Talent Management Systems (Part Two)

Last week, we entered into the world of Talent Management Systems (TMS), which are software platforms that empower corporate users to analyze and manage numerous organizational goals. The first conceptual pillar, or organizational goal, is the recruitment of new employees. We’ll skip over the second pillar, corporate learning, since that concept and those issues have been dealt with extensively in our blogs about Learning Management Systems (LMS). That leaves us with the third pillar, Performance Management.

Hey, Boss . . . How am I Doing?

The employee and employer relationship is founded upon a very basic understanding: the business owner gives compensation to her or his employee in exchange for the worker’s labor. Normally this compensation is monetary, that is, a salary or hourly wage, but compensation packages generally include a range of benefits, such as disability/health insurance, earned sick leave and vacation time, in addition to retirement plans. This, on one hand, is all very contractual: do the job and get paid, but that’s only based on a limited notion of employee motivation.

One can understand the rationale for employment from three different perspectives. First, as noted above, an employee offers her or his labor in exchange for compensation.  This is extremely significant and should not be dismissed. Employees must be able to support themselves, their families, and even extended families; likewise, employees use work money for pleasurable pursuits outside of work: leisure activities, travel, and other discretionary purchases. For employers, they want their employees to do the job.

Second, many employees take great personal and professional pride in their work; it’s not just for the money, as their identity is intertwined with their profession. I’m not just an employee, but a skilled engineer or graphic designer. Similarly, employers want their employees to have a sense of pride, as this inevitably translates into a superior product (not to mention a happy, stable workforce).

Last, some employees view work in the context of a transformative activity, that is, work promotes and helps bring about valued social change. Such is the case for not-for-profit employees, but also is the case for individuals working in the arts, helping professions, and technology. Here, the employer wants the employee to take a sense of ownership over their work and the entire business enterprise.

For most employees, their work rationale is not just based on one of the factors but frequently a mixture of two or even three. An employer assesses and manages employee performance in a similar fashion. In this regard employers and employees can assess work progress using the performance management module in various TMS platforms.

Elements of TMS Performance Management

  1. Performance Management and LMS: While performance management is differentiated from the LMS module in TMS platforms, they clearly share a related goal. In the modern workplace, employees must retain and increase work-related knowledge and skill sets in order to meet performance standards and contribute to organizational goals in a competitive market.
  2. Goal and Task Tracking: Every single successful business must be able to track its daily tasks and work products and be able to link that with their overall goals, be it production quotas, contractual deadlines and the like. One of the major elements of goal and task tracking, though, is setting individual goals—individual service plans (ISP). Here in concert with her or his manager, the employee seeks to make performance improvements based on the mid- or previous year evaluation. This can include production goals that include quantify but also might include goals such as decreasing the number of products that might have to be discarded due to substandard workmanship. All of this serves as a basis to inform not only education but also compensation as well. Similar to ISPs, corporate managers may seek to use TMS performance management to track various project benchmarks that have contractual obligations. This, obviously, is less of an issue for “simple” projects but is quite essential for complicated, interdependent projects with rigid contracts. Organizational planners also try to determine whether or not employees are successful in integrating education and training into their work. Moreover there is a feedback dynamic between the performance management and LMS modules. In the process of determining “employee effectiveness,” managers frequently identify problems that will serve to update elements in the organizational educational and training program. This, too, serves as part of the basis in determining compensation.
  3. Varied Alert Systems: In tandem with goal and task setting, performance management modules alert managers and workers whether or not production output are meeting corporate and/or contractual expectations. Sometimes such alerts will be providing information that already is known: yes, production has not met expectation because of a broken assembly line machine. However, such alerts can highlight subtle decreases in production rate that have impact latter stages of the production cycle. Here, just think about how a motorist pulled off to the side of the road by a police officer slows traffic on both sides of the road; when motorists slow down, then those behind them slow down as well, which creates a ripple effect. The same exists in the work process. So varied alert systems can help identify and prevent larger system dysfunction as well. This element in production management also is valuable in the context of assisting employees to meet goals in their ISPs. It is far easier for a worker to meet goals if he or she receives regular (sometimes constant) feedback about their work. Receiving negative feedback at an annual evaluation would feel punitive if workers had not been given opportunities to correct mistakes during the course of the year.
  4. Workflow Automation: The ability to automate various elements of the production process can create efficiencies and streamlines the production cycle in general. In lieu of a managerial decision, automation can queue workers at various stages of the production cycle to speed up and/or shift production responsibilities so that managers can direct their attention to monitoring and/or resolving problems that need their direct attention. Automation of this sort creates value not only in terms of production economies but also with corporate morale. While corporate owners certainly do not want idle workers, dedicated employees need to feel their effort and time is not wasted. Workflow automation can avoid this type of dysfunction. Similarly, managers and workers alike can take pride in a smooth-running business operation.
  5. Employee Surveys: Contrary to the traditional top-down style of management, organizations are enlisting the support of their employees in order to better assess and understand the production process and their operations in general. Such surveys can include an array of topics: the educational and training program, managerial behavior and style, et cetera. As with ISPs, employee surveys can be elicited on an annual basis or can be linked to specific projects or educational programs. Employee surveys truly only have value if workers feel that input has value. That is, do managers change training programs, have employee-managerial dynamics changed, have future contracts been written in a fashion to create realistic deadlines? Employee feedback is the dimension of employee-managerial relationships that provide greatest insight into corporate morale. As noted in the section above, the “work contract” is not only the basis for monetary compensation but also for a fulfilling work experience. Are employees developing career-advancing skills, do employees feel valued, do employees appreciate that the work is directed toward a socially-valued outcome?

Next week, let’s turn to the final element of TMS platforms, compensation management and can see how all of the elements are TMS systems are integrated.

Craig Lee Keller, Ph.D., JAG Learning Strategist

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