Monday, July 18, 2011

The “Next Hill” in Talent Management Software?

Let’s begin with a few data points as a backdrop:

• In the US, 93% of US-based Global 100 companies use executive coaches (Bono, Purvanova, Towler, & Peterson, 2009).

• Between 40 and 60% of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches, according to research by consulting firms such as the Hay Group and Manchester.

• As of 2008, there were approximately 12,300 business/executive coaches in North America (Frank Bresser Consulting Report, 2009).

• On January 1st, 2011 the very first Baby Boomers turned 65. As many of the occupants of this group are perhaps no longer fitting into the plans of their employers -- or no longer desire conventional, very demanding job situations -- a portion of this group will be parlaying their experience (along with appropriate certifications) into becoming independent executive coaches. This will further swell the number of independent executive coaches as referenced above.

While the supply of business / executive coaches keeps climbing, demand is also significantly increasing – principally due to two factors:

• The inexorable exodus of baby boomers is resulting in unprecedented numbers of key employees having gaps in their professional and/or management development … particularly within organizations that have not institutionalized mentoring and experience-transfer programs.

• More organizations are now promoting a culture of transparency, self-awareness and personal growth, particularly with people-managers … as their strengths and developmental issues likely affect the productivity, retention and engagement of everyone around them.

The proliferation of organizations using coaches is no surprise, since industry studies continue to report that the average ROI for companies investing in executive coaching can be seven or more times the investment made in these services. Although once used as an intervention with troubled staff, indeed coaching is now part of the standard leadership training for executives in such companies as IBM, Motorola, J.P. Morgan Chase, Hewlett-Packard, Google and many others.

So is the effective procurement and management of independent coaching engagements truly the next frontier (or next hill) to be conquered in the HR software market? That remains to be seen, but I personally believe that technology-enabling this highly strategic Talent Management ‘niche domain’ will - at the very least - start getting more attention than it ever has to-date.

After all, few if any HR/Talent Management software applications focus on capturing major cost savings/efficiency gains while simultaneously focusing on improving the quality and productivity of key talent throughout the enterprise. Most HR leaders today cannot tell you how much coaching is happening in their company, how much they are spending, what the coaching engagement is about, or whether it is working.

A relatively new company called Scout OnDemand is aiming to change all that.

Scout’s technology allows the streamlining of coaching fee structures, intelligent matching of coaches with individual coaching needs -- and perhaps most important given how many employees are typically affected by the recipients of external coaching – provides customers with solid assurances that coaching engagements are properly measured and managed for desired results.

In addition to providing best-in-class SaaS-based solutions for addressing the aforementioned business problems, Scout OnDemand’s mission is to also educate organizations utilizing external coaches that current models for providing key talent coaches are exploitive in terms of cost. This is basically due to the fact that numerous (“middleman”) companies today provide access to a network of independent coaches for a fee comparable to executive search firms, but most don’t do an effective job of matching, managing and measuring these pricey engagements – often exceeding $500 per hour.

Scout also believes their solution will have the impact of expanding the use of coaching in organizations way beyond senior executives. By making coaching more manageable, transparent and affordable, it will become feasible for companies to employ coaching more widely – for managers and supervisors, high potentials, and also to complement key training programs.

Just as organizations are now extending the use of enterprise software to facilitate social collaboration / social learning / socially-rooted innovation, it certainly seems that rapidly changing corporate cultures, management styles and demographic shifts might usher in yet another new Talent Management technology domain.

I am excited to now serve as one of Scout OnDemand's Board Advisors; and they can be contacted at

Steve Goldberg
HR Technology Industry Advisor
July 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Dozen Things (Still) Needed in HR Technology

Here’s the same list I published 6 months ago, all of which I believe are still very much needed in HR Technology circles ...

1. More end-customers embracing the fact that underlying HR data models are as important as any other, perhaps more “wow-evoking" component of an HR technology infrastructure.

To illustrate this point --- As astute purveyors of simple headcount reports know, the report is not highly valuable without being accompanied by clear definitions and even training around which people are counted – and how. This data model issue gets much more interesting when you consider the notion of a “highly valued or excellent employee.” If someone is an excellent performer who consistently gets the highest performance ratings based on assigned objectives, than what should someone be labeled who achieves those same ratings – plus consistently refers candidates who become great employees, generates innovative ideas that translate into revenue streams, and has great potential to contribute in other roles that may have increasing importance to the organization over time?

One more important point on HR data models – perhaps a related phrase or concept that should be used going forward is “integrated people data architecture” – thereby forcing “people data” to be integrated and viewed in conjunction with other types of business and organizational data such as Finance, Sales, Product and Customer data.

2. Configurability toolsets that are not necessarily the exclusive domain of vendors’ consulting services organizations or end-customer power users.

3. More standardized and demarcated definitions of what the following terms mean in the context of HR technology: usability, inter-operability, scalability, adaptability and configurability.

4. Also related to the evolving lexicon of HR technology terms is the fact that more clarity is needed around these half marketing / half capability descriptions: “embedded analytics” and “embedded social collaboration.” It seems to this observer that excessive license is still being taken regarding the word “embedded.” Are these capabilities embedded at the transaction level, the business event / scenario level or the decision-making level? Do I need to know these capabilities exist to use them or will the system let me know they exist? How easy and accessible are they to use?

5. Better technology integration and a unified user experience between HCM modeling tools (e.g., for workforce planning, compensation modeling, succession modeling) and the TMS or HRMS platforms used to data-populate and record the results of those modeling scenarios.

6. More technology-enabled “business intelligence linkages” between on-the-job performance, or better yet, broad-based data on employee value ( see #1 above) … and the sourcing / screening / selection practices, learning and development practices, and total rewards and recognition practices that led to those levels of employee performance.

7. The recognition that only when end-customers focus sufficiently on change management, and solution providers deliver less complex/more intuitive/more engaging / “what’s in it for me?” user experiences -- will broad user adoption occur; and moreover, that the absence of these elements will almost always result in lower ROI, sub-optimal business value and unrealized business cases.

8. Solution capabilities that highlight HR business process bottlenecks and/or defects … along with their causes, associated data patterns and potential remediation steps.

9. Less focus -- by both solution providers and end-customers -- on HR technology features (‘what it does’) and functions (‘how it does it’) … and more emphasis on capabilities (a significant category or core theme of a set of features) … as it is capabilities that paint a much clearer picture of the strategic (= R&D funding) direction of an HR technology solution provider and their suite of products; e.g., social collaboration and mobile computing capabilities are feature category sets that typically represent an on-going R&D commitment to these areas.

10. Moving past the notion of “role-based” architecture and system design to “human factors-based” architecture / system design … as an individual’s role is only partially indicative of how they think about and approach the people management and people collaboration aspects of their job. Many people in the same type of role think about and approach the people management / people collaboration aspects of their role quite differently.

11. The recognition that successful HR technology implementations should never be principally measured or defined by “going live at (or close to) on-time and on-budget” … but by the incremental and measurable business value and impact it delivered to the organization.

12. More solution capabilities that are focused on human capital-related problem-solving and risk and opportunity identification / management --- and perhaps a little less emphasis on all the features and functions involved in HR process automation and enablement.

Steve Goldberg
HR Technology Industry Advisor