New HR Systems & Tools! Nice, But Don’t Get Distracted By Shiny Objects…

Sometimes, I feel like an un-fancy HR gal. It sounds weird, maybe… but my HR experiences have always been kind of “bootstrap,” to use the term my pal, Kris Dunn, likes. Whether it’s the recruiting budgets, HRIS or applicant tracking systems I’ve used… we’ve figured out how to execute and be an effective HR team and provide outstanding HR service, even if we’re having to scrap together systems and processes. Largely, this has been because I’ve always been surrounded by HR pros and had HR leaders who were about getting things done. Bells and whistles and the biggest, baddest latest system or HR trend… those have always taken a back seat to simply doing good work, giving sound advice and just being a good HR partner.

But the more I become networked and entrenched in the HR and recruiting community… the more I startSilver%20bullet9 thinking that perhaps I’m not as “with it” as some HR pros out there. First, there’s this big, deep vendor and HR-related service provider community out there with all sorts of new fangled shiny objects to show off, which are all promised to solve my organization’s people-related challenges, whether it’s recruitment, performance management, onboarding, etc.  Add in the “thought leaders” and academics with new fangled concepts and ideas and theories about people in the workplace and what will attract, motivate and retain them. And of course, they all have their jargon to describe a theory or concept or idea or practice. And honestly? Sometimes I don’t know what any of it really means. For example:


  • Talent acquisition versus recruiting. I’m not sure what the difference is, if anything.
  • Talent management… I don’t really know what that term means… and I’m not sure when we started using the term “talent” so frequently!
  • Onboarding versus orientation… is there truly a difference?
  • Total rewards and total compensation… am I referring to the same thing here when I use either term? And are incentives different from rewards, which are different from recognition? Am I messing up all the terms here?
  • Applicant versus candidate… some days I forget the difference and use them interchangeably. Can someone from the OFCCP please let me know?

Seemingly everyone has something to teach and show me, and I am initially inclined to soak it all in. I like learning, I love technology… but I can’t help but to stop and question sometimes… are you just packaging something I already do as a new fangled theory or idea, but just in a different way? Or are you over-analyzing a people related challenge and making it more complex than it really is? And is what you’re trying to sell me on really all that necessary to be a great HR pro, or to provide great HR service? I mean, to have a smooth running HR function, do you need to be using all those fancy, glittering objects?

In some places, I’ve had an HRIS. I’ve worked off of spreadsheets, used DOS-based systems and some slicker web-based HRIS. I’ve worked with paper performance evaluation forms and online performance management systems. I’ve worked with a very scrappy ATS, no ATS, a robust ATS… but regardless of what tools my organization had, how we labeled a function, or service, or theory, or process, we executed, and our work at the end of the day was fundamentally about people.  We found ways to still get the job done in such a way where we have proven our value to the organization and have been seen as true business partners.

And that in and of itself just serves to remind me that there will always be shiny new toys that come out, especially when you consider and fold in social media into the mix. Someone is always going to be coming out with a new solution or theory to improve how we do things – and I don’t mean to minimize any of that… because I love new services, products and ideas and seeing how they might work in my own sphere… but not partaking in them? Or not knowing about the latest new fangled tool or term? It doesn’t make you any less of a HR pro, nor does it make your HR team any less of a rockstar function.

And for every new fangled tool or theory that does come out? It’s easy to get distracted by shiny new objects, but let’s keep our eyes on the prize. What’s your goal? What are you trying to achieve? What’s the strategy you’re going to employ?  Answer those questions and then figure out the tools and tactics that will support it.  Maybe you’ll need the latest and greatest thing being offered, maybe you won’t.

FOT Background Check

Jessica Lee
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don't be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she's still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life... she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat. Talk to Jessica via EmailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook... See Jessica's riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here...


