Helping HR build a case for talent management

Christian Foerg builds a case for investing in talent management through five easy steps. 

Talent management, encompassing employee retention, is a top priority for most businesses. Yet the C-level continues to view HR as a cost centre. This is not helpful at a time when effective talent management is key to creating the kind of dramatic transformation businesses need if they are to compete on the global stage.

According to the Bersin Deloitte annual human capital report, ‘Talent trends: HR Technology Disruptions for 2018’, “Companies are increasingly operating as networks of teams—which puts team management at the center of organizational design”.

This flatter, less hierarchical organisational structure is typified by flexibility, as teams are created as needed from a global talent pool to respond to and lead the way in global market changes.

To support this wholesale cultural transformation, Bersin Deloitte predicts that organisations will seek “technology designed around teams, individuals, and networks – tools that implement agile talent practices and also help people be more productive.”

There is no doubt that HR professionals are seeking to source technologies and tools that will drive team collaboration, agility and productivity.

As a result of the demand for transformational HR technology, the latest Sierra-Cedar HR systems survey reveals that around half of large and medium sized business are increasing their spend on HR technology.

There is no doubt that HR professionals are seeking to source technologies and tools that will drive team collaboration, agility and productivity. These range from mobile-enabled cloud-based collaboration platforms through to videoconferencing and productivity apps, all integrated within a talent management system that in an ideal world encompasses learning and development and performance management.

Here are five tips to address the challenges of building a persuasive business case for talent management investment:

  1. Quantify the issue. Hard statistics help and money talks. So, for example, if you are looking to create a business case for an enhanced performance management system, gather some hard evidence about how much the current outdated system is costing the business.

A straightforward cost comparison is a useful starting point. Multiply the number of manager hours being spent on performance reviews by the average manager pay rate, to come up with the current cost of carrying out performance reviews. If the time managers spend on this could be halved, then there is a clear cost saving.

Alternatively, you may want managers to spend more time on more effective performance reviews and the value of this may be measured by increased employee retention statistics or enhance customer service metrics.

  1. Address current, specific business issues. The business case for investment in talent management solutions should not stop at providing value for money in performance management or training, for example. Outcomes should be clearly mapped against current business pain points.

If the organisation is targeting moving into new territories, be prepared to show how the talent management solution will help with this, by providing a talent pool of employees with the skills ready to move into that location. It is worth tailoring your pitch differently to appeal to individual members of the board.

The CEO will want to hear that you can get sales staff up to speed quickly, ready to take on a new territory or market sector, while the CTO will be interested in hearing that the proposed new learning platform will swallow up less IT support time.

  1. Get the finance guys on side. Map out the shared competencies HR has with finance and find the common ground both roles serve in the organisation despite conventional thinking about the ‘people side’ versus ‘numbers side’ of the business.

Work with finance to understand the full extent to which your talent initiatives will impact the business. 

  1. Acknowledge stumbling blocks. Anticipating objections and preparing to address them is the first rule of successful selling – and that applies to selling your business case to the C-Suite. It is a good idea to be realistic about problems you are likely to encounter and consider how best to address these at the outset.

At the same time, indicate clearly the likely repercussions of not taking action and of failing to invest in talent management. These issues might range from skill shortages to compliance failures.

  1. Get to the point. Condense your talent management investment proposal into two or three sentences. Senior executives will expect your elevator pitch to be backed with detail and research, but their time is limited and getting them onside quickly is important.

A compelling proposition

The numbers are compelling; companies excelling in talent management can increase earnings by nearly 15%, according to research by the Hackett Group. However, HR will be in a better position to deliver a strong business case for investment in talent management if it is already operating as a strategic partner of the C level.

Ahead of going to the board with a request for funding, it is a good idea to build a relationship based on providing regular actionable insights to senior management. HR professionals who operate beyond the confines of the HR silo, collaborating with other departments from finance to marketing, will be best placed to cultivate perceptions of the HR function as a strategic partner.

That way, when it comes to presenting the business case for talent management, HR will be pushing at an open door.

Saba has developed a useful guide for HR leaders that compares competencies adapted from the SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) and The International Federation of Accountants.


About the author

Christian Foerg is General Manager EMEA at Saba Software. Saba’s people-centric talent management solutions are used by organisations worldwide to hire, develop, engage, and inspire their people. With machine learning at its core, Saba Cloud offers proactive, personalised recommendations on candidates, connections and content to help people and businesses succeed. 


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