Category Archives: HR profession

The Great HCM Debate

Although the HR Technology® Conference’s Industry Analyst Panel switched formats this year to a debate between two industry experts standing behind lecterns instead of the four-member seated panel of conferences past, it featured the same occasionally heated and always-fascinating dialogue between folks who live and breathe this stuff. Moderator and conference co-chair Bill Kutik (who also lives and breathes this stuff) kicked things off by asking the two debaters, Gartner managing vice president Jim Holincheck and Knowledge Infusion founder and CEO Jason Averbook, to define “strategic human capital management.”

“It’s plain and simple–strategic HCM helps companies execute their business strategy,” said Holincheck. “Much of what passes for talent managent has focused on automating existing processes. But that’s not strategic. What you want to be thinking about is, what is my company’s business strategy, and how can talent management help me address that?”

“It’s certainly not about buying technology,” said Averbook. “It’s about answering the question ‘Are we going to buy or build our talent and how are we going to do it?’ It’s a business process, not an HR process.”

A bit later on during the debate, Averbook noted that the days of companies buying software licenses for HR “super users” are long gone. ” “Back in the day, we implemented HR systems for HR users. Today, the consumer is no longer the HR department, it’s the workforce. We want everyone in the company to use these tools,” he said, adding that meant HR had to focus on pushing the new systems out to the workforce and ensuring they’re intuitive and user friendly, much like Amazon and Facebook.

Kutik asked both men to share their thoughts regarding Oracle Corp.’s new Fusion system.

“I see a lot of Gartner clients pursuing a ‘coexistence strategy’–they’re using Fusion on top of their existing Oracle products rather than making plans to install a new system,” said Holincheck.

Regardless of whether Fusion meets expectations, Averbook said, it will still give Oracle a big advantage simply because of the integration factor. “We tell folks to go look at best-of-breed solutions–well, what good is best of breed if you don’t have a way to tie those systems together? If you don’t have a foundation to do that, then best of breed is a waste of time.”

“You don’t need a single vendor to tie it all together,” said Holincheck.

“I’m not saying you need a single vendor, but you do need a strategy,” replied Averbook.

Further on, Averbook castigated vendors for luring customers to SaaS solutions with the “false promise” that they won’t need IT support. “The market’s screwed up because vendors are telling HR clients this–our customers encounter failure when they have no IT support for their SaaS solutions.”

Saving Time with Social Learning

Innovations and new discoveries occur all the time inside organizations. But how can you shorten the time between the moment those discoveries are made and the results  those discoveries will have in terms of increased customer satisfaction or more-efficient internal processes? Cerner Corp., a Kansas City, Mo.-based health-technology company, believes it’s found the answer, said Robert Campbell, the company’s chief learning officer.

Campbell spoke at a panel discussion on social learning at the HR Technology® Conference on Sept. 29. “We created UCern to reduce the time between discovery and adoption,” he said.

UCern is a virtual learning center consisting of threaded discussion lists, a point system that lets users rate the quality of contributors to those discussions, embedded videos and wikis, he said. When employees need the answer to a question, rather than searching for someone within their workgroup who can help them, they can access the discussion lists or the archived discussions for their particular topic. Solutions to vexing problems can be posted on the company’s publicly available wikis, said Campbell, which are available in “published” and “draft” versions. Material posted on published wikis has been verified for accuracy by the company’s experts; material on draft wikis has not yet been verified and is “use at your own risk,” said Campbell. Either way, it’s drastically shortened the time the company previously needed to document and publish information for employees and customers, he said.

Social media technology can, as in Cerner’s example, allow employees to quickly access the experience and knowledge of their colleagues, rather than waiting to take a formalized course or search for documents that may or may not be properly archived, said Jeanne Meister, the panel’s moderator and author of the book The 2020 Workplace.  Nevertheless, many HR leaders are reluctant to embrace social media, she said. They shouldn’t be, she added.

“You have to ask yourself whether your competitors haven’t already embarked on doing this, ” she said. A good place to find out is the website www.socialmediagovernance.com, a database of hundreds of different social-media policies from a wide variety of companies. The database can be searched by industry, so HR can determine whether their company’s competitors are on the social-media bandwagon, said Meister. “Don’t be left behind,” she said.

‘Yelp’ for Rating Managers??

Many of us turn to the website Yelp.com–the site that compiles user reviews of local restaurants and other service providers–when we’re looking for a good place to eat in whatever location we happen to be. But the folks at Cisco Systems are giving some serious thought to creating a homegrown version of Yelp that would let Cisco employees post reviews of their managers in a public forum available to all of the company’s employees, in a fashion similar to the way Yelp.com users rate the newest sushi joint or Italian bistro.

“We’re trying to figure out how ‘ungoverned’ we can be without getting into legal trouble,” said Don McLaughlin, Cisco’s chief learning officer, during a panel discussion on using social media for corporate learning at the HR Technology® Conference.

McLaughlin said he thinks it’s a great idea, although he admitted he’d be a bit worried about getting negatively “Yelped” himself. But the concept ties into Cisco’s long-term strategy with respect to social learning, he said, which is to create a new “capability set” for the company’s next generation of leaders.

