Which Talent Software Features Do You Really Need?

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It always drives me nuts when talent management software companies talk up certain features of their products that aren’t actually special.

Let me explain. It’s not that I don’t think a standard feature can be done especially well by a particular vendor. And certainly, some features may be delivered in a special or unique way by a particular company. It’s just that the language used by some software vendors can lead a customer who is hasn’t shopped for talent management software before to believe that really standard packages are worth big ticket prices.

It’s like a used car salesman talking up the fact that the windshield wipers keep rain off, and the gas tank comes with a cap.

But, how do you know what the basic features are? What’s more important, how can you tell what features you actually need? By using this list as a guide! I’m laying out the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, and the ones that are cool…but really just icing on the cake.

I’m not trying to sell you anything and there’s no “Gotcha!” Just a real and honest desire to keep you informed.

What is talent management software?

“Talent management software” is a pretty broad heading. If you take the time to scroll through our talent management tech blog, you’ll see just how diverse the topics are. That’s because everything from hiring to onboarding to performance reviews fall under the purview of “talent management,” and those topics only scratch the surface.

For the purposes of this particular list, I’m focusing on talent management software with a core purpose of helping you manage your current employees, from performance to benefits, and is truly a “bread-and-butter” tool that any company can use on a daily basis, because if you have employees, you need a way to manage them.

As you’ll see in the list, some talent management software also encompasses the hiring phase and even tracks an employee as they prepare to leave the company, so don’t be surprised if you hear those features mentioned. That said, these phases of the employee lifecycle often have their own, dedicated software tools that stand alone, and you might prefer one of those, if that’s a feature your business needs to zero in on in more depth.

The must-have features

These are the core features you should expect to see when you’re examining any talent management software. As I said before, some companies may do something particularly unique or innovative with these features, but they should be offered as standard, so don’t let a software vendor convince you that these features make their product unique.

1. Employee tracking

Also called “employee lifecycle management,” this is the most basic feature you’ll find in talent management software. The name of it may sound as though you’re keeping your employees like caterpillars in a jar, but in reality, this is truly the core capability of talent management software.

The employee lifecyle begins when an employee starts working at your company. When they’re new and still learning the ropes, they’re in the onboarding stage. As they grow and gain mastery of their position, they move into employee planning and development. When they’re ready to move on, whether they’ve been let go, they’re seeking greener pastures, or whatever other reason, the employee enters the termination or transitional phase.

Why it’s a must-have: Talent management software helps you track an employee to give you, and their manager, have an overview of their progress so you can help them reach their full potential at each stage.

2. Compensation management

How much are your employees making? Are different employees bringing home different amounts of money? How are you supposed to keep on top of who gets paid what and when? Compensation management helps you track these metrics and helps you ensure your employees are being compensated fairly and on time.

Why it’s a must-have: It can also assist you with compliancy and ensure accuracy at tax time, so it’s a great feature to have. Some types of compensation management even handle direct deposit and paycheck management.

3. Benefits management

Hand-in-hand with compensation management, but not exactly the same, benefits management tracks the perks and benefits an employee receives outside of their salary or wage. This can be anything from time off to a healthcare package, as long as it isn’t directly related to payroll.

Why it’s a must-have: In the same way that compensation often differs between employees, benefits packages are unique to each individual worker. Rather than relying on Excel sheets and file folders full of employee information, you can manage all of these benefits and track their use in a centralized place.

4. Succession planning

Just as you track the overall lifecycle of an employee, this feature helps you follow an employee’s career as it winds down, including offboarding, planning a lateral shift, and identifying a replacement to take over the newly emptied position. Some of the more advanced succession planning features also have a system to help you track a replacement hire’s onboarding process as they take over the role.

Why it’s a must-have: It makes the offboarding process much easier for bosses, HR, and employees.

The nice-to-have features

These are the features that, while not offered with every single talent management software platform, are nonetheless fairly common. and sometimes it’s truly helpful to have them included in a single program, along with the core features.

However, gaining these functions as an add-on to a talent management system isn’t always the best choice; if you need these features you may also want to consider a more comprehensive stand-alone software tool that performs that function.

1. Performance appraisal

Performance appraisal allows you to track how well an employee is doing at their job. Depending on the features, this might include a tool to help you schedule and plan annual or quarterly reviews, or it might be an ongoing performance tracker.

