Science, Data, and Social at Heart of New IBM Smarter Workforce/Kenexa Talent Suite

During the IBM Connect 2014 conference, which took place recently in Orlando, Florida, IBM launched its Smarter Workforce program, combining the HCM abilities of IBM and Kenexa, IBM’s 2012 win. At the Connect conference, which this year ran alongside the annual Kenexa conference, in addition to the typical talk about IBM’s HCM offering, the Smarter Workforce/Kenexa team was also there to unveil the to-be-expected Smarter Workforce path and what is inspiring it.

From a product perspective, IBM is currently focusing on what it identifies as core capabilities—functionality that addresses the deficit in social and analytics technology utilization, such as social collaboration, workforce science, and digital experience, as well as cognitive computing, consulting services, and global process services.

The new IBM Kenexa Talent Suite, a SaaS-based product incorporating new and previously developed applications from IBM and Kenexa, puts Kenexa’s core talent management functionality—recruitment, performance management, onboarding, learning management, succession planning, and compensation management—alongside survey capabilities, IBM Connections Smart Cloud, and the IBM portal technology. IBM design thinking methodology—the core elements of which place user experience as a principal driver—unifies the Kenexa applications in an integrated talent suite.

IBM Connections home page (courtesy of IBM)

“The CHRO Point of View” study, focusing on the viewpoint of the chief human resources officer (CHRO), to be released in February 2014, was previewed at the conference and presented as a research endeavor that contributes to the Smarter Workforce future strategy. Around 342 CHROs across the world were interviewed about talent management and social collaboration capabilities, as well as their use of external and internal partners.

The survey results show that the potential of workforce analytics and social capabilities are not fully exploited by organizations as part of their overall approach to talent and workforce management:

"Over half of organizations are using workforce analytics, with far fewer applying predictive analytics to optimize decision making and outcomes in areas such as sourcing and recruiting (7 percent), employee engagement and commitment (9 percent) and talent development (10 percent), retention (13 percent) […] Currently, 66 percent are regularly using social for their recruiting efforts, but only 31 percent are using it for knowledge sharing and 41 percent for learning."

These results are encouraging to IBM in its focus on three major pillars that structure the Smarter Workforce business, that is, science, data, and business processes, and indicate that these goals are worth maintaining and further enforcing, in order to aid users in using workforce analytics and social capabilities to their fullest. These three factors facilitate talent attraction, the unveiling of the voice of the organization, employee collaboration, brand development, and utilization of big data for decision making, among other HCM requirements.

IBM’s talent offering incorporates science in three main ways:
  • the science of selecting the right people based on profiles of individuals that are likely to drive success in an organization—as part of assessment packages
  • scientific-based portfolio of skill profiles—embedded into the suite so that talent management and business processes are directly connected to the skills that an organization needs
  • the science behind motivation and engagement—mangers can get immediate feedback from surveys that evaluate their ability to engage and motivate employees
Watson Foundation and Analytics gives the underlying data structure models and capabilities for predictions based on an organization’s structured and unstructured data, HRIS data, delivered a secure framework.

In terms of business processes, change management services are available for any Smarter Workforce intervention, such as aligning leadership, succession planning, or the use of analytics with the changing culture within a company. Global process services complement the Smarter Workforce technology by offering assistance with talent acquisition, talent optimization, and talent analytics.

From a social perspective, IBM brings together social collaboration and talent management to offer:
  • social onboarding (add employees to communities, create social profiles, IM profiles, etc.),
  • social candidate referral management integrated to the recruitment tool, and
  • social feedback integrated into the performance management application, and social learning expanding across learning activities such as accessing and creating content, sharing collaboration, and seeking expertise.
The digital experience of the Kenexa Talent Suite offers a persona-based feel so that different individuals—hiring manger, HR manger, line manger, employee, candidate, etc.—have personalized interactions with the system, as well as a seamless transition between the career and the internal sites.

By positioning science, data, and business processes at the core of its overall offering, and putting a focus on social functionality and digital experience, IBM Smarter Workforce may be heading in the right direction. A lot of the complexities of dealing with these three aspects of enterprise software are very difficult to have addressed through self-service. That is why businesses usually resort to hiring consultants to help with these kinds of challenges. Self-service analytics, data management, and business process management are getting a lot of hype these days, but the self-service option is more often than not found to be too complex for the average customer. When the self-service bubble bursts, IBM will be there fully equipped with its service and consultancy division to guide customers through these difficult hurdles.
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