  1. Darcy says:

    I can’t answer all of your questions, but there are few that fall in my area of expertise (Compensation), so here goes:
    Total compensation is the total money you earn in your job and includes base pay, variable pay, and frequently includes earnings from equity. Total rewards is everything of value you get from your employment relationship; things like benefits and the open space across the street where I go to walk at lunch time.
    The technical definition of incentive is pay that is earned if certain criteria are met. Most people use incentive and bonus interchangeably but they aren’t the same thing. An example of an incentive is pay that is received if you meet profit targets.
    Rewards are broader than just incentives. Getting a plaque for finishing a big project is a reward, but not an incentive. Recognition and rewards aren’t the same thing but can overlap. The plague example is a reward and is recognition. However, being told “thank you” is considered recognition but not a reward.
    Does it all matter? I think so because we have to have a common language to discuss our programs and what we intend to accomplish with them.

  2. Jess Booth says:

    Just on Talent Management and what it means, I think its important to acknowledge that it is a difficult concept to define because the processes and what it involves can vary from organization to organization.
    For instance, research conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity argues that more than 75 per cent of the companies they surveyed don’t have an agreed-upon definition of talent management (Galagan. 2008). However they say that ‘talent management concerns competencies- what employees should know and be able to do- and performance processes- how to leverage those competencies by putting them in the right parts of the organization, and then measuring their impact on real goals’ (Galagan. 2008).
    Generally, I think talent management can include strategies around recruitment, leadership development, culture, succession planning, performance management, brand or the employee value proposition, learning, career development, remuneration, and employee engagement. It is a term that has become really popular of recent times, but I think that’s because we’ve been through that buzz phrase “war on talent”, hence everything in HR becomes focussed around the talent in an organisation.
    Linda Sharkey who is the Vice President of people development at HP summarizes talent management as ‘about having people at the top of their game and who are able to drive the performance of the company’.

  3. jessica lee says:

    @darcy, @jess… thanks for swinging by and providing some definitions. appreciate you doing that. of course, i say all of that someone jokingly. there indeed is a difference between incentives versus rewards i’m sure, and applicants versus candidates… i just don’t want us to get caught up in definitions and semantics. 🙂 they matter to us maybe – but to the people we serve and support, it doesn’t really matter at all.

  4. Jessica,
    Excellent blog! I work for an HR Software vendor, and I am constantly working on our message to make sure we reference the latest and greatest “name” for our industry. I can completely understand how people could get lost in the language.

  5. Kelly Giles says:

    Jessica – great blog post. I just started working for a company that provides HR software for both recruitment and outplacement services. I graduated from college a few weeks ago, so this is all very new to me, but as I’ve been learning over the past few weeks, it seems like there are some non-semantic practices that just don’t make sense in the HR industry.
    For instance, job boards and postings are absurdly expensive — hundreds to even thousands of dollars for a single post! How long can that model sustain itself with technology available that could drive down prices? (I know it’s available because the company I work has a reasonable flat-rate for employers wishing to search our database).
    And what about outplacement? Traditional services are so expensive that they can’t be offered to each displaced employee, in most cases. And when services and counselors can be provided, counselors often spend time doing simple things, like explaining how to format a resume. Technology is coming along that would allow companies to provide outplacement assistance for each employee at a reasonable cost. Each employee may not be able to have a personal counselor, but they could at least have access to web-based resume builders, interview prep, etc., which is better than letting them go with nothing.
    I’d love to hear if and how you think those type of practices will change in the future.
    Kelly Giles
    Social Media Strategist

  6. Frannyo says:

    So there with you. I only work for startups and/or entrepreneurs, so I’m always building HR systems and processes from scratch. Though I have a Masters in HR/OD and could argue for hours about how many Candidate angels can dance on the head of a Job Req pin, I need the pin to hold together the excel-based application system itself. Sometimes I wish I had more glam, theoretical work, but in the end I’m happy that every day I can leave knowing I did cool stuff to directly impact the company’s direction, profitability, and sustainability.
    I’ll be listening at the social recruiting summit with one ear cocked for nonsense and useless jargon. I’m hoping there really are some cool tools that I can realistically implement, and it’s not just silly words. Maybe we should make a bingo board!

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