From the Classroom to Boardroom… Tracing the Evolution of a Talent Mangement System!!

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Globalization has changed us into a company that searches the world, not just to sell or to source, but to find intellectual capital – the world`s best talents and greatest ideas.– Jack Welch

In the boardroom bunkers and in the cubicle-filled trenches, the early skirmishes of the next war are being fought. But unlike a conventional war, this war doesn’t need truckloads of arms and ammunition, …it’s a war that truly is of a different kind…a war where most of the action is guerrilla warfare  to poach the best and the brightest minds for their skill sets, knowledge, capabilities and unique talents…Some call it ‘Old wine in a new bottle’…”A fight for Survival’ while some call it ‘War for Talent’…or a ‘Global Business Pandemic which is changing the rules of the game’..Whatever the name you choose to give….it is classroom theoretical concept that now has become the business imperative discussed and debated by every Senior Leader.

This blog is my personal narrative and a short story of a rather long and arduous journey of implementing Talent Management process. Like many in the field of Talent Management, we at Group Human Resources were dumbfounded with the challenge of finding our ‘A’ Listers in a complex web of 110 companies in 16 different sectors spread across 23 geographies of the world. With the origins of Talent Management initiatives during the turn of the 21st century, today this process has the potential  to alter the dynamics of the way we do our manufacturing business around the world.

Step1-Institutionilizng Core Talent Management process and Manual Record Keeping : After conducting multiple awareness sessions with our Senior Leaders to garner their support for this initiative, we designed our Core Talent Management processes with a tactical focus of recordkeeping.

Step2: Automating most Talent Management processes with PeopleSoft HCM: As the initiative gained momentum and a higher buy-in from Senior Leaders, here was our chance to climb another level on the Talent Management Maturity ladder by establishing a system of record – PeopleSoft HCM, automating the Assessment Centre Report process by our 3rd party Assessment Centre vendors, specifying the possible career trajectories for our ‘A’ listers – or top performers and capturing their Individual Development plans that were actioned upon and monitored regularly. PeopleSoft HCM gave us the perfect platform for automating, collecting and mining this rich source of data required to bolster the Talent Management process.

Step 3: Integrating a Talent Management system with the HCM system: With the career and succession planning data automated and easily retrievable, we embarked upon a mammoth task of designing the critical management dashboards within Hyperion BI for all our Senior Managers. Our dashboards gave a snapshot of the Leadership Pipeline, the status cum success of our Talent Management processes,  key information about our High Performers including attrition analytics etc required for better decision making on managing talent better.

While many organizations like mine are currently on Step 3, they are all striving for a unified system of talent management which would extract data from their Financial systems, Manufacturing and Business software as well as their Payroll and Accounting solutions to help managers make holistic decisions on talent management. After all, the key differentiator in a world of product, service, marketing and information commoditization is ‘Talent’ and managing it only makes business sense 🙂

References: Future of Talent Management |Taleo Research Study.


The Good, Bad and the Ugly of Taleo Business Solutions!!

Talent Drives Performance - Taleo Talent Management

Phew !! that’s an impressive list of credentials for a Company that was founded in 1996..almost a decade after Dave Duffield founded PeopleSoft – one of the best in breed ERPs in the market today. I had heard about Taleo’s Recruiting Solution about 4 yrs ago when my previous employer was scouting for the best Recruiting solution after being a wee bit uncomfortable with PeopleSoft’s Recruiting solution.  Without a doubt, Taleo’s impressive User Interface and advance talent acquisition functionality stood out from the crowd. Having a bias towards peopleSoft, I must confess I didn’t give it much of a thought until I was given a demo of the system by Josh during my class at UC Berkeley and I was mesmerized once again with the impeccable UI and ease of configuration that this system gives to its users….So without a further adieu let me rummage through all the literature available and collect my thoughts to present a rather interesting take on …the good, bad and ugly of Taleo’s  Talent Management Solution.

So What makes Taleo Talent Management worth a mention?

1. Affordability: It’s simple with no initial capital expenditure. Like most of its contemporaries in the SaaS and Cloud Computing domain, users pay a monthly fee of $99-140$ per month. There is no software or hardware to buy which is normally a deterrent in these trying times.

2. Availability and Pure Web Architecture:  Accessible 24/7 from anywhere anytime as long as there is an Internet connection.

