North American HR executives are increasing their commitment to talent management and the HR technology supporting it, according to Towers Watson, the global professional services company. Their 13th annual survey of HR service delivery trends and practices found that human resource departments are more confident than ever in the value and efficiency resulting from enhanced talent management systems.

42 per cent of the 456 organizations surveyed listed 'talent/performance systems' among their top three HR service delivery issues for 2010. In fact, this was the most frequently selected issue identified by respondents and ranked highest as top issue by the greatest margin ever seen in the history of the survey. 51 per cent of the organizatios involved classified themselves as multinational/global companies and almost two-thirds (64 per cent) had more than 5,000 employees.

The most critical HR service delivery issues for 2010 identified in the survey were:

Talent/performance management systems (42 per cent compared with 35 per cent in 2009)
Streamlining processes/systems (35 per cent - no change from 2009)
Increased involvement in strategic business-driven issues (27 per cent, up from 23 per cent in 2009)
Defining human capital metrics and dashboards (22 per cent compared with 17 per cent in 2009)
Recruiting/staffing services/systems (21 per cent, up from 12 per cent in 2009)
Tom Keebler, Global Practice Leader with Towers Watson's HR Service Delivery and Technology practice said:

"Talent management technologies have unquestionably become one of the best ways for companies and HR departments to drive better employee performance and enterprise success following the recession.

"In spite of the initial costs, organizations are increasingly deploying new or enhanced systems, recognizing that efficient and effective HR processes enable the flexibility and agility employers need in an uncertain but growth-oriented business environment."

It is worth noting that the issue of 'cost' was not included in the list of top HR service delivery issues. Last year it was listed as one of the top three. Moreover, HR practitioners said many technology budgets escaped being cut during the recession with only 36 per cent of respondents having lower technology budgets in 2009 with 54 per cent having increased budgets for 2010 and 29% maintaining last year's levels.

According to Tom Keebler:

"HR's reliance on technology to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings during the recession allowed it to maintain and even grow HR technology budgets in a challenging business environment. As companies recover and budgets expand once again, leaders appear ready to make a forward-looking commitment to talent management systems that will reap substantial long-term rewards for the HR department, line managers and the broader organization.

"In this environment, talent management technology has become a ‘must have' competitive element, allowing managers and HR professionals to identify and develop talent through a more rigorous focus on performance and human capital metrics.

"In our experience, companies are able to achieve greater satisfaction with the effectiveness and efficiency of their talent management systems when planned for holistically,"he added. "HR leaders who determine their integrated needs and clearly articulate their business strategy before making buying and implementation decisions are better equipped to differentiate among various options, make informed selections and align the HR function's needs with business objectives.” Engaging Employees Through Self-Service

Manager self-service (MSS) and employee self-service (ESS) features are now common in the workplace. 70 per cent of organizations believe that ESS and MSS lead to faster, more accurate transactions. Also, they may encourage greater engagement and employee satisfaction among employees.

Tom Keebler commented:

"Past Towers Watson research, including the 2010 Global Workforce Study, has shown employees' and managers' desire for on-the-job empowerment. By implementing self-service options for critical career and rewards categories, organizations are simultaneously creating an environment of ownership and self-reliance that employees can build upon."

ESS and MSS have increased the efficiency of the HR function with 68 per cent of HR generalist/specialists and HR service centers/administrators reporting that ESS programs resulted in less work. Only 15 per cent reported an increase in workload.