Magazine article Workforce Management

Talent Management Systems Make Inroads with Employers

Magazine article Workforce Management

Talent Management Systems Make Inroads with Employers

Article excerpt

Firms' recognition that learning and performance are related may be the biggest factor driving the adoption of integrated systems

WHEN PITNEY BOWES reorganized corporate HR in the spring of 2003, learning management, performance management and succession planning moved under the same roof for the first time. It didn't take long for managers to realize that while they thought about those processes as related, the technology they relied on to track them didn't. In fact, the assortment of hosted systems they used to perform that work didn't share databases or even come from the same supplier. The result: a lot of duplicate data but not a lot of shared intelligence.

Coincidentally, the aging technologies were due for an upgrade. After studying their options, officials at the $5.4 billion postage and mailing company decided that instead of upgrading individual pieces, they'd switch to an integrated system that would cover learning, performance management, succession planning and, eventually, knowledge management. Though Pitney Bowes is early into the transition, things look good. "After you make a decision and you're in implementation, you're training people, there's usually a moment of fear that (the software) doesn't do everything that was promised," says Larry Israelite, Pitney Bowes' director of strategic learning. "We're having the exact opposite feeling. ... It's so easy to use."

As Pitney Bowes goes, others are following. At a small but growing number of companies, stand-alone learning management systems are giving way to integrated software suites that produce a shared pool of employee data usable in multiple learning and HR functions. Using these systems, HR managers can, for example, assess which skills and training a new hire needs; sign them up for live or online classes; check test scores; create training and other job goals for performance reviews and monitor whether they're being met; and, finally, evaluate if and when the employee is ready for a promotion.

Some suppliers have taken to calling these integrated suites "human capital management systems," but some observers say that title is too broad. HR training and development consultant Josh Bersin prefers the term "talent management systems," saying it better describes the employee development side of the HR business that the software suites address.

Whatever you call it, the change toward more integrated learning and performance management is being driven by a surging economy, technological advances and supplier competition, according to company executives, vendors and industry analysts. As the U.S. economy improves, companies are adding jobs and looking for better, more efficient ways to maximize the talents of the people they hire. Improvements in Web-based technology and Web-based offerings mean systems are easy to use and cheaper to buy than upgrading old hardware. In some cases, companies don't have to host or maintain the software themselves.

The biggest motivator, however, could be that companies finally have realized that learning and performance are related-and they are acting accordingly. Before, organizational boundaries existed, "but now they see a lot of interdependencies and are restructuring HR departments accordingly," says Lois Webster, CEO of LearnShare, a learning technology solutions provider run by a 36-company consortium.


Use of talent management systems is by no means widespread. While a handful of early adopters, like Pitney Bowes, are embracing integrated suites, a good portion of American industry is just now buying enterprise-wide learning management systems.

According to consultant Bersin, principal of Bersin & Associates in Oakland, California, 55 percent to 65 percent of U.S. companies use some type of enterprise-wide learning management system. As first-time buyers enter the market and others upgrade existing learning management systems to include talent management, LMS sales in the U. …

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