InnerMobility

How To Choose The Best Talent Development Tool

A Buyer's Guide

By Miriam Wallack

September 1, 2019

The market is full of talent development tools – with most revolving around recruiting new employees, training employees, performance measurements, and skill development. The best talent development tools harness the growth and development of your employees to meet your organization’s strategic objectives and operational goals. 

Through boosting engagement and productivity, talent development tools harmoniously attract new employees, grow the skills of current employees, retain top talent, and motivate employees all while advancing your company’s capabilities. With so many talent development tools on the market, choosing the tool that actually suits your organization and your employees is a challenge. You want to be sure that your organization selects a tool that your employees will actually use and will meet your organizational goals in the long run. This guide will provide strategic steps in helping you select a talent development tool that is the best fit for your employees and for the future of your organization.

1. Prioritize the user experience

Since your employees will be using the talent development tool regularly, you must make sure they will actually be able to use the tool and enjoy using it. The success of the tool that you implement relies on your employees’ ability to use and engage with it as the fundamental goal of a talent development tool is to promote engagement and development at your company. 

The user experience should be a top priority for companies when considering different tools. This is especially important for enterprise organizations that have offices across the globe with employees of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. A talent development tool needs to be easy to use and intuitive to employees who are not native English speakers. Likewise, the tool should be comfortable for employees who may be less experienced in technology and online platforms. 

There are a number of functionalities you should look for in a tool to ensure its ease of use. For instance, you should pick a talent development tool that takes very little time for employees to set up. The best talent development tool will extract employees’ LinkedIn profiles or resumes to create their profile at the click of a button. The tool you select should go a step further to instantly analyze employees’ skills and experiences to connect them with opportunities that meet the next step in their careers and address their goals. 

In the same vein, the tool should provide immediate value to the user. Employees should instantly see relevant talent development opportunities that are personally selected to them based on their career histories and their development goals as soon as they’re on the tool. This way, employees don’t feel like they are wasting their time setting up and searching for what to do, rather they can access a one-stop-shop to connect with all of the opportunities they’re looking for whether the tool connects them with development opportunities or online courses for skill development. Through the tool, employees should easily be able to apply to opportunities and join them. The goal is to connect employees with development opportunities as smoothly as possible so providing immediate value without a hassle is key. 

When exploring talent development platforms, your company should imagine using the tool from your employees’ point of view. Some questions you should consider are: 

  • Is it intuitive? 
  • Could someone easily misunderstand the goals and how to achieve them?
  • How many clicks does it take to do a task? Are the paths to accomplish items clear?
  • Are the calls-to-action clear?
  • Is the user interface enjoyable?
  • What could be the possible objections an employee would have for using the tool? Does the provider address these concerns?

Your company should also enquire feedback from different groups of employees early on to understand their experience as diverse users. As part of the initial onboarding phase, the vendor should offer a pilot in which early adopters that include employees from different business units and levels of experience use the product and provide insights about their overall experience on the tool.  Moreover, you should prioritize vendors that will actively implement user feedback into the product in both design and function.

2. Evaluate employees’ specific needs

All organizations are unique in terms of their processes, structures, and goals. Before choosing a talent development tool, it’s imperative for your company to identify the talent development needs of your employees. The first step is for your company to research the retention rates of your employees and analyze exit interviews to understand why employees are leaving the company and why others are staying at the company. Likewise, your company should evaluate the development goals and the engagement of your employees. 

  • What are employees’ long-term and short-term career goals? 
  • Do they feel engaged in their work? 
  • What are employees interested in learning? 
  • What experiences do they wish they could have? 
  • What specific development opportunities are they looking for? 

This will help you pinpoint exactly what your employees are craving and which areas your company needs to focus on when selecting a talent development tool.

Your company should outline the talent development goals for your employees and use them as a guideline when considering the specific features and functionality you need in a talent development platform. This will ensure that you choose a tool that offers the corresponding development opportunities that your employees desire, whether it’s part-time projects, full-time jobs, mentorships, job swaps, or shadowing opportunities. Likewise, it’s important for your company to consider the demographics of your employees. Large companies need a tool that will be applicable and relevant for employees in all functions and areas of business as well as geographies. 