Some in the audience were receptive to the idea of a Yelp for managers. “How can you really know what sort of training a manager might need without really frank, honest feedback from his or her direct reports?” one attendee asked.

Others were skeptical. “You might have people afraid to post honestly for fear of reprisals,” said another audience member. “Then you’d also run the risk of managers who are afraid to do anything that might be unpopular for fear of getting trashed.”

“What about combining the employee reviews with hard data, such as metrics on turnover in a manager’s group, and its business performance?” said another. “That might be really powerful.”

Moderator Jeanne Meister, author of the book The 2020 Workplace, said the concept could be an improvement over performance reviews. “Aren’t we all tired of performance feedback that arrives too late? Why not find out immediately if there’s something we may need to improve, skills we need to learn, rather than waiting six or twelve months down the line?”

Erickson Opens Conference with a Call to Embrace the Times

As the opening keynote speaker for the 13th annual, and largest-ever, HR Technology Conference® and Exposition in Chicago, Tamara Erickson — collaboration and innovation expert, blogger and author of numerous books on generational evolutions in the workplace — got things rolling with an inspiring look at where technology’s taken us from the beginning of man to where it’s now taking American businesses.

That is, if they’re savvy and open enough to evolve.

Starting with the caveman’s need to share ideas  in order to make the very first tools and taking us through the 20th century corporate organizational model where “we had to make enough stuff at good-enough quality and low-enough costs to sustain the company and help it prosper,” she said,  “now, this century, if you can’t figure out how to tap into the knowledge and ideas of customers and employees … and do [the latter] on a more horizontal org. chart,” she said, you won’t make it.

Challenging listeners to adopt an entire new approach to employment; that is, away from expecting employees to perform because you pay them and into a model where you need to entice them to expend “discretionary effort,” she said, Erickson listed off numerous companies that are starting to adapt: Best Buy, Deloitte, Rypple, Kraft Food, the list went on.

But most companies, she said, are still stuck in the old way. “They’re not providing the technologies and investing in the tools so employees will choose to innovate,” she said.

“You have to invest in their discretionary effort,” Erickson said. “Now is the time for the combination of to invest in their discretionary effort,” Erickson said. “Now is the time for the combination of technology and HR. This time is ripe. HR holds the key to the next step change in our organizational technologies.”

Executive Comp Gets its Credentials

It’s not surprising that the WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals has developed a new certification for executive compensation, available in October.

As the Washington-based agency notes in its recent announcement of the move, “In the wake of the economic crisis and continued scrutiny of executive compensation by media and shareholders … executive compensation practitioners are being called upon to design and manage programs that attract, motivate and retain dynamic executives and leaders who have the ability to drive positive business results.”

The new certification — designed for executive rewards practitioners, consultants and human resource professionals involved in the design and administration of executive compensation — would help to “ensure that companies are working with knowledgeable and competent executive rewards practitioners,” the release states.

Don Linner, executive compensation practice leader for the Washington-based total-rewards company, says the alternative — poor executive comp practices — “can lead to intense public scrutiny, organizational instability and turnover.”

It’s about time this expertise became legitimate, test-worthy and trustworthy, especially in this environment. Had something like this been in place several years ago, it might have spared a few organizations I can think of some unwanted publicity.

Funny You Should Ask That

And a happy Monday morning to the blogosphere!

The New York Times site runs a great blog called You’re The Boss, designed for small-business owners, but they sometimes touch on issues that also can affect executives at larger organizations.

This morning’s post takes a look at job-interview questions and how to determine the right questions to ask a candidate:

I’ve learned that different questions work for different jobs. The manager of my picture-framing business, for example, hires people to do “pick-ups” — they retrieve finished framed pictures from a room full of racks for customers. She routinely asks interviewees if they have ever thought about becoming a librarian; those who say they have thought about it tend to do the job best and to stay around the longest.

 Take a look and have a great last week of September.

Oliver Wyman Takes 7th Place?

The good folks at www.vault.com have just released their list of the top ten firms for human resources consulting, which was based on the input of 4,500 consultants and ranks firms by their “perceived prestige” in the field, rather than by size or revenue, according to a company press release.

And while the overwhelming majority of the names on the list are well-known to anyone in who has spent at least a single day wandering in the broad field of human resources — with Mercer, Towers Watson and Hewitt Associates among those listed — one name in particular elicited looks of suprise at a recent staff meeting since we had never had any previous contact with the No. 7 firm: Oliver Wyman.

A quick search of Hoover’s database finds that the No. 7 name on the list does not, in fact, refer to Oliver Wyman, a partner at Cambridge, Mass. -based On The Rise Inc.; nor to Oliver A. Wyman, president of Atlanta-based Rug Hold National Service Center Inc., but rather Oliver Wyman Inc., the New York-based consulting firm that was founded in 1972.

This from Hoover’s: Diversified consulting firm Oliver Wyman Group is led by its Oliver Wyman unit, a management consulting specialist that operates from more than 40 cities in about 15 countries worldwide. Oliver Wyman draws clients from a variety of industries and offers advice on business transformation, leadership, marketing and sales, operations and technology, risk management, and strategy. Other Oliver Wyman Group units include Lippincott (branding and identity) and NERA Economic Consulting. Oliver Wyman Group is a unit of insurance giant Marsh & McLennan, whose subsidiaries also include Mercer, a human resources and benefits consulting firm.

