May 12, 2005   view past issues

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Feature: What HR Leaders Want (in a Talent Management System)

Recently, I conducted a series of interviews with senior HR leaders and staffing directors. I wanted to see if there had been a shift, during the past five years, in the dynamics of purchasing a talent management system (TMS). Many organizations are now acquiring their second or even third generation of such systems so it seemed timely to ask:

  • Has the decision-making process for a TMS acquisition changed any since 2000?
  • If so, what’s different?
  • Are current vendors providing what decision-makers want and/or expect from their systems?
  • and

  • If not, what’s missing (e.g., functionality, initial or follow-on training, implementation support)?
  • As has been the case almost from the beginning of TMS acquisitions, virtually everyone I interviewed said that their organization used a “project team” to evaluate and select among vendors. Historically, this team has included representatives from the HR, IT and Finance Departments and, occasionally, hiring managers. While that continues to be the case, the decision-making dynamic within the team has apparently now changed.

    Until 2003 or early 2004, the HR Department in most U.S. corporations was subservient to IT and/or the Finance Department in the selection of TMS vendors. Systems were almost always chosen to optimize their interoperability with previously procured HRIS or ERP systems. The needs of the HR Department and recruiters were judged to be secondary to the corporate benefits of interoperability, ease of service support, and the expectation of cost-savings through procurement of a single system.

    To a person, the HR leaders to whom I spoke said this second class status had now been replaced with a more influential role. While the budget continues to be a major selection criterion, within that constraint, HR executives-specifically the VP/HR and/or the Director of Staffing-are now making the decision with regard to the selection of systems and vendors, and doing so even when IT executives object to their choice. In addition, budgetary authority is also apparently migrating to HR. One executive claimed that if the initial system budget was set at $150,000 or less, it could be approved solely by HR; higher than that would require the agreement of the CFO, but the final figure, whatever it was, would not be set by Finance.

    Clearly, this shift in power has not occurred in every organization, but in enough to represent a trend and a direction for the future. What’s behind it? According to my sources, it can be ascribed to:

  • enterprise CEOs’ better understanding of the importance of effective talent acquisition, and
  • a greater level of technology procurement experience and expertise among HR and staffing executives.
  • The latter point notwithstanding, many of the surveyed executives feel that they need more sophisticated assistance from vendors in making the business case for the procurement of their system. They want quantified data and/or defensible algorithms that will demonstrate how the TMS will deliver a return on investment in corporate financial performance. While such analytical support is essential in justifying the initial acquisition of the system, several of the executives underscored that it was equally as critical in achieving the necessary funding for effective implementation after the acquisition.

    What else do these senior HR leaders want from their TMS? The wish list typically included the following factors (in priority order):

  • Customer support-24/7 technical assistance that is available not just at corporate headquarters, but at operating locations nationwide;
  • User-friendliness for both recruiters and hiring managers-a system that minimizes the level of effort required to put it to work (i.e., the fewest possible “clicks per step”);
  • Reliability-the system does not leave HR holding the bag because it fails to perform as represented by the sales team and required by the organization;
  • Gobal capability-multiple language capability and a knowledge of extra-U.S. statutory and other labor requirements “baked into” the system.
  • Almost all of the surveyed executives complained that today’s systems are far too complicated for the HR generalist and hiring manager who use them infrequently. They want systems where key activities are intuitively designed and can be accomplished with minimal effort, yet still provide a positive and differentiated candidate experience.

    On a more strategic level, virtually every executive said that they now better understand the risks and the opportunities involved in acquiring a TMS. Although processing resumes was often a key driver in any acquisition decision, there is a risk in seeing efficiency as the most important goal. It’s not. The primary reason to acquire a TMS is to acquire top talent more effectively. In other words, the opportunity presented by a TMS is not to automate administrative processes but rather to upgrade the processes themselves to make them less administrative. Procuring a TMS is not an exercise in buying technology, but rather a determination to improve the culture, practices and, ultimately, the performance of the staffing function. That’s what HR leaders want and, if it happens, these systems will do more to modernize recruitment than any other development in the last twenty-five years.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. May is Make a Colleague Smile Month. How can you do that? Tell them about WEDDLE’s newsletter. That’ll get them smiling in May, in June, in July and every month after that!

    This Issue’s Sponsor:

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of

    The Employment Guide(R) offers the nation’s most comprehensive recruiting solution for hourly to mid-management jobs. offers online hiring solutions and candidate search options across all industries on a nationwide basis. The Employment Guide publication offers traditional print and more than 150 job fair resources for employers across 56 major hiring markets. Let us be your Guide to hourly and mid-management recruitment.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    The Employee Relocation Council completed a study of relocation costs and found-to no one’s surprise-that they on the rise. The most expensive relocation involves a current employee who is a homeowner; they average $70,771 per move. Next in line is a new hire homeowner; they average $52,109 per move. Not surprisingly, the cheapest relocations are current employees and new hires who are renters; they average $19.129 and $14,008, respectively. Add it all up and moving people is expensive, whatever their situation. What should your organization do? Avoid relocations and find talent locally. A significant percentage of the niche job boards operating today focus on a specific geographic area (i.e., a state, a city or a region). For example, 67 of the 350 sites featured in WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guide to Employment Web Sites specialize in a unique geographic area. They include commercial job boards, such as and (serving all or some of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York), and local or regional newspaper sites, including The New York Times Job Market and TriadCareers (serving Salem, High Point and Greensboro, NC).