When evaluating talent development tools, your company must look beyond the immediate gaps the tool addresses and onto understanding if the tool is sustainable for the future. As your company changes and employees develop, a talent development tool should transform with the dynamic needs of your company and employees. Likewise, you should focus on the scalability of the tool. A talent development tool should grow with your organization and not be a roadblock for future growth. 

Central to selecting a talent development tool that meets the unique needs of your employees are the vendors of the tool itself. Your company should proceed with vendors that are in line with your objectives. Vendors should prioritize your specific goals in the product development and rollout strategy of the platform and be open to feedback in these processes. The values of the vendor are a key component of the tool and show that they are invested in promoting the goals of your organization in the long term. 

From the get-go, companies that outline the talent development goals for their employees establish the purpose and need of the tool and the underlying urgency for it. This is important for your senior management to understand the “why” of a new tool and relay the message to employees, establishing the beginnings of a successful adoption of the new tool and initiative. 

3. Study the tool and the vendor

When making any purchase, your company should do as much research as you can to fully understand the product and make an informed decision. This is especially true for a talent development tool, which not only includes a digital product but also requires an overhaul of the current employee development systems that are in place. After all, a good talent development tool provides the framework for the growth of employees, the actually growth needs to come from the employees themselves. If you’re going to invest your resources in a talent development tool, then you better be sure that it has everything your employees need. 

The first step is gaining a deep understanding of the tool and digging a little deeper beyond its face value. The best way to truly understand a product is to see it in action! You should request a demo of the tool and be prepared to ask thoughtful questions throughout the demo. Ideally, all of the main decision makers should be present at the demo, so that everyone has equal access to the information. This is the first time your company has real insight into the nitty-gritty of the platform, so you should be ready to deeply analyze it and take advantage of the time you have with the vendors.

Outside a demo, you must evaluate exactly what the tool means for your organization. You should look beyond the flashiness of the tool and focus on how the tool will actually function for your employees. A tool may seem fantastic in a demo, but it may not be practical for your organization. This is why you should formulate an action plan for the tool to assess its use and success. How will your company implement the tool? Which managers will be in charge of promoting the tool? How will your employees use the tool during the typical work day? 

Moreover, your company should investigate if the tool will help meet your organization’s talent development goals. In this case, it may be helpful for your company to implement a pilot of the tool. You should invest in vendors that offer a pilot for early adopters in which employees from all backgrounds in your company can use and evaluate the product. A pilot is a critical step in understanding if a particular talent development tool is the right fit for your employees. 

There’s no better way to understand the effectiveness of a product than through organizations who actually use the product themselves. Your company should prioritize seeking out other companies who use the tool to gain diverse insights and perspectives about the product. Often times, companies who have had success in changing the talent development landscape for their employees are excited to share! So, if a company loves their talent development tool, it will most likely be announced in press releases, publications, and on executive media posts, such as on LinkedIn. These published works can provide great insights into the successes and challenges of the product in other companies. 

 

However, be sure to keep in mind that at large enterprises it often takes a long time to get news to the external press. Fortunately, company representatives are usually happy to discuss their experience with their platform and vendor directly, even before the program has gone public. Vendors should gladly to connect you with such references for their product at client companies. 

Beyond company executives, you should also speak directly with talent development professionals of companies that already use the product. This will give you a unique opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the product’s usage from a professional who solely focuses on the implementation of the tool. Talent development professionals can provide concrete data into the effects that the tool has on their employees’ engagement, retention, and development. They can share case studies and speak to the real impact the tool has had on talent development for their employees.

Lastly, your company should learn who’s behind the talent development tool. In many ways, the vendor of the platform is just as important as the platform itself. There may be a great product, but the vendor may not be invested in the success of the product at your specific company. Talent development tools are a living purchase, meaning that you will be relying on the vendor for as long as you use the product. Even once you buy a platform, you will still be working closely with the vendor to implement changes, receive platform updates, and make improvements in the platform. 

