This content is part of the Buyer's Guide: Your guide to buying a talent management system

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See which talent management system best suits your business

Selecting the right talent management system could change the face of your business. See which talent management software best matches your organization's needs.

You've identified the key processes and functions you need in a talent management system. Now you need to look at which vendors might suit your needs best.

Identifying which system is best can be a difficult and daunting task. Many vendors offer applications for all or most of the pillars of talent management that -- on the face of it -- appear to have similar or even identical functionality. With mobile being a key part of vendor offerings and every vendor making claims of being "fully integrated," how do you choose the best talent management software for your needs?

Most likely, you have built a business case to seek approval for your talent management systems purchase. As part of this business case, you likely will have identified some of the key challenges your business is facing and the areas that offer cause for concern. Using these criteria -- as well as your business drivers and a list of any other desired functionality -- should ultimately help you select a talent management system that fits your needs best.

There are various talent management systems in the marketplace that offer stand-alone talent management systems or a talent management application within a larger HR software suite. The key vendors in the market are:

  • Cornerstone OnDemand Inc.
  • IBM
  • Oracle
  • Saba Software Inc. and its recently acquired Halogen Software Inc.
  • SAP
  • Talentsoft
  • Ultimate Software Group Inc.

Here is a look at each of these vendors in context of key buying criteria for talent management systems.

Editor's note:

Using extensive research into the talent management software industry, TechTarget editors focused on vendors that offered modules that covered all five pillars of talent management software: recruitment and onboarding, performance management, succession planning, learning and development and compensation management. Vendors also needed to represent the top 80% of the market. Our research included reports from Gartner, Forrester and data from TechTarget surveys.

The benefits of talent management software suites

Talent management software suites offer integrated talent management processes, but sometimes don't specialize in any particular module yet may have deep functionality in two or three of the modules they offer.

It's no surprise that all vendors offer mobility as part of their talent management applications.

Most of the vendors listed above have some form of talent management suite, with some -- SAP SuccessFactors, Cornerstone OnDemand and Oracle Talent Management Cloud -- even offering more expansive human capital management (HCM) suites that allow you to use one or more of their talent management applications. Performance management, recruiting and learning are foundational modules of almost every vendor's talent management offering. Compensation management and employee onboarding are also popular offerings. All vendors offer succession planning, while SAP SuccessFactors and IBM's Kenexa have deeper recruiting offerings beyond just applicant tracking and candidate relationship management.

If you are a large business looking for a suite of applications that cover all five pillars of talent management, then you should consider SAP SuccessFactors, Oracle and Cornerstone OnDemand. According to the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Talent Management Suites, SAP SuccessFactors, Cornerstone OnDemand and Oracle Talent Management Cloud are all considered leaders in talent management software.

For small and medium-sized organizations, Saba's suite of talent management software, Halogen's TalentSpace, Talentsoft and Ultimate Software's UltiPro may be good fits for less sophisticated or lower-cost talent management capabilities.

The cloud-enabled talent management system

The delivery of talent management processes is primarily through cloud-based talent management applications using a software-as-a-service model. This has grown slowly from the early 2000s and is now the de facto standard for HCM software delivery.

A number of the vendors listed have had on-premises deployments at one point in time, but with the exception of Saba, all vendors are now offering cloud-only products. Saba's offerings are available in both the cloud and on premises.

Most likely, your application strategy -- at least for HCM applications -- is cloud-forward and therefore all vendors will have an offering that ticks this box in your assessment checklist. However, if you're looking for an on-premises product then you are limited to Saba's offerings. SAP still has on-premises talent management offerings available in its SAP ERP HCM system or on its price list, even though the vendor no longer actively offers those products to current or prospective customers.

talent management system

Talent management software goes mobile

Mobile applications enable employees in non-office locations (e.g., factories, vehicles, remote offices, etc.) or field-based employees to interact with business processes. Talent management capabilities are often not available to employees who do not have access to a computer, so providing mobile functionality enables those employees to be part of the talent management processes being run in the talent management applications. Quite often mobile functionality does not replicate all functionality available in the talent management applications, rather focusing on the key features of each process.

Most vendors and analysts see mobile as a differentiator against on-premises systems, and so it's no surprise that all vendors offer mobility as part of their talent management applications. Mobile capabilities offered by each vendor vary and assessing mobile functionality can be difficult without having access to the mobile application. Mobile functionality can also sometimes be overlooked during an assessment due to the variety of other areas that come under scrutiny. Typically, your mobile needs will depend on the makeup of the workforce and the talent management applications you are deploying.

If feedback-based performance management is a target for you, then Saba and Halogen and SAP SuccessFactors have strong performance feedback capabilities in their mobile applications. SAP SuccessFactors' mobile application has a strong focus on continuous performance management.

For enterprise learning and training, Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba and Halogen and SAP SuccessFactors have strong mobile functionality in regard to that pillar of talent management.

Recruiting is a strength of IBM Kenexa and many of the other vendors offer a wide range of recruiting functionality in their mobile applications, such as interviews, candidate reviews, hiring collaboration and approvals.

Saba and Halogen supports compensation management well through its mobile application.

Succession planning and career development planning are not well supported by many vendors when it comes to their mobile application.

The importance of user experience

Talent management applications are employee-facing applications and as such require a user-friendly and engaging experience. To receive the necessary adoption for applications that drive value creation for your business, these applications should be easy for employees to use on a casual or irregular basis, intuitive enough for employees to use without needing to review job aids or help pages, and leave employees feeling positive about their experience with the application and overall process.

Unsurprisingly all talent management vendors have invested in their user interface and user experience. Some of the vendors have made recent updates to their user experience while some vendors perform periodic renovation of their user interface as part of their user experience strategy. Mobile also plays a role in user experience and should fit into a vendors overall user experience strategy.

From a user experience perspective, most vendors will fit your needs. However, the main vendors -- SAP, Cornerstone OnDemand and Oracle -- have built out their user interfaces and features across their talent management applications that provide a very engaging experience for the user.

HCM with talent management, and talent management systems with HCM

It's important to consider the long-term goals of your HR strategy when assessing talent management software. If your long-term HR software roadmap includes adding a core HR system to your landscape (assuming the talent management applications you are purchasing are not going to be integrated with the core HR system of the vendor), then it is worth considering a vendor that has a core HR offering in its HCM suite.

The integration between core HR and talent management is more than just data -- it is also about end-to-end processes; recruiting often begins with a vacant position, onboarding integrates with the hiring process, salary data is used in compensation management, employee history is used in variable pay planning, etc.

As an example, Cornerstone OnDemand has recently introduced a core HR system, although its offering is not intended to be a traditional core HR system. Talentsoft has a simple core HR system that works well with its talent management system. SAP SuccessFactors and Ultimate Software's UltiPro are considered leaders in core HR offerings for large businesses and midmarket, respectively.

Some of the vendors of talent management suites also have a core HR product and -- in some cases -- have a payroll offering. Many vendors offer workforce analytics, workforce planning and benefits  as part of their HCM suites. Several vendors offer core HR but don't specialize in talent management (e.g., Infor HCM, Ceridian or ADP), while Workday sells core HR as a mandatory component when using talent management.

Next Steps

Know the business cases for investing in talent management software

See mobile HR unleashed in this use case

Learn how employee engagement applications enhance HCM tools

Dig Deeper on Talent management systems