    Forrester Research reports that there is a disconnect between the behavior of Internet users and the spending of advertisers trying to reach them online. According to the firm, when Internet use at work is considered, people spend as much time online as they spend watching TV, yet marketers spend only 4% of their ad budgets on the Internet (versus spending 25% of their budget on TV). While aligning budget allocations with optimal sourcing channels always makes sense, this stove-pipe approach to advertising-you do this or you do that-actually undermines the effectiveness of your total marketing strategy. A better approach is to integrate multiple channels so as to capitalize on the advantages of each. For example, while online job postings give you all of the room necessary to present a compelling value proposition for your opening, most passive “A” level candidates have neither the skill nor the patience to search for that opportunity in an online job database. How can you overcome this barrier? By posting a short classified ad in print that (a) piques the curiosity of the candidate and (b) gives them specific directions (e.g., an alphanumeric and Web-site URL) to the spot online where they can read more.

    Kennedy Information has scheduled an audio conference series with me (you get a set of PowerPoint slides and a call-in number) that will address The Extraordinary Candidate Experience. It includes four separate programs: the first two cover sourcing methods, the last two recruiting activities. They are:

  • Posting Jobs for Passive, “A” Level Performers, to be aired on June 9th;
  • Finding Prospects Online Who Aren’t Looking for a Job, to be aired on June 30th;
  • Convincing Passive Prospects to Pay Attention and Say “Yes,” to be aired on September 8th;
  • Creating a Process That Sells Even the Most Passive Prospects, to be aired on September 29th;
  • The sessions draw on our 9+ years of research here at WEDDLE’s and will provide a toolbox of techniques for differentiating your organization with a compelling candidate experience. For more information and to sign up (for single programs or for all four at a discount) call 800.531.0007 x632. launched a new channel for the spouses of military personnel. Commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Military Community & Family Policy, the area is located at It is designed to connect employers with the 1+ million spouses of those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. These men and women offer experience and expertise in a wide range of career fields. While there is a fee to post your is owned by can list your organization as a “Military Spouse-Friendly” employer at no cost.

    Nielsen-Netratings reported that traffic to career Web-sites in June, 2004 was 30% higher than during the same period a year earlier. Traffic totaled almost 27.2 million people or about 18% of the total online population. While that’s very good news, it fails to shed any light on a key issue: what is the quality of these prospective candidates? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that, at any point in time, some 16% of the American workforce is engaged in an active job search. In other words, while that 27.2 million is a big number, there is a high probability that many of those site visitors are not the passive, “A” level prospects most of us want to recruit. Does that mean we should avoid job boards and career portals? Of course not. It means, instead, that we must focus on those sites that are most likely to attract a disproportionately high percentage of passive candidates. And what kind of sites might they be? Career portals. These sites have a job posting area and resume database just as a job board does, but they also provide content and peer-to-peer interactions that are helpful to visitors even when they aren’t looking for a job. In other words, the best sites for reaching the best talent are those that have the look and feel of a farm, rather than a store; they’re not about one-off transactions, but rather, seek to serve the long term aspirations and career success of their visitors.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. Your Finance Department needs a certified public accountant to help out with Sarbanes-Oxley filings. Which of the following sites would likely add up to a successful search?

  • 2. Your lighting fixtures company needs new sales reps for a number of territories across the country. Which of the following sites would illuminate great candidates?

  • 3. Your CEO was spooked by the bomb blast in New York City last week and wants to expand the company’s industrial security staff. Which of the following sites would help you secure some top prospects?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005 Guides and Directories


    The Career Site of The Boston Globe

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: Regional: USA-Greater Boston, MA

    Fee to post a job: $295/posting

    Posting period: 28 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 562,192

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among resumes: Not Reported

    Other services for employers: Assessment instruments, Banner advertising, Status reports: banners/postings

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All of them.

    2. Only; is a promotional site for a Web-site development company, is a “gamers superstore,” and is the site of a manufacturer’s rep company.

    3. All but, the site of an Internet security company.

    Visit Our Sponsor:

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of

    The Employment Guide(R) offers the nation’s most comprehensive recruiting solution for hourly to mid-management jobs. offers online hiring solutions and candidate search options across all industries on a nationwide basis. The Employment Guide publication offers traditional print and more than 150 job fair resources for employers across 56 major hiring markets. Let us be your Guide to hourly and mid-management recruitment.