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Talent management software going social despite HR's concerns

New social tools for recruitment, learning, collaboration and performance management are starting to be integrated into talent management software.

The popularity of Facebook and other social media sites has made social one of the most prevalent buzzwords in IT. Experts say talent management software is the latest technology to be "socialized," but they caution that development of social tools is ahead of market demand, and HR managers are generally wary of the trend.

"We're in the very early stages of introduction of social technology into HR and talent management. Everyone is just getting their feet wet," said Lisa Rowan, program director for HR, learning and talent management strategies research at IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

While analysts agree that talent management software's social media tools are in their infancy, Rowan says social recruiting and learning functions are further along than collaboration and performance management tools.

Social recruitment enhances talent search

Since recruitment is a fundamentally social process, analysts say new social hiring tools could benefit both applicants and recruiters.

For job seekers, talent management software compatibility with social networks can save time by automatically filling application fields with data from a social media account. "We are starting to see that individual career sites with the help of talent management vendors are making it possible for applicants to circumvent filling out a three-page application by using their LinkedIn profiles," Rowan said.

For recruiters, talent management tools are emerging that can facilitate and enhance searches for appropriate candidates on social media websites or the Web at large and then rapidly transfer the information into talent management software. Rowan used the example of Taleo: "Taleo has a relationship with LinkedIn, so once people are found on LinkedIn, the software makes it easy to upload that person's information directly into the system."

Time-saving social learning

New social learning tools are making it possible for users to rate training courses and view opinions from colleagues, so they can make faster, more informed learning choices. "If I can see my peers rated one course better than the other, I'm saving time in making a decision," Rowan explained.

Social learning functions can also easily turn employee-created content into shared learning material, Rowan said.

John Sumser, principal analyst at HRxAnalysts, based in Bodega Bay, Calif., said that while there's still progress to be made, social learning technology has the power to revolutionize talent management. "The idea is so big that people are having trouble wrapping their heads around it, but the evolution in the learning environment probably has the biggest value in the HR stack. It will come, and it will be explosive," he said.

Collaboration tools have benefits, but need refinement

Tools like Rypple and Yammer are helping to prove the value of collaboration across organizations, and major vendors are beginning to incorporate collaborative functions in response, analysts say. There are still some kinks to iron out, however.

Sumser pointed out, for example, that current collaboration tools are too broad in scope. "The CEO is probably not looking for a steady stream of feedback from the average worker. We're going to have to figure out data mechanisms. Collaboration needs to be task-specific with the right people involved. None of the collaboration tools now are -- they all assume that collaboration is a universal good and it simply isn't," he said.

While Rowan says HR managers might be hesitant to adopt collaboration tools, she also thinks they are a positive development overall. "HR and management might think there's a time sink involved, but I think the upside outweighs any negatives," she said.

Closer employee tracking with social performance management

Social performance management tools will transform traditional annual performance reviews and employee records,  according to Yvette Cameron, vice president and principal analyst of Constellation Research Inc., based in Monta Vista, Calif. In a report, "Disruptive or Enabling? How Social and Mobile technologies are impacting leading practices," Cameron wrote, "the old approaches to annual performance reviews and annual goal setting are giving way to more agile, contextual, relevant processes supported by social technologies for transparency."

Cameron said that emerging social performance tools will enable more complete profiles of employees -- not just encompassing credentials and education history but interests and contributed shared content.

But Sumser predicts the increase in employee activity tracking that goes hand in hand with social performance management will initially trigger a negative reaction. "There's going to be a violent reaction to the fact that your employer knows so much about you," he said.

Rowan has a more upbeat outlook about socializing performance management. "For quite some time, most companies have had 360-degree feedback, and submissions were usually anonymous. Within talent management software, the process tends to be more positive. It's like pats on the back."

HR's take on social talent management software

These experts agree that HR managers tend to view social media as a threat to their companies and are consequently suspicious of new social tools in talent management software.  

"Supply is ahead of demand here. What first springs to mind when you say ‘social' to HR are worries about breaches and employees using social media negatively in an external way. It's going to take more time for HR to understand the benefits of these tools that are behind the firewall," Rowan said.

Sumser has a similar view. "The role of the HR manager is to manage and mitigate risk, so HR managers find themselves in a bit of a pickle since this stuff feels risky," he said.

Although Rowan stressed that all vendors are takings steps towards socializing their platforms, she chose SuccessFactors Inc. as the talent management vendor with the most developed social tools. Sumser named SuccessFactors and Taleo, but cautioned that they might change in light of their respective acquisitions by SAP and Oracle. Meanwhile, IBM this week announced its intention to acquire Kenaxis, claiming the combination would lead to broader application of social media in talent management.

Once HR managers become accustomed to the idea of social talent management software, Sumser said, one benefit could be simple but important. "I think the ultimate potential of social technology being integrated into talent management is that it can make processes more fun. That's kind of a cool possibility."

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