I suggest looking for a performance appraisal tracker that offers ongoing performance tracking, rather than scheduled appraisals at longer intervals. According to the Harvard Business Review, among others, ongoing tracking improves employee performance, leads to more consistent results, and helps HR managers make small adjustments to an employee’s course rather than trying to make huge overhauls when a larger issue arises.

It’s so effective that nearly 30% of interviewed major businesses are removing or considering removing the old annual ranking standby system.

Why it’s not a must-have: While this is a nice addition to a talent management suite, many excellent stand-alone performance review software options exist. Often, dedicated tools in this area are more in-depth than an add-on to another software.

2. An employee portal

An employee portal is a function that allows your employees to log into your talent management software on their own accounts. An employee’s user type or role will be different from those of an HR manager’s, and will usually only show them their own information and the details relevant to them personally.

This is on the nice-to-have list with a caveat: depending on your business’s needs, this feature might be mandatory or it might just be nice.

Why it’s not a must-have: Some HR teams prefer to handle all employee, performance, and benefits/compensation tracking themselves. Others want their employees to be able to log in to check and manage their benefits themselves. Depending on which you prefer, an employee portal might be very important or not needed at all.

That said, as your company grows, you may find a major benefit of having an employee portal: It can save your HR staff from having to answer minor questions all the time.

3. Time tracking and scheduling

Another potential feature that might work better for you in the form of stand-alone software, time tracking and scheduling is occasionally built into talent management suites.

When it’s built-in, time tracking is typically basic, but can be very helpful, especially when it comes to the intersections of benefits and time tracking, for example, managing paid time off and sick leave.

Why it’s not a must-have: If this is a capability you’re particularly interested in, I’d recommend looking at stand-alone time tracking software or employee scheduling software software that will integrate with your benefits or compensation tracking, rather than trying to find a talent management platform that includes it.

The cool extras

These are features that you probably don’t absolutely need, and typically, these are features that will be more robust if you use dedicated software rather than an add-on to your talent management software.

But if you only need light functionality on any of these given features, it’s nice to save the money by bundling and avoid having to learn a whole new system.

1. Recruiting and hiring

Some talent management software combines employee management with hiring. This can mean recruiting software that helps you craft job descriptions and ads and post them to job boards. It can also include document management for tracking resumes as they roll in.

A built-in feature might perform all the recruiting functions you need, if you’re a small company that hires infrequently.

However, if you have more than 20 employees or hire throughout the year, you probably need a dedicated applicant tracking system to help manage your hiring process instead of a built-in recruiting or hiring feature.

2. Training management

Onboarding as part of the employee lifecycle is one thing, but a full employee training suite is something else entirely. Depending on the position and industry, you may need either light training (such as onboarding information or the occasional policy update) or a very extensive program (such as OSHA compliance or continued education training).

If your training is only light, then a built-in corporate training system within your talent management suite is just fine.

If your industry calls for a heavier round of training, something that takes more than a few days or requires multiple follow-ups or refreshers, you probably want a more robust system, so consider looking for a learning management system instead.

3. Mobile apps

Just like with scheduling and an employee portal, you really only need mobile app functionality in your talent management software if your employees will be accessing it regularly.

If you already have your time tracking and talent management software bundled together, a mobile app is a great tool for your employees, as it may allow them to clock in and out and track the work they’re doing on the go. This feature is used much more heavily by companies that send out drivers and remote workers frequently.

A mobile app can also be helpful if your talent software features training options. Your employees can use an app to complete their training on their time, even when they aren’t in the office.

What features do you look for?

Depending on your specific needs, any of these features might be a decision-making factor for you. But the must-haves are the features you’ll come across most often, along with the breakdown. As you begin your search for the perfect talent management software, don’t let yourself get distracted with the fanciest features. Really consider what you need.

Still questioning? Unsure what you really need? Hit me up in the comments below or ask me on Twitter @CapterraHalden, and I’ll see what I can do.

And check out Capterra’s Talent Management Software blog for more articles to get you going in the right direction.

Looking for Talent Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Talent Management software solutions.

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About the Author


Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.



Totally informative. In this blog everything is my cup of tea.

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