Death of the ring-binder: the future of talent management lies in the cloud

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 9 August 2011



Hunt, S.T. (2011), "Death of the ring-binder: the future of talent management lies in the cloud", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 10 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Death of the ring-binder: the future of talent management lies in the cloud

Article Type: e-HR From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 5

How technology is changing the way HR works

Until recently, companies typically conducted performance management, career development, goal setting, compensation and succession management using paper forms, PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheets filled with half-completed, manually entered employee reviews and profiles. HR departments would often spend months pulling together data needed for compensation decisions and succession planning. Much of these data were obsolete by the time it was assembled. This left HR in the unenviable position of trying to engage leaders in “strategic” talent conversations using clumsy paper binders full of questionable information.

Thanks to cloud-based technology we are finally seeing the “death” of the HR ring binder. Cloud technology enables companies to access a variety of integrated, online talent management systems through the web. Because cloud-based systems are maintained by external vendors, they tend to evolve quickly to remain competitive in the marketplace. This is in marked contrast to in-house technology systems maintained within companies where there is often little internal focus on improving talent management methods. Talent management is shifting from fixed, paper and pencil or highly static in-house enterprise platforms to dynamic online, cloud-based systems. These systems make once clumsy processes much more efficient and easy to use. This is most apparent in goal setting. I have seen companies implement goal cascading across 10,000 employees worldwide in less than 60 days.

Cloud technology is having a similar impact on performance and succession management. For example, a global company recently implemented an integrated online system for performance management, goal setting, and succession. In 2010 they were able to:

  • set 1,787,465 performance objectives.;

  • complete 253,465 performance reviews; and

  • conduct close to 6,000 talent review and calibration meetings.

With a single mouse click, this company can now generate online reports providing immediate visibility into what people are doing across the company and how well they are doing it. In the past, companies may have had to spend weeks collecting and collating data from spreadsheets and surveys to create the same reports. By automating core talent management processes, cloud computing decreases administrative burdens associated with managing talent and frees HR professionals to focus on addressing business relevant issues.

Instead of spending time asking people to “please fill out their talent forms,” HR can leverage cloud technology to automate the process for completing these forms, track whether people have completed the forms and provide them with automated reminders if necessary, and directly access the data on these forms to gain insights and drive strategic discussions around quality and nature of talent in the organization. Simply put, you cannot collect and manipulate data in a three-ring notebook in the same way you can gather, maintain and use data residing in an integrated, cloud-based talent management platform.

Providing talent knowledge and tools

Adopting cloud computing applications enables HR to shift from administering talent management processes to working directly with business leaders to ensure employees are used effectively to support short and long-term business strategies. Cloud-based talent management technology also enables HR to provide data and simple job aids directly to managers that help them make better decisions about people. This includes tools that help managers more accurately evaluate employee performance and provide constructive, behavioral-based feedback to assist with employee development.

The impact cloud-based business execution technology has on HR can be likened to the impact GPS technology has on the use of street maps. It allows companies to take HR information and tools off bookshelves where it was rarely accessed and put it in the hands of decision makers when they need it in a format they can readily use. This allows HR organizations to create processes that fundamentally and profoundly improve how line managers run their businesses.

Measuring managers’ performance as managers

A powerful, but often overlooked benefit of cloud-based talent management technology is the visibility it provides into whether managers are carrying out basic management tasks, such as setting employee goals and providing employee feedback. As one client told me, until her company implemented cloud-based performance management technology, they simply had no way to effectively measure whether managers were even talking to employees about performance, let alone doing it well. The implementation of technology-based performance management processes made it possible to measure whether managers were practicing the most basic tasks associated with managing employees – setting expectations, evaluating performance against expectations and providing feedback.

Benefiting from the cloud

The use of cloud technology is enabling HR organizations to fundamentally change the role they play within their companies. But the technology by itself does not create this change. HR leaders must effectively use the technology to drive more business relevant conversations with line leaders. This requires HR leaders to actively engage line leaders in discussions around what kinds of people are needed to support business strategies, what changes need to be made to employee performance to effectively drive new business initiatives, and what actions line managers must take to ensure the right people are in the right jobs doing the right things for the company to succeed.

Running a business requires three things:

  1. 1.

    Defining strategy. Figuring out what you need to do to succeed.

  2. 2.

    Managing assets. Securing the capital and resources required to support the strategy.

  3. 3.

    Driving business execution. Building and managing the workforce to effectively leverage company assets to deliver strategic objectives.

Defining strategy is commonly owned by the CEO and marketing. Managing assets is often owned by finance and supply chain. Thanks to the support of cloud-based talent management technology, HR has now, perhaps for the first time in its history, both the knowledge and tools needed to play a true leadership role in driving business execution. The next step is for HR leaders to take ownership of this role. We have the tools and knowledge; we just need the courage and conviction to use them.

Steven T. HuntBased at SuccessFactors.

About the author

Steven T. Hunt is Director of Business Transformation Services at SuccessFactors. He has 20 years’ experience designing business execution and talent management processes and is a recognized expert in the use of technology-enabled talent management solutions. Steven T. Hunt can be contacted at:

Related articles