds very much like a talent management system until they mention it also includes channel and quota management.

These latter two modules are the clue: this suite is aimed solely at the sales function.

As HR professionals we love technology that helps manage talent, but the Callidus initiative offers a challenge to our existing paradigm. Callidus is offering a “sales performance management” suite that in many ways overlaps with talent management. Does that mean that we ought to have one suite for sales talent and a different suite (like Taleo, Oracle, SuccessFactors or Meta4) for everyone else? The answer depends on whether sales is very different from other jobs and if that function is very important.

Different and Important
Faced with the possibility of having two overlapping systems, most managers will ask “Can’t we just have one?” This is a reasonable response, but if the needs differ enough, and the issue is important enough then the added complexity of having two systems is justified. In the case of sales, many companies will feel that it is sufficiently important and enough of a stand-alone unit that they won’t mind having sales performance management software that is distinct from the more general talent management system.

It is interesting to note that ten years ago Callidus’s reward software was categorized as “Enterprise Incentive Management”. The idea was that a single piece of software could handle incentives for all employees right across the enterprise. That notion has been abandoned as companies came to recognize sales incentives were so different from managerial bonuses that it made no sense to combine them. The evolution towards a sales performance management suite that includes talent management components was a natural extension of this realization.

Expanding the Paradigm
As soon as we accept the notion that it sometimes makes sense to have a Sales Performance Management suite for sales and a Talent Management Suite for everyone else, it raises the question of whether we should have separate suites for other segments of the workforce.

In fact, some companies already use a “Workforce Management Suite” (such as Kronos) for hourly workers and a traditional Talent Management Suite for salaried employees. This is probably not the norm; an organization with a big hourly population for all jobs may simply use Kronos across the board. The point is, hourly workers and salaried workers are sufficiently different and important that at times it makes sense to go with separate suites to handle different talent segments.

What about other functions? Do we need a separate suite designed for managing engineers or creative people or finance professionals? Clearly no one wants a dozen different suites with similar talent management components, but thinking this way opens our eyes to the differences between different parts of the workforce. It’s unlikely that companies would have a separate talent management system tuned to engineers, but there may be somewhere the engineering function is different enough and important enough to justify the added complications of having a specialized software suite.

A Little More than One
The idea of a single talent management suite for the whole enterprise is highly attractive. Yet with the hourly workforce, and now perhaps with sales, there is an argument that we may do better having more than one system. Not ten different systems but more than one: maybe two or three.

Another insight from this line of thinking is that if you use one talent management suite for all employees, it may make sense to do significant customization by function. There may be one single hiring module, but it may need to be configured quite differently from function to function.

The job for HR is to maintain the balance between the simplicity of enterprise wide systems and the power of systems customized to specific parts of the workforce. There is no universal answer, but I suspect for many organizations the number of talent management suites needed will be “a little more than one”.

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research, providing writing, research and speaking on human-capital management. He works with a variety of academics, think tanks, consultancies and HR vendors in Canada, the U.S., Japan, Europe and China. Mr. Creelman can be reached at dcreelman@creelmanresearch.com


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