In this case, the vendor you choose should be reliable and dependable. Your company should select a vendor that complements your organization’s values. The best vendor is not just a distributor of their product, but a partner in the application of the talent development tool in your company. They should share the same expectations and understandings for the implementation and progression of the tool in your company. Moreover, you should seek out vendors that are continuing to innovate the product and are excited to develop the product to meet your company’s changing needs.

4. Pay attention to the help and support the vendor offers

The success of a talent development tool at your company relies on the help and support of the vendor. This starts with the smooth adoption of the talent development tool in your company. The vendor should prioritize education as an ongoing initiative to increase the usage and efficiency of the product. The goal should be for every employee in the company to be able to understand and use the tool. The vendor should provide guidance to your company on training your employees on how to use the tool. Product usage education should be personalized, hands on experiences for employees and should be easily accessible to all employees. This is especially relevant for large enterprise companies that have employees all around the world. The vendor should support your company in implementing training in all formats, such as in house seminars, webinars, and online courses to meet the varying needs of your company’s employees. The know-how and advice of the vendor in passing along best practices to your company’s core team is paramount. 

Help and information should be at the employee’s fingertips on the behalf of the vendor. There should be a fruitful knowledge base available to employees with easy to understand FAQs, user guides, and tutorials. Companies should choose a vendor that offers customer support teams. This should go beyond your typical technical support services to provide your company with support and guidance for both employees and management. This B2B and B2C level support will ensure that all of your company’s employees receive the specific support and guidance they need. The best talent development tool will be intuitive and easy for employees to use, however support should still be available to employees to easily ask questions and receive advice. Employees should be able to reach out to support instantly through the talent development platform and receive help in real time. 

Since the best talent development tool is a framework for the growth of employees, vendors should also provide guidance in communicating the change vision and establish the grounds for the new way of working that the tool facilitates. This is vital to the overall success of the tool at your company. A talent development tool is more than just a platform for your company as it is a significant organizational change in the talent development, which alters the vision of change and the future of work for individuals across the enterprise. The effectiveness of the talent development tool rides on your company’s ability to change the ideas around how employees develop. If managers and employees understand the overall purpose of the talent development tool, then they are more invested in its adoption. A vendor should provide resources to promote the change vision. This should include internal marketing guidance, communication plans, and advising influential leaders in the company. 

5. Be sure the solution integrates with your other talent development applications

Integrations are a critical component to any talent development tool. They not only enhance the capabilities of a tool, but boosts employee’s adoption of the tool. As a company, it’s likely that you already have HR systems in place for your employees, whether it’s TalentLink or Degreed. In order for the talent development tool to truly save time and effort for your employees and HR professionals, it must easily integrate with other applications they’re already familiar with. The best talent development tool for your employees will integrate seamlessly with your existing HR tools and learning systems.

In addition to this, the talent development tool you choose should go a step further to actually incorporate the other existing applications into the function of the tool. A common issue that companies face when introducing a new tool to their employees is criticism that there are already too many applications that they’re required to use. Many employees feel that the company is just promoting another application that they must now add to their to-do list. This backlash can easily be avoided if you choose a talent development tool that incorporates your other HR systems into the function of the tool so that employees can easily access other applications from the tool itself. 

The best talent development tool facilitates the integration of all of your company’s current development applications. Some key applications you want to make sure can be integrated are TalentLink, Workday, Degreed, and Taleo. These applications take your talent development tool beyond just a platform to a one-stop employee development hub. For instance, incorporating a learning application such as Degreed allows for employees to actually develop the skills that they would like to gain in order to participate in opportunities they’re interested in on the talent development platform. Likewise, integrating an application like Taleo allows for external positions to be quickly added to the talent development tool in order to create more visibility into the opportunities available within the company and to grant employees easy access to apply to the positions.

A comprehensive talent development tool is key to boosting engagement and productivity in your company. There may be many talent development tools on the market today, but when you take the time to closely evaluate each tool, you’ll be sure to choose the one that best fits your employees and the future of your company. This guide should certainly get you off on the right foot and on the way to harnessing the growth and development of your employees to meet your organization’s strategic objectives and operational goals.

InnerMobility by Gloat is an AI-powered internal talent marketplace connecting employees with personalized career development opportunities including part-time projects, full job change opportunities, job swaps, and mentorships across the organization. 

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