Taking a personal approach to talent management
- Two-way communication is essential throughout the hiring process
- Advanced technology, and the improved communication it provides, could be the best possible retention tool
- Higher education has to retain people who nurture students
Long-time instructor and human resources (HR) program administrator Deborah Benton believes a successful HR system must look at the whole person—his or her career, compensation package, benefits, leave, education, family, and the various life stages and changes along life’s path. Because career is central and impactful, it is essential, says Benton, that good two-way communication take place throughout the hiring process and day-to-day work.
“We have to do a better job of communicating,” says Benton. “When I’ve been involved in implementing new talent management systems, I’ve always thought that it was important to communicate more frequently so applicants and existing employees can understand, ‘I’ve done this much. I have this much to go, and I should have an answer by this time.’ That sort of feedback is what people are looking for today. They want answers and they want them quickly—or at least they want to know when they’re going to get them.”
Benton believes that this communication should be highly personal when possible, something that technology has facilitated. “There has to be a response loop, with a contact name and phone number if people have additional questions,” says Benton. “There’s no way you can answer every question every individual would have, but if we collect those questions over time, we get an idea of what we need to provide up front via technology to save time on both ends.”
Taking a more personal approach to talent management and building tools such as a database of answers is much easier today, thanks to technology, which at the most basic level allows us to collect and compare vast amounts of data and automate routine processes. “I’ve been here 21 years. In the past, we were happy to get a pay stub in the mail, which we had to wait for,” says Benton. “We all filled out our timesheets by hand, and our Social Security numbers were prominently displayed: It’s like we were using a hammer and chisel on stone compared to what we can do using technology today.”
“With every iteration of the portals we use for HR, we’re able to provide faster yet more accurate information,” says Benton. “Typically, in the past, information we provided was easily outdated by the time it got where it was needed.” That isn’t the case now, and with appropriate access to controls and safeguards, HR information can be used not just to address immediate and specific issues an employee may have but also for administrators to see patterns and implement both subtle and broad changes.
It is perhaps most important, says Benton, for everyone to remember that higher education has to retain people who can nurture students. That means that “most of the people who work in higher education love to learn,” says Benton. “Teachers are lifetime learners and always trying to discover more about each other and about what would be most effective for students.”
Benton’s own institution, Tulsa Community College, has recently undergone some significant changes thanks to the arrival of a new president. Benton can attest to how high-quality HR technology can keep everyone focused on specifics and makes for more predictable, more equitable, and more considered change. Given the high costs associated with bringing new employees on board, advanced technology and the improved communication it provides could turn out to be the best possible retention tool. Benton believes strongly that easy and rapid access to information about their employment status or to answer questions, ongoing automatic updates from the system, and better dialog between employer and employee make for a much more productive and fulfilling work environment.
In addition, for Benton’s employer, technology has improved coordination and consistency among numerous geographical campus locations, which translates into better talent management and more precise recruiting. Currently, for example, the entire performance review process has been being overhauled to provide stronger feedback tied to continuing education, which is required of many employees.
“A training and development schematic has to be more than a good idea and just an item that gets a check mark,” says Benton. “It has to help employees feel fulfilled. It should be a pathway for them to grow their career and become more engaged with helping students learn. We are building a system that does just that.”
DEBORAH BENTON, Employee Relations Manager, HRIS, Learning & Professional Development, Tulsa Community College
Deborah Benton, MBA, SHRM-CP, PHR, served at the chapter and regional levels as well as two terms on the National Board of Directors for the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR). She represented CUPA-HR at the London 2012 Universities Human Resources conference. For the past 21 years at Tulsa Community College, Deborah’s HR expertise includes employee relations, HR information systems, and learning and professional development.