Yes, You Need a Talent Management System

In an era of talent scarcity, employer separation from the crowd is essential to compete.

By Adina Sapp

With only 0.87 workers per available position,1 it’s likely that you must recruit internally to find the right candidate. This has clear implications for the talent management (TM) capabilities of your HR system.

Many large organizations have invested in a one-sizefits- all HR generalist system with the aim of satisfying all HR needs. But recent research suggests 39 percent of organizations don’t believe their HR systems provide enough data to make talent decisions.2

The problem is that many of these systems neglect the TM cycle, both in design and in practice. Mike Bollinger, global vice president of thought leadership and advisory services at Cornerstone OnDemand, points out that specialist TM systems aren’t necessarily better than generalist systems; they simply serve different purposes.

“We’re in an era where the talent specialist is crucial to business,” Bollinger says. “When you think about the fact that core HR systems are required to be deep in payroll, benefits, workforce management, statutory requirements and country localizations, you understand that inattention to the other areas may sneak in.”

Generalist systems have merit, of course. They can satisfy compliance requirements and provide a broad set of data. What they lack is depth of function and the ability to keep up with the fast-changing skills environment. In essence, they exist to collect broad sets of data which may or may not reflect the development needs employees crave.

“We’re in an environment of a global skills shortage,” Bollinger says. “The environment people operate in, and what they’re expected to know and do, is constantly changing. The World Economic Forum says that by 2020, 42 percent of core skills will be atrophied, and it will take 101 days of learning just to keep current.3 That’s nearly 10 percent of the total time each employee works. That’s why large organizations need a unified TM system — to focus on the diminishing longevity of core skills. Where TM applications in generalist systems tend to be underserved or don’t advance quickly enough, specialist systems are focused on creating the system of engagement needed in the flow of work.”

“Workplaces may strive for a modern system,” Bollinger continues, “but it takes several years to put the classic core HR system in, just to yield similar results. A TM system can go in much faster and provide a compelling cost to value4 (a more accurate term than time to value), sometimes as much at 50 percent less cost.” This allows organizations to retain focus on the TM imperative, while also avoiding the risk to operations a core replacement presents.

Getting Buy-In

Forty-seven percent of organizations have no plans to invest in TM systems over the next year, but talent leaders know it is necessary for employee engagement.5 As with all strategic investments, the important thing is to draw a straight line between what the business is trying to accomplish and how the purchase will get them there.

The best narrative focuses on loss reduction. Recent research found 85 percent of employees aren’t engaged or are actively disengaged at work. The economic consequence of disengagement is approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.6 Employees won’t stay forever (especially not in this competitive environment), but they will stay longer and be more productive if they’re 1 Department happier, even in transfer situations. Using TM to create the right employee environment translates directly into measurable financial impact for the business.

Employees also share their experiences with others, which is another reason to focus your narrative on loss reduction. Glassdoor notes that people are likely to share a good experience with three people, but will share a bad one with 10 or more.7

“Focus on the costs you can quantify: high-performance turnover and the impact to the organization from a sales and cost perspective,” Bollinger advises. “We believe at Cornerstone that learning sits at the center of all things development. The employee is really looking for their employer to lead that investment, helping them with a sense of purpose and professional growth.”

Many leaders are concerned with the question of what to do about the risk of investing in employees who might leave as soon as they get their certs. “But that’s the wrong question,” says Bollinger. “The agility of the organization is dependent on the individuals themselves. Ask instead the cost if you don’t provide engagement and learning opportunities.” If you focus too much on the false economy of cost of the system, you put yourself at risk of not executing against the business needs, Bollinger concludes. That is the investment you can’t afford NOT to make.

Learn more about investing in employee development, growth and engagement at

1 Department of Labor, U.S. Jobs Report August 2018
2 2018 Workforce State of the Industry Survey.
3 World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs Report 2018”
4 The Fosway Group, “Claiming the high ground” 2017
5 2018 Workforce State of the Industry Survey.
6 Gallup, “State of The Global Workforce, 2017”
7 Glassdoor, 2015 “The Cost of a Disengaged Employee”

Cornerstone was founded with a passion for empowering people through learning and a conviction that people should be your organization’s greatest competitive advantage. Cornerstone is a global human capital management leader, offering solutions to help companies manage and develop talent throughout the entire employee lifecycle. Featuring comprehensive recruiting, personalized learning, development-driven performance management, and holistic HR planning, Cornerstone is used by more than 3,400 global clients of all sizes, spanning over 38 million users across 192 countries and 43 languages. Learn more at