According  to its own site, Oliver Wyman has 35 years experience serving Global 1000 clients, with a staff of 2,900.

So congratulations to Oliver Wyman, the company, and all apologies to the other two Olivers who were named here and who may soon be receiving a Google alert referencing their name as a result of this post.

 

Reforms Stalled by Inadequate HR?

As we wrote on HREOnline™  a few months ago, an ambitious federal hiring-reform initiative wouldn’t be an easy task, requiring both training and buy-in from staff.

When Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry announced the initiative, he said that, “for far too long, our HR systems have been a hindrance. We have great workers in government now in spite of the hiring process, not because of it.”

But it seems as if HR is still a problem — and that has been acknowledged by OPM’s chief human capital officers, according to this story in the Washington Post about a Partnership for Public Service survey.

“The ‘competency of HR workers’ is one of seven ‘major obstacles’ to building a first-class federal workforce,” according to the 68 CHCOs, who “expressed strong doubts that the human resources community, the very people who will be on the frontlines seeking to implement the hiring reform plan, are up to the task.”

The problem seems to be a lack of training and adequate technology, according to the article.

In the Federal Eye blog on the Post site, OPM responded that CHCOs are generally positive and supportive of the reform, and that criticisms of the initiative “have been taken seriously and have been responded to promptly, leading to a more cooperative, productive and collegial environment for members.”

Well, as long as they are all getting along …

Ruling Against Google Will Impact HR

The California Supreme Court ruled today on a pretty big age-discrimination case against Google that folks in the employment-law sector think could have significant repercussions in the HR profession.

The decision in the case Reid vs. Google basically rules on two things: one, whether evidentiary objections are waived on appeal if a trial court does not rule on them (the court says they are not) and two, whether California should follow the federal “stray remarks” doctrine, which basically says statements made by employees who are not involved in the employment decision a discrimination suit is based on cannot be considered in support of a discrimination claim. (The court says that doctrine is unnecessary and should not be followed.)

I won’t spell all the details of the case out here. They’re in the ruling linked above. What I will share are concerns from two employment attorneys who see some real precedent-setting effects on employers because of this, and not just employers in California.

Eric Steinert, an employment partner at Seyfarth Shaw in San Francisco, says that, “as a practical result [of this ruling], employers will win fewer age cases on summary judgment. More cases will go to trial and presumably more evidence will come in at trial regarding general workplace comments not made by direct supervisors or decision makers.”

Anthony Oncidi, who heads the Labor & Employment Law Group in Proskauer Rose’s Los Angeles office, seconds that and adds that the stray-remarks decision “points to the need for HR to be more comprehensive in doing complete investigations to determine whether or not there was discrimination” after a complaint is filed.

It will no longer be sufficient, he says, “just to run the allegation down with a supervisor and not ask any further questions. HR will really need to ‘tease’ it out of the [complainant] now to get him or her to say there is or is not anyone else who did or did not make [similar discriminatory] comments.”

Oncidi also says it will now be “very important to bear this ruling in mind” when you’re conducting anti-discrimination training and do everything you can to train “as many people as possible about what they can and cannot say” about a co-worker or employee.

He also thinks more HR leaders will be putting arbitration agreements in place now, because the ruling makes it harder to get summary judgment granted before trial — something many employers relied on up to now as a way to dismiss what they considered to be frivolous lawsuits.

And don’t sit back on the fact that it’s only the California (not the U.S.) Supreme Court. Oncidi says this is the most broad-based, lengthy and definitive ruling in this legal area to date, “reviewing all the existing stray-remark cases throughout the country.”

“I would not be surprised,” he says, “if other courts look to this as precedent.”

Sartain Joins Manpower’s Board

It’s hardly a tidal wave, but slowly but surely companies are waking up to the merits of having someone with a solid HR background on their board of directors.

The latest example: Manpower. Yesterday, the Milwaukee, Wisc.-based workforce solutions firm named Libby Sartain, former chief human resources officer of Yahoo! Inc. and Southwest Airlines, to its board. (A story on the Milwaukee Business Journal website notes that five of Manpower’s 11 directors are now women or minorities.)

“Libby’s distinguished 30-year career in human resources will be a great asset to our company as we continue to strengthen our position as a multi-faceted provider of HR services that complement and expand upon our roots in the staffing industry,” said Jeffrey A. Joerres, Manpower Inc.’s chairman and CEO.

As the press release goes on to point out, HRE named Libby one of the 25 most powerful women in HR when it last compiled such a list five years ago.

Considering the business Manpower is in, it’s a no-brainer to add a top-notch former HR leader to its board (or that it has decided to assemble a board that is one of the most diverse around).  But when you contemplate the kinds of HR-related challenges awaiting companies in the coming years, I would think someone with a strong HR background is going bring a valuable perspective to most boardroom discussions—even if they’re not in the business of providing “workforce solutions.”