HR Unhappy with Talent Data Systems, Global Survey Finds

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Fewer than one in five HR professionals are satisfied with their information systems’ ability to manage talent data, according to a new survey of HR professionals in emerging and established economies. That problem might be contributing to an erosion of HR’s role as a strategic player.

The survey results were reported in The 2013 Global Assessment Trends Report by SHL, an international talent management solutions firm. The report, written by Sarah S. Fallaw, Ph.D., and Tracy M. Kantrowitz, Ph.D., is an annual indicator of how organizations around the world measure talent. Fifty-eight percent of respondents were from emerging economies; 8 percent were from the U.S. and Canada.

The report is set against a background of “big data”—the explosive growth of information that is inundating HR and other departments. Many HR professionals don’t have the expertise or the tools to keep up with, or make complete sense of, all the data they receive, the survey suggests. Nearly 75 percent of respondents said they want to improve the way in which they measure talent. Yet only about one-third indicated that their organization performs objective assessments of candidates’ potential for critical roles.

Demand Growing for Mobile Access to Data

One improvement that HR professionals would like to tap is the ability to access their HRIS systems through smartphones and other mobile devices; only 17 percent of respondents can do so now.

Mobile recruiting is also on the wish list of some HR professionals—those in China, India and other emerging economies, for example, say that more of their job candidates want to complete employment tests via mobile devices and that more of their recruiters want mobile access to candidate data.

“The concept of one-click apply is the holy grail of mobile recruiting,” said Ken Lahti, vice president of product development and innovation at SHL, who also worked on the 2013 global assessment report. “I don’t think we’re there yet. It’s hard to imagine someone wanting to fill in an application for employment on their smart device. But we’re starting to see some innovation out in the field.”

‘Big Data’ for Performance Management Needed

Looking at the bigger picture, Lahti sees warning signs for HR. One involves the question of who owns and drives an organization’s talent strategy. HR might be losing ground to marketing, finance and operations. Survey respondents who agreed with the statement “My organization views HR as a strategic function” declined from 74 percent in 2012 to 66 percent in 2013.

Although 73 percent of respondents said their organization has a formal performance appraisal/management process for all employees, only 24 percent said their organization has a clear understanding of their workforce’s potential, such as who can take on additional responsibilities or leadership roles.

The report says ineffective use of competency models might be part of the problem, noting that “there is still untapped potential for the use of big data to enable better decisions about people. … This is an opportunity HR professionals cannot afford to ignore.”

Lahti agreed that HR seems to be “losing a little bit of ground” in the competition to manage talent strategy. He said frustration over the challenge of mastering big data could be one reason.

“One of my hypotheses is that that there are [impressions of] unmet promises or unmet potential,” he said. “Everyone is looking at HR to connect the dots. … Big data should be a stretch goal for HR.”

Stricter Social Media Use Standards Warranted

The survey report had interesting results on social media, though they were likely influenced by the fact that many respondents were from nations with emerging economies, Lahti noted. It seems HR professionals in those countries are more willing than those in established economies to “consider no-no’s such as looking at pictures of people on social media sites” and to conduct formal social media searches, he said.

“This is a call to action for HR” to develop strict policies on social media use in recruiting and screening, said Lahti. “It’s more of a problem in the emerging economies, but it’s needed in both.”

The SHL report also revealed that engaging the workforce (55 percent of respondents) and developing leaders (52 percent) remain top priorities for organizations in 2013, as do performance management, workforce management and talent analytics, and training and development.

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