The Human Factor

Human capital management goes beyond payroll to figuring out how to align people with projects

Human capital management starts with the idea'radical to some'that workers have value. Indeed, the experience and expertise of its employees may be the most valuable asset an organization has.

Human capital management software helps an organization pinpoint, maximize and manage the inherent value of its workers, going beyond the usual HR functions of payroll and benefits. In government, with agencies required to make business cases for virtually everything they do, HCM software can help cost-justify workforce decisions. Need funding for a new initiative? Here's how to figure the human resources component. Need to maximize your current workforce by rearranging assignments? HCM can help with the analysis.

HCM is part traditional human resources software, part business intelligence. It has a place at every point in an agency's relationship with an employee. Here are some examples.

Hiring. Suppose your agency needs an engineer for a project. You want to identify and acquire the best candidate. HCM software can help determine what kind of engineer (from hundreds of specialties) you need, what level of experience, how to define the position, what qualifications to look for, where to publicize the position and how much to pay the person. The faster you fill a vacancy with a suitable candidate, the more time and money you save.

Placement. When looking for the best person for a project, whether a new or current employee, you want to leverage a worker's skills to do the best possible job on that project. HCM software can help track employee qualifications and match them to task requirements so you have the right person in the right position.

Development. You can make your em-ployee resource more valuable in several ways. Training in specific skills may be helpful. Assignment to tasks that expand experience or abilities can be important. HCM software can monitor employee credentials and suggest opportunities for growth. It is far more efficient to develop competence among current employees than to find and acquire it from outside.

Influencing behavior. Something as simple as tracking employee attendance can positively influence a worker. The agency may get a more reliable and motivated worker, while the worker may avoid disciplinary action or earn rewards. HCM software can track performance in many ways, providing feedback to workers. Also, if workers see that standards are applied fairly for everyone, they will feel more positively about the agency and their role in it.

Worker involvement. HCM sees workers as partners in the work process. Many HCM systems allow employees to see a great deal of their own information, including benefits, evaluations and work records. Employees may also have access to information about training opportunities or internal job postings. Solutions often make this information available on an intranet or secure Internet site.

Ultimately, HCM can optimize the quality of your workforce and improve productivity. The right solution can give you the big picture of your tasks and the people you need to perform them.

Suites or point products

Some HCM solutions do it all: They handle every aspect of human resources from hiring to retirement. They may exist in a modular form, so you can pick and choose the pieces that suit your situation. Other solutions focus on specific parts of HCM, such as recruitment or performance analysis.

The Senate Office of the Sergeant at Arms, for instance, uses a time and attendance system for over 800 employees who perform administrative services at the Capitol Building. 'Time management tools can eliminate problems and keep employees more responsible,' explains Sam Jacobs, administrative manager of Capitol facilities for the sergeant at arms. 'Employees get feedback rapidly, and the manager isn't the bad guy anymore.'

The agency looked at several systems before choosing time and attendance software from Unitime Systems Inc. The new solution features a hand-scanner to provide biometric security and identity verification. It also offers many canned reports while allowing custom reports. The agency uses this feature to link records of leave granted and actual attendance.

If your agency already has an HR solution that's working, it may not make sense to discard it for an entirely different platform. It may be more effective to add a single application that provides the function you're looking for. Make sure that a standalone application can interact appropriately with existing systems and data. Leveraging existing employee data for HCM can help maximize its utility. The Senate sergeant at arms, for example, could link the Unitime system to human resources software in the Senate Secretary's office, although the two have not linked up yet for jurisdictional reasons, Jacobs said.

The compliance angle

In addition to managing employees, government agencies must weather a blizzard of regulations and policies. HCM software can help automate'and simplify'compliance. However, you must make sure the HCM software you choose either has policies built in or is customizable to handle what you need. In addition, if you must file specific reports, be certain that the solution either provides the reports already, or allows you to design them as you need them. Identifying a government-oriented solution, rather than a general-use one, may save you a lot of trouble.

Security is also a significant concern. Employee data is usually regarded as confidential, so its use, storage and transfer must be carefully monitored. When considering HCM solutions, look into the security aspects carefully.

Some vendors realize that not all your workers are employees. You may have a number of contractors or contingent workers in your agency. It can be a tricky balancing act to obtain, and use, the information you need about these workers without stepping on toes. There are HCM products that zero in on this aspect of human resources and give you the tools you need to monitor contractors.

Many HCM vendors are actively improving their solutions to deal with organizational problems. For example, one of the major challenges facing government agencies is attracting and retaining top talent. Vendors know this and are developing solutions for the hiring and management aspects of their products.

Each agency can, and should, deliberately design its own workforce. HCM can help you create the staff you need.

Edmund X. DeJesus is a freelance technical writer in Norwood, Mass.

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