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Re/designing your Talent Tech Stack

Declining budgets, smaller recruiting teams, sharp and sudden peaks and troughs in hiring requirements, a switch to remote hiring and onboarding processes, and an increasingly competitive candidate market: the COVID-19 pandemic is testing TA teams like never before. Experts are calling it the greatest reset of workforce dynamics in recent history, and it’s something we have all felt, no matter our industry.


In the new world, executive teams are plotting an economic rebound, and are looking to TA like never before. 69% of employers are looking to expand or replace their HR technology, but only 15% actually have a comprehensive HR technology strategy that aligns with their organizational goals. HR and TA leaders have a golden opportunity to reset and rebound, by re/designing their Talent Tech stack to drive efficiency gains, improve operational agility, and uplift user experience.


An optimal Talent Tech stack for your business is your secret weapon: giving you the edge over competitors in hiring, onboarding and retaining top talent. With a relative explosion of Talent Tech vendors in recent years, (over 2,500 at last count) there has never been more choice, or more confusion. Despite what you might Google, there is no universal ‘best’ tech stack, and you’ll have to tailor a specific solution to meet your specific business needs.


In this blog we’re sharing the eight key factors to keep in mind when re/designing your Talent Tech stack. By following our pro tips and best practices, you can overcome common issues in tech selection, reduce risk and gain advantage with Talent Tech.


1. Optimise your Existing Tech Stack

Before embarking on a costly and time-consuming process to select and implement new tech, take the time to critically review the Talent Tech currently used by your TA team. Where are your gaps? What works? What doesn’t? Why? When asking yourself these questions, consider also that some of your underperforming tech might have been poorly implemented or adopted. Work with your vendor client success teams, or an independent professional to understand if your solution is optimised. Crowdsource feedback from other orgs with similar use cases.


Pro tips:

  • Consider bringing in fresh eyes to see how your current Talent Tech could be optimised.

  • Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free, impartial 1 hour consulting session.

 

2. Match Features to Problems and Strategy

Do you have Shiny Object Syndrome? Vendor demo scripts are often fine tuned to showcase shiny features and generate excitement. Avoid getting distracted by, or attracted to, the new shiny thing by being clear and honest about the problems that need to be solved, and your organization's strategic objectives. Each component within your Talent Tech stack should solve a problem or reduce pain.


Aligning features to problems and strategy will ensure that you don’t end up in the embarrassing situation where new tech doesn’t have the features to solve your problems or enable your strategy, and don’t overinvest in purchasing expensive functionality that looks great but serves no purpose.


Pro tips:

  • Read our post on "The Argument for Radical Candor In Your Next Procurement Process"

  • Workshop with recruiters, HR, Hiring Managers (and any other stakeholders) to identify the key challenges being faced. Use this intel to document clear problem statements.

  • Be honest about your TA maturity and capability. You may need to ‘level up’ and improve your fundamentals before starting the process of designing your Talent Tech stack.

  • Check functionality exists by requesting Vendors build out and demo specific use cases to cover off how problems will be solved. This is particularly useful for understanding how some of the ‘plug and play’ integrations will work.

 

3. Fix your Broken Processes

In our recent post “Why do Talent Tech implementations fail” we wrote about how “Process eats technology for breakfast.” What this essentially means is that a broken process can’t be fixed by simply throwing more technology at it. If you don’t have your process flow documented, stop reading and do it now. This is so important for designing your tech stack, because once you have a process, you’ll be able to understand:

  • Bottlenecks and inefficiency

  • Areas of excessive complexity

  • Poor experience

  • Manual tasks that would benefit from automation.

Set yourself up for long term success by resolving process issues prior to, or as part of your technology implementation. Use your process documentation to help you navigate and shortlist a myriad of technology options, and find those which enable or enhance your process. Then incorporate this information into problem statements, RFP questions, and demo use cases.


Common examples identified during process documentation include job vacancy and offer approvals, interview self-scheduling, and collation of interviewer feedback.


Pro tips:

  • Challenge the status quo. Ask “why do we do it this way?”, and “is there a better way?”

  • Involve different stakeholder groups in process mapping to discover what’s actually happening and to hear first hand about the pain points and frustrations from end users.

  • Keep your processes well documented. This will help you accelerate the implementation of your new technology.

 

4. Get a Strong Core

Now you have a process. Next you need to find your core. Traditionally, HR gets its own core system and a dedicated team to manage it, so why shouldn’t TA? Typically, the core system for Talent will be your CRM/ATS. It runs the process, it creates recruitment master data, and provides the experience layer for users (candidates, hiring managers and recruiters). You’ll want your eco-system of point solutions (automated sourcing, programmatic advertising, video interviewing, assessment, and reference/ background checking etc) to be integrated to your core system, so double check the catalogue of supported integrations, and then pick from that catalogue.


Pro tips:

  • Request to see demos of the integrated end-to-end process. Take the time to understand how integrations are triggered (auto or manual), what data is exchanged and what the user experience will be. “Fully integrated” doesn't always mean what you think it does.

  • If your core system vendor doesn’t offer an integration that you want, flag it during pre-sales and use your leverage to get a time-bound commitment to develop that integration.

 

5. Choose Your Vendor Wisely

Selecting tech vendors creates a one, two, or three year relationship with that vendor, so you want to make sure you choose one that is right for your business. Do you partner with established stalwarts or the up and coming? There are pros and cons to each, but either way there are some important questions you’ll want answered:

  • What’s the age of the platform and code base? Old age is an indicator of accumulated “technical debt” - which can cause issues whenever the platform is updated, introduced to a new ecosystem, or runs into an error.