3. Usability: This is one area wherein I found Taleo providing the greatest advantage to its users mainly the candidates through its simple and intuitive User Interfaces . With the sudden rise of social networking sites like Twitter and Linked In used by candidates for job application purposes, Taleo has a built in integration with both these websites. Hence it facilitates an instant chat with a member of the Co’s recruiting team as well as allows a prospective applicant to find additional information through contacts on professional/ social networking sites like Linked In.

4. Integration to Microsoft Outlook: Coming from a PeopleSoft eRecruitment background, this was another fascinating feature provided by Taleo. All interview schedules can be entered in Microsoft Outlook which can further remind an interviewer about the interview scheduled for the day without having to login to the system and checking an equally complicated interview schedule calendar.

5. Configurable Workflow Mails: I still recall the nightmare I had to undergo while configuring the workflows in eRecruitment as the business processes were so individualized to certain sections of the user audience. Taleo allows us as Functional Consultants to configure individualized workflows. Hence we could better adapt the system to our real life business scenarios.

A very refined Advance Search Functionality: In PeopleSoft eRecruit, there was an inherent bug in the Verity Index which allows us to use the advanced search functionality. PeopleSoft n its vanilla avatar also restricted its users on a very limited fixed set of parameters to search a large and complex resume database. I still recall the times wherein my power users wanted resume searches to be based on uploaded CVs, testimonials, PDF resumes and HTML docs which wasn’t possible in the system. In one of the demo sessions, Josh demonstrated how Taleo allowed its candidates to upload not only .txt files but also .Doc, .PDF, .HTML files which seemed so practical in today’s time.

7. Ad-hoc Reporting: Even today, if I could lay my hands on a disgruntled user, it would be my Head of Group wide Recruitment as she wanted the flexibility to drag and drop fields used for her MIS and reporting which could never be standardized in a crystal / SQR report. The ease and flexibility which this feature brings definitely makes one of the reasons for a compelling business case for Taleo ATS.

The other side of the coin…the flip side of Taleo:

I do realise that demos or sales pitches by pre-sales teams are expected to invoke an -Ahhhaa effect on the audience so while I cannot discount the apparent advancements of the Taleo system, I cannot assume a perfect system devoid of any ugly truths.

1. Integration through Open APIs : While I may not be an IT professional to enumerate the complexities involved in integrating the Taleo Recruiting system with the Co’s System of Record by using the functionality of Open API, as a novice on this subject I can state with some degree of certainty that the path to integration of the 2 systems provided by different vendors, having no commonality in system architecture and database structure would not be for the faint hearted. Integration plays an important role when you have hired the candidate through Taleo’s ATS and now the record needs to be passed in the System of Record (employee database). Most integration using Open APIs are through non real time cumbersome batch processes which further results in time lag for data entry between the 2 systems.

2. Taleo is known for its ATS not Talent Management: If we were to trace the early beginnings of Taleo as a product and focus on its impressive list of Fortune 100 clients, you would see a trend towards Taleo’s forte being its advanced ATS. From a predominantly ATS product to a Talent Management application comprising of Performance Management, Career & Succession Planning modules, there is no comprehensive evidence of the business benefits of Co’s using these modules or to corroborate if these processes are mature and incorporate industry best practices.

3. Data Security – Although I am told that there is a detailed comprehensive encryption methodology of securing data, there is still an element of fear in my mind for fear of cyber pilferage or confidential Talent Ratings falling into the hands of cyber miscreants.

4.  Customer Support/ Helpdesk Assistance – Resorting to my past experience of working on PeopleSoft, I always knew that there was a very robust 24/7 Support infrastructure for its customers with predefined escalation clauses and SLAs which I used extensively during the nascent stages of project roll out and implementation. It may seem questionable to assume a similar support infrastructure that Taleo would provide to its customers in very remote corners of the world, akin to that provided by the Application Bigwigs like Oracle, SAP or PeopleSoft.

Whether Taleo’s Talent Management Suite can rival that of the larger Best in Breed Application systems like PeopleSoft, Oracle, SAP etc .. only time can tell. However, its without a doubt a competitor which only a fool would choose to ignore….So lets  wait and watch this race for some more tech trivia!!

Womenomics – A business case for women !!!

“Did You Know -???

Women represent 60% of university graduates in Europe and North America.

Women make 80% of consumer goods purchasing decisions in the US ??

