Are Technology Companies Evolving as Fast as Talent Management is?

Rob Ollander-Krane, Director of Talent Planning and Performance at Gap Inc.
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Rob Ollander-Krane, Director of Talent Planning and Performance at Gap Inc.

Rob Ollander-Krane, Director of Talent Planning and Performance at Gap Inc.

Are any of these statements true for you?

• I have never been a big fan of technology that simply captures the data that managers and employees enter and then spits out reporting solely intended to sway HR leaders. The technology must deliver more than that or I am not interested.

• I can’t get my managers and employees to enter data in our current tool.

• My talent practices have moved from the traditional (performance management with ratings; talent planning with a 9 box) to more innovative practices (no ratings, more conversation; no 9-box focused on performance and potential).

• My talent philosophies have changed. It’s no longer just about the high potentials. It’s about development for everybody in a Growth Mindset environment.

If any of them are true, you may be having some of the same struggles I am having with technology vendors these days. When they come to visit me to “sell their wares”, they show me tools that support a world of documented goals, ratings and year-end reviews; a talent planning process anchored in a performance and potential grid (9-box); and language and process that doesn’t speak to innovative talent philosophies (like Growth Mindset) or recognize what neuroscience tells us about human interactions. And they usually walk about defeated, pissed off at me, or both.

The talent world is changing… and fast. New research on what drives performance and engages employees is driving revolutionary changes in talent practices. Neuroscience is changing the way we think about how people interact and the far-reaching implications of those positive and negative feelings. Mindset psychologists are focusing our attention on how what you think and believe impacts your performance. And from my perspective, technology companies (especially enterprise players) are slow to get on the bandwagon and incorporate these breakthroughs.

At Gap Inc., we radically changed two key talent practices.

Performance Management:

• Eliminated year-end reviews and ratings.

• Moved to a performance management process that’s all about regular manager and employee discussions that aren’t documented, but instead, are rooted in a Growth Mindset talent philosophy where all employees (not just high potentials) can – and are expected to - grow.

Talent Planning:

• Eliminated the traditional talent planning 9-box (plotting employees on a 3x3with performance and potential as the two axes), and the conversation which was focused on past performance and fighting to get your employee into the coveted “top right” position.

• Moved to identifying the specific actions (feed them more, stay the course, etc.) centered around current capacity and capability of the individual in order to drive immediate action & differentiated development.

• And we focused the conversation on real bench placement, designed to be deliberate in the movement of our people throughout the enterprise.

In almost every industry today, it’s no longer business as usual and the word “innovation” is both overused and coveted. However, I’m unsurprised that HR technology companies are having trouble meeting my needs, based on the reticence of many traditional HR leaders to change. If you have made or are planning to make similar changes to your talent practices, you will most likely bump up against the same technology issues I did and continue to do.

Here are some questions you can ask your vendors that might get you closer to a solution that matches your innovations:

1. What talent philosophies are the foundation for your technology? How can your technology support my company’s talent philosophy?

2. We want to encourage discussion between employees and limit data entry. We believe that discussion is where the magic happens. How does your tool support that? Are there any data fields that must be entered for your tools and reporting to work? (For example, if we don’t use a performance and potential grid, can we still use your talent planning modules?)

3. How does your system view the role of the manager vs. employee vs. team with regards to giving feedback? Who drives the process? How does your tool encourage employees to give feedback?

4. What reporting or other data do I get even if no manager or employee enter anything into your tool? Is there predictive analytics or other artificial intelligence built in?

5. What is your methodology for getting people to be interested in using the tool and entering data? (The answer must be more than just telling me you have an app for my phone.)

6. How does your technology encourage quality feedback…more than just a smiley face or “great job”? How does it become balanced feedback (positive and constructive)?

7. How do you know that all this data is driving performance? What does your tool show that helps me KNOW that your software is driving performance?

8. Paint a picture of a successful engagement with a company. What was expected of employees, managers, HR, you)?

Although every company has different needs, two vendors we found came close to providing what we were looking for are HighGround and Zugata. HighGround’s overall performance management philosophy and process come close to providing us a viable solution. Zugata’s feedback platform adds value by mining employee email and calendar data to determine an employee’s current network and then sending a weekly email to one person in the employee’s network asking them for feedback. That’s an example of the tool adding value. And then they encourage participation by preventing the employee receiving the feedback from reading it until they have provided feedback for someone else. Love that.

So, I guess there are a handful of vendors who are heading in the right direction. That said, we haven’t signed a contract with either of them. Perhaps one day.

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