Buyer’s Guide on SelectHub – Compare The Top Talent Management Software

Click here to view original web page at
Last updated on October 4th, 2016

How to Compare and Buy Talent Management Software

By Jeremy Ames of Hive Tech HR

The war for finding and keeping talent is raging and most companies have realized that their greatest weapon might just be technology. Your competitor has already built their arsenal, and you’ve realized that yours is antiquated, insufficient, or, worse yet, non-existent. You’re missing out the best recruits, and some of your best soldiers that could have stopped the company’s bleeding are leaving. It’s time to turn the tide in your favor, but where to start?

Acknowledge the Overall Scope Issue of Talent Management

You begin your search, and you’re immediately stuck. What even is Talent Management software? You’re not alone in your confusion, which stems directly from the name itself. “Managing” your talent should technically be happening from the moment you begin attracting her, throughout the days when you’re shepherding her through your employee experience, and even beyond when she leaves and becomes a part of your talent pool. In other words, the whole lifecycle.

Reality, however, has brought us a slightly different definition of Talent Management, removing functions like recruiting, payroll, benefits, pure employee data management, and more. What we’re left with are 4 commonly accepted pillars of what you’re trying to do by “managing” your talent:

  1. Attracting
  2. Developing
  3. Motivating
  4. Retaining

Reconsidering what your needs are with those pillars in mind gets you closer to understanding scope…but not all of the way there.

Two Specific, and Important, Scope Issues

  • Our first pillar, “attracting” talent most often refers to a Talent Acquisition system, which could be separated out entirely in a system search…or it could potentially be a part of the same search you’re about to embark on now. To illustrate that point, simply look at two key data points right here in SelectHub:
  • Recruitment & Staffing (aka Talent Acquisition) is separated out from Talent Management as a separate discipline within HCM

Vendors like iCIMS and JobDiva, which focus on solutions for recruiting (Talent Acquisition) can be found in both the Talent Management and  Recruitment & Staffing disciplines of SelectHub

  1. The next scope issue we confront is Learning Management, which could easily fall into the “Developing” pillar, and yet we run into same confusion of vendors like Cornerstone who actually ranks #1 in both the Learning Management and Talent Management disciplines.

These are not necessarily problems, but they do highlight a nuance of buying Talent Management software, which is that it’s even more important than ever to decide what functions you are looking to cover.

So, why do organizations need and use Talent Management software?

In order to decide where you’ll land with scope, you should start by considering the main functions that could be covered. Note the 4 PILLARS referenced within.

  1. ATTRACTING via talent acquisition functionality and creating that talent pipeline
    • Keep the initial excitement of ATTRACTING them going with an integrated approach to onboarding
  2. DEVELOPING your talent by:
    • Delivering functionality that tracks determine, deliver and track learning needs.
    • Encouraging, measuring and managing employee performance
    • Fostering and promoting employee development including easy to follow career planning and pathing
    • Providing additional focus on leadership development
    • Adequately facilitating succession planning
  3. MOTIVATING your employees by:
    • Properly connecting your compensation management to performance
    • Connecting talent management tools to capabilities in rewards and recognition.
  4. RETAINING your employees as a result of all of the functionality delivered above, and adding on embedded analytics that highlight areas of HR focus
    • And in the event you can’t RETAIN them, talent management systems should provide smooth offboarding functionality as well as a path pack to the talent pipeline

Define Your Scope

You should now be prepared to make important decisions about your own scope. Start with functionality “groups” as defined in SelectHub. Which of the functions above would you define as the current gaps you’re looking to fill? List them out and group them.

Do yourself a favor in the meantime. Document those functions that fall just outside the Talent Management world. For example, what are you using for core HR transactions? The reason for doing this will be illustrated in a moment.

Vendor functionality – the added layer of complexity

If you thought this was easy so far, here’s where it gets complicated. Unfortunately, you’re not buying software in a bubble, and Talent Management is easily the most complicated area of HCM Software today.

Every vendor has arrived in present day with their own evolution…and now you’re subjected to buying from dozens of company evolutions. Here are a couple examples of vendors with prominent places on the SelectHub leaderboard:

  • Cornerstone started in 1999 with a focus on online learning. Over the years it added functionality in order to encompass an entire talent suite. Now, highlighting the challenge in HCM buying even further, they’ve just gone on to add functionality in core HR management
  • Workday, from its inception, was meant as an overall HCM suite with both payroll and finance capabilities. Talent Management comprised a portion of its functionality, but Workday continues to evolve with Recruiting having been added in 2014 and Learning added just this year (2016)
  • Acquisition also impacts product evolution and your choices as a buyer, as evidenced by the Skillsoft acquisition of Sum Total Systems. Combined, they check more of the scope boxes with a particularly robust functionality in training

To make the point further, Dr. Michael Moon of ExcelHRate Research & Advisory Services points out that “not too long ago the HR buyer had to make a decision between purchasing a best-of breed talent management suite or hobbling together a set of point solutions, crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. With cloud technology, rapid innovation and the growing availability of open APIs, point solutions are becoming more attractive to the HR Community. The big suites like Cornerstone, Success Factors and Saba build their products to meet the needs of the many, which is great.