Companies with more women in leadership have a 35% higher return on equity

—Can companies afford to ignore this new, 21st century reality?”

‘Womenomics’ is the new buzz word is corporate circles today all over North America if a recent survey done by the CEO of ‘Waking Up to Womenomics – Avivah Wittenberg- Cox is concerned. In fact, ‘The Economist’ make a fantastic statement that we should forget harping on the astronomical growth of emerging markets like India, China and ofcourse, the Internet. It states that in today’s society economic growth is driven by women.

To second that point, Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard-Hoellinger, and Mary C. Meaney of McKinsey Quarterly in their September 2008 issue stated that the male-female gender gap isn’t just an image or Corporate Branding problem…it can have real tangible implications for the company’s performance. In their words, today there is a strong business case for women and I couldn’t agree more with this argument.

Women here within the Corporate Circles of North America and other developed countries have made significant strides in carving a niche for themselves in recent times.

Working as an HR professional, I am aware that there are companies who have moved successfully to increase the hiring, retention, and promotion of female executives. One such company that is applauded for its phenomenal work in retaining & motivating female employees is the global consulting behemoth – Deloitte. The consulting behemoth admirably came to terms with its need to provide a more equitable culture for the career advancement of women nearly 10 years ago, and this decision and this commitment has produced numerous benefits for its female professionals. Deloitte has been applauded for their HR policies that aren’t inadvertently biased against women or part-time workers  rather encourage them by initiating mentoring and networking forums, to establish (and consistently monitor at a senior level) targets for diversity, and to find ways of creating a better work–life balance for their workforce. Changes like these have a price, but there are business advantages to making them – today, 14 percent of Deloitte’s partners and directors are women, the highest percentage among the Big Five Consulting firms.

Apart from Deloitte, there are other companies like Ernst & Young, GE, Goldman Sachs, Time Warner who have been accredited across professional circles as a key attractor for this valuable segment of the talent pool. While they all have some form of telecommuting, flexi-time, and job sharing that attracts skill women to the workforce, what sets them apart from their contemporaries is the fact that they all believe in the fact that women can give them the competitive edge.

However, there is a darker side to this story. On one hand there are companies like Deloitte, GE, Ernst & Young who are doing some phenomenal work in this area, research done by Columbia University in collaboration with the University of Maryland indicates that in the United States, less than a third of the leading 1,500 companies had even a single woman among their top executives in 2006.  In fact, if we were to look closely at the senior management in higher echelons of most Companies in Corporate America, the percentage of women is abysmal.

While this seems unpalatable to most of us women and more importantly HR practitioners, it would be folly to ignore this truth completely. Hence the next question seems appropriate.

Why do women matter in the workforce or what is he business case for attracting and retaining women ?

While the term ‘ War for Talent’ sounds like a cliche, there is an acute shortage of skills and knowledge which would only worsen  with time.The need of the hour is more talent to enter the workforce to fill the shortages.

According to McKinsey research, in the United States, the upcoming retirement of the baby boomers will probably mean that companies are going to lose large numbers of senior-level employees in a short period of time; nearly one-fifth of the working-age population (16 and older) of the United States will be at least 65 by 2016.  As HR, we are always saddled with the glaring mismatches between training and employment. This gap between employees joining and being fully trained to optimally do their job can attribute to the shortages. Today even as we speak, we are aware that male-dominated sectors with a dearth of workers include engineering and IT —yet 70 percent of women with science, engineering, or technology qualifications are not working in these fields.

Apart from filling up this talent, a healthy gender diversity ratio would improve productivity as a result of improved employee motivation and efficiency while attracting top talent in the industry. McKinsey Research shows that companies with three or more women on their senior-management teams scored higher on all nine organizational criteria than did companies with no senior-level women.

Attracting & retaining women in the workplace is by no means for the faint-hearted as it is fraught with its share of challenges and difficulties. However, as illustrated in this blog post, most companies reap tangible benefits for instance; a larger talent pool and stronger financial performance—which suggests that making gender diversity a significant business goal is well worth the investment of both time, effort and money.


1. Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard-Hoellinger, and Mary C. Meaney – Business case for Women. The McKinsey Quarterly, September 2008.

2. Cristian L. Deszõ and David Gaddis Ross, “‘Girl Power’: Female participation in top management and firm performance,” working paper, December 2007.

3. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland, Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution, Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, 2008