Understanding the H in HCM

One of the true delights in working with data, especially people data, is uncovering two pieces of contradictory data. The data people reading this right now know what I mean by that; others might be scratching their heads on that one, so let me explain.

data human elementImagine giving a survey to employees at your organization that asks what perk or benefit would most motivate them, and 90% of respondents say “an increase in pay” or something similar. That’s data, but not especially insightful or useful data unless you have a big pile of cash you can’t figure out what to do with. Now imagine you also have data point that shows an increase in engagement after a large employee recognition ceremony, but no increase in engagement after a round of merit pay increases. Now that is insightful, useful data because it tells you something about the motivation of your employees beyond what is simply stated.

The Trouble with Transparency

I spoke to solution provider representatives last week who work with companies in providing real-time employee engagement scores. They mentioned that providing the engagement scores to all employees, in real time as they took the survey, was not always seen as a positive by the organizations they partner with. This didn’t come exactly as a shock to me, as Brandon Hall Group’s own research on human capital management (HCM) technology trends showed only 10% of organizations viewed the ability to “improve transparency into the execution of HR processes” to be a main driver of HCM automation. That was, in fact, the least chosen response to that survey question.

The contradiction is that transparency is a generally accepted leading practice when it comes to most HR practices, and certainly with direct-touch programs like performance management and employee engagement. So why are organizations not seeing the value in it? I think it’s about the dreaded H in HCM:  human (or humans in this case). Much of our efforts in HR are spent attempting to shape behaviors, outcomes, and culture, and so we are all too aware of how difficult that can be, and certainly more so if large groups start misinterpreting (or correctly interpreting, sometimes) the data in front of them.

Technology & the Human Factor

The bad news is this trend is not going away. HCM technology is becoming more automated, more transparent, and more accessible. The good news is that the ability to analyze the data that comes from these systems is becoming more necessary and valuable.  From the same Brandon Hall Group research, the most frequent response to the main driver for HCM tech automation was “to alleviate the burden of manual tasks for HR.” That means that HR professionals will have more time and energy to spend on interpreting data, identifying where their efforts will make the greatest impact, and implementing interventions that will directly impact the organization in measurable ways.

In short, because of improved HCM technology the human aspect of human capital management is becoming more important, not less so.

Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group

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