Selecting and implementing the right Talent Management System (TMS) to meet your company’s needs can be a daunting and challenging task.   So for those non-techie HR people, here are seven things you need to know before implementing a TMS.

 1. Understand what a TMS is and the associated jargon

This emerging field can be confusing for a typical HR professional with little IT background.  Learn as much as you can as early as possible about what a TMS* is and what the jargon means (SaaS, UAT, SSO anyone?).  This knowledge will ensure that you are better positioned to articulate your company’s TMS requirements, assess vendors’ products and ask pertinent questions to ultimately select the TMS of best fit for your organisation.

 2. First ensure a clear and shared vision for Talent Management in your company

Forget about the software initially – what is your company’s talent management vision?  What processes, tools and behaviours will support achievement of the vision?  Once you have helped create a talent management vision that your company’s key stakeholders (especially senior management) buy in to, you then have the foundations and mandate to find a TMS vendor that will partner with you to help enable achievement of the vision. 

Without your company’s own clear talent management vision you will end up making decisions on the run and possibly in an ad hoc way.  You can also use this visioning process to generate ‘pull’ or internal demand for a TMS and this will help ensure that employees are looking forward to using the TMS rather than having it imposed on them.

 3. View demonstrations of at least three different vendors’ TMS

Given that TMS is still a relatively young technology it pays to see what is being offered by a range of vendors.  Arrange for product demonstrations by multiple vendors and note features and functionality that you like or dislike.  Following each demo, assess how well each TMS aligns with and supports your company’s TMS vision.

 4. Speak with users of shortlisted vendors’ TMS – learn from their experience

Another high pay off investment of time is to speak with people from other companies who are using your shortlisted vendors’ TMS. Find out whether the companies are deriving the expected results and benefits from using the system.  Ask what is working well and what is not working well and why.  

Ask about key lessons learned in implementing the TMS as you can save valuable time, money and credibility by planning to avoid the mistakes made or problems faced by others in implementing a TMS.  Particularly ask about how easy back end administration of the TMS is both during project implementation and then as part of business as usual, and ask what level of service and support they receive from the vendor when issues arise.  You want to be confident that the vendor will be a strong partner with your business for the long haul.

 5. Be absolutely certain about the ability of your HRIS and a TMS to integrate

The word “integrated” is rarely far from the TMS acronym.  Ensure that you have the right IT experts in your cross-functional TMS implementation team and do your due diligence to ensure that the TMS will effectively integrate with your existing HRIS.  Without that integration you will miss out on some of the benefits that a TMS can bring and you may end up creating a de facto second HRIS via your TMS.  As your TMS and utilisation of it matures, integration will be the key to harnessing maximum value through talent analytics etc.

 6. For shortlisted vendors, know exactly which parts of their TMS are configurable and which would need development

Configuring aspects of a TMS is generally a quick, easy and cheap way to customise it for a client’s specific needs. For example, most Performance Management Systems would easily enable clients to customise a performance rating scale to their own requirements.  However, TMS development work is often time consuming and costly to the client, and generally a company should seek to minimise development work needed for its TMS. 

Before committing to any vendor ensure that you know what is and is not configurable with their TMS.  No one TMS will perfectly match your ideal requirements, there will always be trade-offs, but by doing your homework early you will be well placed to make informed decisions.

 7. It is an evolution

Implementing and successfully utilising a TMS is not an overnight process – it is evolutionary.  Draw up a plan that incorporates the right now, next and medium term future for how a TMS will support your talent management vision. 

Ensure that the plan reflects your company’s current level of readiness – taking into account its maturity in relation to IT as well as the effectiveness of its real life talent management utilisation (i.e. if the organisation has a poor culture of feedback and coaching then Performance Management System software is unlikely to make much of a difference).  Plan carefully, as decisions made early on in your TMS plan can impact later on (e.g. does the way you measure performance via the PMS enable seamless integration with how you plan to assess talent in a future Talent Management module?).

 Conclusion

Always remember that technology is not the outcome nor the purpose of the exercise – a TMS is merely a tool to support high levels of business performance through excellent talent management practices.

If you work through these seven steps you will maximise your chances of selecting and successfully implementing a TMS that is the right fit for your company and minimise the risk of time and cost blow outs and poor TMS utilisation.  Then enjoy the journey as you reap the benefits and engage your employees in ways you may have never previously thought possible! 

 * A Talent Management System is generally software provided by a vendor to enable organisations to manage their talent efficiently and effectively. It can include stand alone and/or integrated modules such as Performance Management, Recruitment and Selection, Talent Management, Succession Planning, Career Development, Onboarding and Remuneration.