  • What’s the ownership of the company? Is it privately held or publicly listed? Privately held companies without accountability to shareholders can pursue the product direction they choose without the external pressure or chasing short term revenue growth.

  • What’s the recent financial performance of the company? Are they doing well, or have they been on a steady decline?

  • What’s their customer growth and customer retention look like? Have they expanded into new markets, or do they specialize in a single market? Do other companies who use their products stick around or leave quickly?

  • What’s their share price? A low share price may be an indication of poor business performance, unhealthy fundamentals (cash burn) or low confidence in the current business direction. Companies in this category are prone to quick re-pivots, lack of focus and a tendency to pursue short term profit over longer term sustainable growth and solid product.

  • What’s the expertise of the founders and product team? How much industry knowledge do they have? Can they demonstrate understanding of common challenges and processes?.

  • What’s the current headcount in engineering teams vs the total company? A higher proportion of engineers indicates a company focused on innovation, and quickly improving their product. A big sales and marketing team may suggest product maturation (or stagnation), as they’re having to work harder to acquire new customers.

 

6. Avoid Waning Technology

There is a saying about technology being a bit like the phases of the moon. It’s either waxing, and is continually improving, or waning, and is deteriorating following a peak. You’ll want to make sure that the cutting edge tech you purchase today remains market leading in four years time.


To understand a vendor's true delivery of new features, you should understand their new feature “velocity”. This is a measure of the company’s last 12 months performance in delivering innovative new features. You can also eliminate risk in technology choices by requesting vendors share product roadmaps, both short and long term, to better assess this velocity. But keep in mind that Roadmaps are an aspirational set of desired new features and functionality, and not necessarily a promise.


The key things to understand here are:

  • Does the short term roadmap contain relevant features that are aligned to problems that need solving?

  • Can these features be incorporated into your solution design and implementation?

  • Does the long roadmap align the vendor’s strategic priority and view on the future of Talent Acquisition or Talent Management with your own?

 

7. Implement for Long-Term Success

Implementing modern Talent Tech is a bit like building something out of Lego: there are a thousand different ways to go about it. Without proper advice and good design you face the real risk of a suboptimal solution.


The team your vendor assigns to the project is important, they are the experts in their own technology, and you’ll rely on them to help you craft the right solution, configure it, and identify solutions to challenges which arise.


You should assess your potential vendors based on the maturity of their implementation process, tools and resources. If their experience and understanding of best practice is narrow, the advice provided will be equally narrow.


Clarify what post-launch support resources you’ll be assigned, and the frequency of contact. Is it on an ad-hoc basis, or does it happen on a quarterly business review basis? In software, customer renewal should be the number one metric, so your preferred vendors should show serious investment in your long term success.


But vendor resources are only one side of the equation. To design and implement your tech stack you’ll need a strong internal team of specialists. Depending on the tech and complexity, it's not uncommon to have: a project manager, business analyst, legal counsel, marketing and brand, IT, change management, training, and TA subject matter experts supporting the project.


Pro tips:

  • Factor into your business case specialist resources. They’re not optional, they’re essential.

  • Secure the right resource capabilities for the entire duration of the project. If you don’t have the resources internally, augment your team by using contractors. Contact us to find out how we can assist.

  • Leverage the skills and experience of your vendors. Find out which resources they’re allocating to your project and ask for bios to best understand experience and cultural fit. If you’re not happy with your allocated resource don’t be afraid to ask for other options.

 

8. Consider the Cost and ROI

Finally, something that is very important, especially from an accounting standpoint, is to ask yourself about the cost and ROI of your solution. What is the estimated ROI of this tool, and within what timeframe will I achieve these results? How much will this cost the company, both short term and long term?


Opex, which stands for operational expenses, is the day-to-day cost of running your new tool. Some things to consider here are:


  • What are the software subscription and licensing fees?

  • Are there additional project expenses such as travel allowances?

  • Do we need to create any support materials, such as merchandise or printing?

Additionally, Capex, or capital expenditure, are your major long-term costs. It includes things like:


  • Vendor implementation fees

  • External labour costs (contractors)

  • Internal labour costs (marketing, legal, IT etc.)

You can calculate a rough ROI with the following equation:

ROI (3 years) =SUM(Benefits 3 years)-SUM(Opex 3 years)/SUM(Capex Year 1)

In the case of upgrading your talent tech, “benefits” could mean things like:

  • Reduced time to hire

  • Reduced job advertising cost

  • Reduced agency fees

  • Reduced fees for other talent software

  • Cost avoidance by means of improved efficiency

  • Improved reputation and compliance

While some of these benefits are not quite as quantifiable as the others, by running the rough numbers you can help narrow down your selection of vendors to only include those that are within your budget, and will realistically bring in a solid ROI within three years.


Conclusion

Re/designing your Talent Tech stack may seem like a daunting and expensive task, but if you keep these factors in mind, you’ll get through it, and will be reaping the benefits of an optimised tech stack in no time. Alternatively, Talent Tech Solutions has over a decade of local and international experience in this sort of thing, so if the thought of having to do all of this yourself is a nightmare, then we are here to help. Click here to get in touch.


About Talent Tech Solutions

Talent Tech Solutions advise and provide solutions to ensure our clients win with Talent Tech. We understand that our clients’ reputations are built on the successful delivery of Tech projects. We’re here to help our clients achieve project objectives and realise ROI without the pain. We do this by guiding clients at each and any stage of the project: selection, implementation and ongoing optimisation.


With over a decade of local and international experience we add capability and capacity to our clients existing team and leverage project management, consulting and implementation best practices.


We're technology agnostic and specialise in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Candidate Relationship Management (CRM), psychometric testing, video interviewing, reference & background checking technology and system integrations.


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