Steve Hunt
Vice-president customer research at software as a service provider SuccessFactors

Times are changing fast and technology with them. It's time for organisations to take a different approach to talent and HR management than they did in the past.

In fact sticking to the traditional ways of doing things can hold an organisation back, says Steven Hunt, vice-president customer research at software as a service provider SuccessFactors, an SAP company.

"Many traditional HR processes, such as performance reviews, started as paper and pencil exercises. These oftem clumsy annual processes now make little sense, given today's technological capabilities, yet many companies still do them that way," he says.

But just copying the way apparently advanced organisations do things is no guarantee of success in your own organisation. Hunt points to the case of Enron. "Enron was held up as the most admired organisation in terms of talent management for five years in a row before it quickly crashed and fell apart," says Hunt.

Even if a company is a roaring success for years it does not mean that its talent management methods will work for your organisation, he points out. "Successful companies should be used as a source of inspiration, but not imitation," he says.

Instead, he says, there is no one 'right' way of running the HR function - it will differ according to the organisation's character, culture, needs and ambitions.

The key to finding HR processes that will work for any organisation is to get back to the fundaments. For instance, when it comes to employee performance, organisations need to ask themselves three questions: how they define performance within their own organisation, how they can measure performance, and why they want to do that.

The results will vary according to your organisation. "There is no 'one best way' to do anything," says Hunt, author of Commonsense Talent Management: Using strategic human resources to improve company performance.

Technology can help organisations make changes and increasingly allows a more flexible, customised approach. "Technology has taken the shackles off organisations. They can now do things n ways that are right for them," he says.

For instance it can help organisations tackle skills shortages by enabling much sought-after skilled people to work from locations they choose, and allowing flexible sharing of information and communication via social media, which younger workers take for granted.

"Users of HR technology can quickly set goals for the entre organisation and keep everyone updated regardless of geography and corporate location. It also allows for profound changes in the way HR processes can be carried out."

Cloud-based HR systems allow more flexibility as they are not tied to any one system so HR departments are freer to design the processes and choose and the data that they use.

"It tends to be welcomed by HR strategists but HR administration specialists sometimes object to the new ways of doing things, claiming that national laws on data protection or the inclusion of workers councils in data sharing make cloud-based HR systems impossible to implement," says Hunt.

"But there are companies who are using cloud-based systems successfully and legally already. It just requires a change of thinking."