Tapping into Technology to Retain Top Talent

Laurie Zaucha, VP Human Resources and Organizational Development, Paychex
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Laurie Zaucha, VP Human Resources and Organizational Development, Paychex

We are on the brink of a talent and performance management revolution. At most companies, performance and talent processes are a look back, not timely, not driving employee development and overall cumbersome procedures in which employees and their managers don’t see a lot of value. Today’s employees expect more from their employers—they crave opportunities for development and growth, daily coaching and feedback on their work, and HR tools that are seamless and intuitive. Fortunately, employees want exactly what will be most helpful for companies to build a high-performing workforce and develop a leadership bench for both now and the future. Implementing the right HR technology to meet your company’s needs can pave the path to identifying high-potential employees and retaining top talent.

Developing Employees in Real-Time:

Many companies have an annual review process that begins with goal-setting at the start of the year or the onset of employment and concludes with a performance assessment at year-end. But trying to remember what happened over the course of a year can be very difficult—particularly if you manage multiple people. That’s why, during the annual review, most of the managers send up rating employees primarily on the past three months; it’s what they can remember most easily.

Today’s reality is a workforce of employees, who don’t want feedback just once a year; they want feedback every day. They want to know what they can improve, where the opportunities for growth are, and how they can best succeed within an organization. Getting that feedback at the end of the year is too late, in their minds. The trend is real-time performance feedback, where employees and managers continue to set goals at the beginning of the fiscal year, but they have a constant, ongoing dialogue throughout the year on how to grow and develop professionally. While there may continue to be a formal annual check-in, it is aided by the frequent discussions between manager and employee that occurred all year long. The entire process is more forward-looking and collaborative—not to mention mutually beneficial. It’s focused on the future rather than the past.

This shift of managers helping employees develop and perform at a higher level versus managing an individual’s past performance is more than just a nuance of words. It’s taking a different approach and mindset that focuses on nurturing an employee for individual success, and ultimately, the success of the business.  It’s performance development, not performance management.

Making HR Technology Work:

This is where technology can play a key role. The right tools can facilitate frequent feedback and coaching, and document and store the information, so it is easily accessible at any time, keeping it top of mind with both employees and their managers. HR is moving toward a more hybrid approach, one in which talent and performance are not managed but instead developed, and HR technology tools are the catalyst.

There are some key features that both managers and employees can benefit from, and should be considered before implementation:

Accessibility:

Having a platform that’s accessible via mobile devices is a great advantage, mainly because it’s much less cumbersome and more convenient than waiting to access things from a laptop or desktop computer. We’re simply not always at our desks. The bottom line is that, if the technology is easily available where, when and how employees want to access it, they are more likely to engage with the system.

Integration:

Having one main system or portal that contains the employee’s data is a key requirement. Nobody wants to have to log in to multiple systems or provide the same information over and over again in each of the disparate systems. Employees expect that the internal HR systems know who they are! An ideal solution should be one that is seamless and easy for employees to use, which can be accomplished when key information is integrated across all levels of the system with which an employee interacts.

Data:

HR technology solutions are no longer just repositories for employee data but actively use the information to gain further insights for the organization. This data enables the HR staff to analyze organizational competencies, strengths and weaknesses, and attributes that can’t be effectively considered on a broad scale without an automated solution. The HR team can then use this information to create targeted development focused on those areas of opportunity.The more powerful solutions combine that data with real business results in order to more accurately identify, what employee characteristics align with business goals and successes.

Communication:

While the technical features already mentioned remain key components to any HR system, the power of human feedback is fundamental. No matter what technology solution best fits your business; it should be one that fosters two-way communication between employee and manager – and ideally employee and peers, in the form of 360-degree feedback or another similar method. When you have an intuitive and accessible system for employees, they will be able to better identify opportunities and more engaged.  

Linking the Gaps:

Beyond enabling managers to easily measure employee competencies, an HR technology system can also provide a broader view on what’s happening across all employees in a business unit or company—successes, opportunities, behaviors, interests, skill sets, and more. Technology presents a significant advantage in helping employers match the qualities they desire in great leaders and aligning them with the right employees.

A manager may not recognize individuals who have desirable skills and talents because they’re in other departments or locations, but a system will recognize those employees for them. This ability of a technology-driven HR system is a helpful starting point for assessing an organization’s talent pool.

The primary benefit of a sound HR technology system is really all about leadership—for a business, providing an assessment of what is needed for future success; for the employee, determining where the opportunities are to develop. Technology has helped make the process more dynamic and holistic. It allows employees to explore more options and, ideally, managers can take those aspirations and development needs and put them into the system’s career development planning module and work toward the goals collaboratively on a regular basis.

All it takes is for one of your star employees to receive a LinkedIn message from a recruiter, and the next great career opportunity is being presented to them outside the company. When HR teams employ robust technology and the employee is actually using it within the company, he or she can see where the internal opportunities are and won’t be as tempted to look elsewhere.

Looking Ahead:

Each business needs to develop its own philosophy on talent and performance, and then find the technology solution that’s the right fit. Historically, talent and performance management have been viewed as processes that a company does to employees and for its own benefit. HR technology solutions are turning that notion on its head and making it easier to design processes that are for the employee and also provide greater benefits for the company.

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