A Bird in the Hand…Using HR Technology to Find Hidden Talent

Posted by Devin Harris on May 2, 2019

“A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush…” “Can’t see the Forest for the Trees…” “Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side…”. These are all some of the most well-known expressions / proverbs that we have all heard time and time again.  They all ring true with respect to talent and recruiting. Specifically, while organizations are engaging more readily in finding and onboarding new candidates, there is often a missed opportunity to identify and develop hidden talent within their current workforce for new challenges and roles – often called “cross-boarding”.

Despite widespread consensus that people are a company’s most important asset, HR and senior leadership often do not have ready access to the tools and analytics they need to easily find and promote the best internal talent.

Traditional talent management practices relied heavily on formal hierarchical structures and job posting procedures to hopefully identify and promote the best and brightest candidates.  However, this was often a hit-and-miss premise – typically only as good as the employee’s manager was at identifying and developing talent or relying heavily on chance for the best candidates to see the posting.  How many times are external candidates brought in because we didn’t know about a high potential internal candidate?

What do you Really Know about the people who work for you?

We have all been in those meetings or on those conference calls, operating on the assumption that everyone across the table (or on the line) knows each other, only to find out that despite working for the same company, they have never met and really know nothing about one another.  This situation is typically a microcosm for the overall organization.  People are acquainted with employees within their immediate work location or department; but rarely have visibility to colleagues across the broader organization.

Historically, HR systems have done little to remedy this situation, providing only very basic information about the workforce.  For the typical employee, the depth of visibility they get to colleagues across the organization might be an online phone directory.  If they are lucky, there might be an org chart (likely out-of-date) that shows basic reporting relationships.  For employees in managerial, HR or executive roles, they might get access to additional employment data; but it is often limited in scope and likely resides in a wide range of systems making access and usability difficult.

Information about an employee is typically limited to basic employment data such as:

  • Name: Dave Jones
  • Current Role: Senior Product Manager
  • Previous Role: Business Development Associate
  • Hire Date: 2012
  • Salary/Grade/Position In Range: $65,000, Grade 12, Max
  • Previous Performance Rating: Exceeds
  • Age: 27
  • ID #: 78542

This type of information really doesn’t tell you much about the people that work at your organization. How useful is it?  To truly get to know the people behind the data, talent information needs to be much more robust.  Your workforce is made up of very diverse people with a wide range of skills, background experiences, career aspirations, etc.  Are you effectively engaging them in internal opportunities?

From a strategic talent management perspective, lack of access to robust talent information has bottom line impact.  As HR and leadership are making strategic workforce decisions, what talent information is available?  What if your organization is:

  • Considering expanding geographically;
  • Planning a new product innovation initiative;
  • Launching a new customer services project; or
  • Assessing talent for 9-Box placement to support succession planning?

Do you know whether you have the internal talent available to execute against these plans?  Do you have access to comprehensive talent data at the point-in-time you are making these pivotal decisions?

A New Model for Talent Management & Workforce Analytics

New HR technologies and talent management approaches are making it possible to better understand the unique characteristics of your workforce.  Prolific advances in Internet technologies, mobile devices and social applications are changing the way enterprises engage with and manage their workforce.

We all know the importance of “real-life” experiences.  Technology will never replace those.   However, the latest social technologies are connecting people in ways never before possible. Leveraging integrated social technologies (i.e. talent profiles, online work groups, social networks, user generated content) within a broader HR technology environment sets the stage for organizations to develop a much deeper understanding of the people behind the names on their org chart, while at the same time fostering deeper connections between employees across the workforce.

How much more impactful/useful would it be if the basic employment information available was augmented with the following kinds of talent information?

  • Career Aspirations
  • Subject Matter Expertise
  • Online Work Community Contributions
  • User Contribution Ratings / Comments / Views
  • Endorsements from Peers
  • Mentorship Expertise
  • Unique Skills, Memberships, Courses, Certifications, Languages Spoken
  • Prior Experience, Projects
  • Willingness to Relocate

With these kinds of metrics, you gain perspective on the unique talents of your workforce.  Would it surprise you to know that there is much more to Dave Jones than his basic profile?

  • Name: Dave Jones (also known as Davey J)
  • Tagline: You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don’t Take
  • Career Aspirations: Product Director
  • Current Role: Senior Product Manager
  • Previous Role: Business Development Associate
  • Languages: 4 (English, Spanish, French, Cantonese)
  • Subject Matter Expertise: Product Roadmaps, R&D, Languages, World Travel, Digital Media
  • Endorsements: 24
  • Previous Work Locations: Denver, CO, Little Rock, AR
  • Hire Date: 2012
  • Salary/Grade/Position In Range: $65,000, Grade 12, Max
  • Previous Performance Rating: Exceeds
  • Age: 27
  • ID #: 78542
  • Willingness to Travel: Yes
  • Hobbies: Sports, Video Games, Cooking
  • Personal Network: Wyona Smith, Jacob DeBringo, Sean McWilliams, Alysa Green, Thomas Briggs, Sloane Rathman, Mike Matinka
  • Special Skills: Product Analysis, Project Mapping

The above example illustrates how combining traditional HR data with profile and social contribution data delivers much deeper insight into the uniqueness and diversity of your talent.

This blog post is an excerpt from the eBook:
A Bird in the Hand…Using HR Technology to Find Hidden Talent

Devin Harris, Senior Marketing Manager at Vibe HCM has worked closely with the strategic benefits of employee-focused workforce technology for over 14 years. Most recently, he is examining the business outcomes that organizations achieve by deploying HCM Engagement platforms.


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