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IT plays a supporting—yet critical—role in any HCM implementation.

HCM covers some broad terrain, including workforce planning (forecasting growth or downsizing), acquisition (recruitment and procurement of part-time or temporary help), management (training, performance management and succession planning) and optimization (putting the right people in the right jobs at the right time)—all functions one would naturally assume fall under the purview of HR. But while an HCM strategy clearly needs an HR executive to champion it, its success will hinge largely upon the IT department's ability to create a solid partnership that delivers on business requirements. "The CIO needs to support the HR executive in terms of how technology contributes to his or her department," says Gartner research director Jim Holincheck. "HR often isn't aware of all the opportunities out there from a technology perspective."

When a company does embark on an HCM implementation, it is imperative that the CIO first sit down with HR and have a candid discussion. "You want to know what skills your employees currently have, what the likely career progression is for them, training schedules, performance reviews and so on. This helps managers make intelligent decisions about employees and what they should be doing," says Forrester's Symons. The discussion should go beyond collecting employee data, and into applying analytics for business value. The goal is to have one repository that contains all employee information so that workforce analytics are possible. Creating a corporate portal that lets employees and their managers view their own data, such as their medical benefits, vacation time, e-learning opportunities and recent performance reviews should also be a priority, analysts say. This will cut down HR administrative costs and help justify the less tangible benefits of HCM.

The Talent Management Lifecycle
Getting and keeping good employees requires ongoing management, support and training. Here's how it's done:
Step 1: The ability to plan for workforce changes, make the best use of the various sources of talent for the organization and instill a talent planning process to ensure continuity of process, culture and strategic direction.

Step 2: The ability to attract, recruit and select the best talent for the organization.

Step 3: The use of both formal and informal training, development and communications systems to further enhance talent throughout the organization.

Step 4: The ability to ensure that the right people, with the right skills and knowledge, are used on the right jobs at the right time.

Step 5: The ability to retain and actively engage top talent and the people who are crucial to the organization's success.

Step 6: The use of different evaluation measures and techniques to improve and assess the impact of human capital within the enterprise.

(Back to Step 1)

Source: Principles of Human Capital Management, David c. Forman, 2005

As usual, addressing the company's biggest areas of pain first is recommended. "If your organization is growing, for example, you might want to focus on talent management and recruiting," says Symons.

That was the case at LandAmerica Financial Group Inc., a full-service real estate transaction provider based in Richmond, Va., with more than 12,000 employees. Since 2000, LandAmerica has grown revenues from $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion, acquiring a number of companies along the way. "As our organization grows, we really have to use our human capital assets to effectively deliver new products and services to our customers," says Carol Anderson, senior vice president and director of talent and learning resources.

LandAmerica's HCM efforts began in 2003 with the launch of a rudimentary talent management program meant to assess the company's overall strengths and weaknesses. Because the executive team was already behind HR's efforts, Anderson used them as her first subjects. "We took a fairly high-level inventory of our leadership group, and we soon realized that we should look at some technology to help us look more granularly at that data," including how managers were achieving business goals and how well executives were aligned with the company's corporate values.

To help the HR department figure out exactly what a formal HCM system should include, the IT department built a small proprietary HCM system using SQL before partnering with HCM software provider Softscape Inc. "Our managers could type text in, and it gave us a quick and dirty inventory of employee skills," she says. Today, Anderson is working to move performance and talent management online for all of the company's 12,000 employees by 2007, and plans to move into the next phase of the rollout this year, which will include assessments of the company's top 300 leaders, followed by all managers in 2006.

Though her early experience with HCM has been the simple automation of basic HR tasks, Anderson hopes the effort will lead to better management of employee development and, ultimately, corporate growth. But, thus far, it remains the unfulfilled promise of HCM. "If we can get data that shows that in this particular region we have a pocket of folks who could use some additional training on, say, goal-setting, we can hone in on that and target our training so we can make our managers stronger," she says. "That will lead to improved business performance."

This article was originally published on 01-05-2005
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