But sometimes an organization needs something unique to their own culture, business or demographic make-up that these vendors may not be able to address. Point solutions that allow for the delivery of micro-bonuses (, facilitate continuous feedback between employees and visually depict their social networks (Pay Compliment), or that capture and analyze anonymous employee feedback (Hyphen App) – essentially supporting employee voice – are examples of the kinds of point solutions that are available in the Talent Management space.”

In short, systems range in “width” of functionality, and you’ll have important decisions to make later in this buying guide and you need sufficient background information.

HR 1.0 Vs. 2.0

In a meeting just yesterday with BetterWorks CEO Kris Duggan, he told me that he considers his company part of “HR 2.0.” I hadn’t heard that expression before, but immediately knew exactly what it meant.

Plenty of companies are still delivering solutions that solidly deliver HR 1.0 functionality. For example, the annual performance process is well covered by tons of vendors.

Then you have a wave of 2.0 vendors that are looking to address the what 3 years ago was the future workforce, and is quickly taking over and even redefining “offices.” Key concepts of 2.0 are mobility, employee-driven talent management, innovation and digitalization.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it causing Talent Management capabilities to become more narrowly focused but with more opportunity for integration.

Get specific

So, now you know the scope the areas of focus and you have a sense of the market. Time to get specific. That means getting to the requirement level in SelectHub. Here are some examples in the ATTRACT pillar.

The system should:

  • Both actively and proactively find the best talent by conveying a company culture candidates will want to join (a new element of People Marketing)
  • Match on job fit and other success criteria in order to lower future turnover costs
  • Create a simple, streamlined candidate experience that allows for the right amount of hand-holding
  • Incorporate newer technology like video interviewing
  • Encourage internal collaboration during the hiring process
  • Comfortably transition the individual from “candidate” to “team member”

Now Match Your Products

OK, now things get really interesting. Combining what you want with what’s possible, you have one very key decision to make. How wide or narrow should your Talent Management suite be?

In other words, if you have heavy duty requirements in the area of learning management which can’t be met with a suite that covers a wider swath of capabilities, the time may have come to separate out that into its own product search.

That said, integrated suites aren’t standing by and watching more narrowly focused products. As an example, “conversations” are becoming a key component vendors focused on Performance Management, but then even full suites like Ceridian Dayforce have incorporated the concept into their offering.

Then there’s the HR 2.0 topic, part of which means it’s time to do some soul searching.

  • How much are you looking to push the envelope and differentiate?
  • Are you a follower, leading edge or bleeding edge type company?

More than anything, what have you learned to this point about the market and your requirements that highlights areas where you’d be willing to truly innovate?

Now that you’ve done all of this, decide which products fit. Use some collaborative tools like Trello to draw things out, if it helps. The bottom line is that if you spend too much time in this part of the process, you’ll get overwhelmed with analysis paralysis. But if you don’t know enough about what’s available in the marketplace, you could still be missing out on key weapons for your arsenal.

Evaluate…with some additional focus

Now comes the fun part of seeing what these systems are doing. It’s such an exciting time in Talent Management software that if you haven’t gone through the process in a while you’ll be blown away with some of the capabilities. For example, talent acquisition vendors like SmartRecruiters and iCIMS are adding a ton of focus to employer brand and collaboration.

What’s unique about how you should be spending time with these vendors versus other areas of HCM is that you really want them to talk to you about how they’d see their product “fitting in” with your overall HCM ecosystem. Talk about your current state and vision for future state. If they don’t do onboarding, or maybe don’t do it well, for example, how would your keeping your current Silkroad Red Carpet tool work with their suite?

Conversely, if you talking with a more progressive vendor that harps on “integrations,” have them talk to you specifically about how they’d help you get those integrations up and running during implementation.

Revisit…and choose

Once you’ve gone through and rated your products using SelectHub’s scorecards, in the case of Talent Management, it’s not quite as simple as moving onto the contracting phase with the highest scoring vendor(s).

You need to think about how the best vendors fit into your Talent Management roadmap, and even beyond that how that particular roadmap fits with the overall HCM roadmap.

For example, if your selection ends up pointing at SAP/SuccessFactors (just to mix up our product references), does that now mean that you could be revisiting the core HR system you already have in place and possibly replacing it? Or, if you do end up heading the path of multiple HR 2.0 solutions, what does the integration strategy look like, and would you possibly need to layer on a Workforce Analytics solution on top of these systems in order to gain key actionable insights?

Once you’ve done all your due diligence, just as in all other selection projects it’s time to make your choice.

In conclusion

It’s true, Talent Management software does suffer from the most inconsistency in what is considered “in scope” by purchasers, sellers, and essentially everyone involved. However, while that makes your job as buyer tougher, it’s not insurmountable. Given the stakes involved with choosing the right Talent Management software, hopefully this guide has served as a good starting point for those of you tasked with making this important decision.

About The Author

Jeremy Ames is CEO of Hive Tech HR, which helps its clients with their Human Capital Management (HCM) strategies. This includes helping them find and/or implement their HCM software. He has worked as a director, consultant, systems implementer, and international businessman for several companies, including being the former CFO on the Board of Directors of IHRIM and member of the SHRM HR Technology and Management Expertise Panel. Outside of work, Jeremy is a shortstop, fictional writer, and father, among other roles and interests. He enjoys satisfying client needs, closing deals, writing, long walks on a Cape Cod beach at sunset with the waves lapping at the shore, and humor.