Why truly strategic HR requires both HCM tech and smart processes
When Bob DelPonte looks back at his more than 20 years' experience working in the HR technology business, he knows he's had the opportunity to be part of countless HR transformations.
DelPonte, vice president and general manager, small and midsize business unit, at human capital management (HCM) vendor Kronos, explains that over time, the company has seen some common traits that employers share as they become more effective at managing workforces.
How the curve has changed
DelPonte is referring to what is known as the workforce management maturity curve. Within the process, he explains, there are four stages – automate, plan, execute and innovate – that occur. The model is not new, as it got its start five years ago when HR Tech guru Josh Bersin unveiled the idea to the HR community. But since then, the maturity curve has changed with the times, according to DelPonte.
"At each phase today there are incremental investments and benefits that accrue," DelPonte says. And he says that as Kronos has expanded its product focus beyond operational workforce management to incorporate the broader HCM category, the goal was to help HR managers – not just operational managers – understand where their organizations stand on the curve.
DelPonte explains that employers must walk a consistent path to evolve their workforce from a driver of cost into a competitive advantage. In addition to focusing on employee engagement with incentives and cultural emphasis, there's more HR managers can do.
The roles and priorities of HR vary wildly based on size, industry, global geography, and CEO preferences and expectations. Beyond that, the HR maturity curve helps HR managers understand what technology and process improvements can support HR’s business contribution.
DelPonte outlines the four stages of the maturity model as Kronos sees it today:
- Transactional HR (paper and spreadsheets; manual processes; HR is the personnel department)
- Managed HR (disparate systems; semi-automated processes; HR is a business function)
- Strategic HR (integrated apps / mobile access; integrated processes; HR is a business partner)
- Innovative HR (predictive processes; HR is a business leader)
Explaining the curve
At the bottom of the maturity curve, organizations view the HR department as an administrative function. "It's about personnel administration. They're the policy police," he says. "The organization ignores the need and opportunity to align HR with its strategic plans."
Next, employers move beyond developing compliance programs and into efforts to improve the overall employee experience. Moving up the curve leads to fundamental but siloed HR functions with some standardized processes and core services, but little data integration. The Strategic HR department aligns HR with business strategy.
Sitting at the top of the curve is HR that connects talent and business success. At this point, he explains, the HR function is well integrated with business strategy. Here, HR helps drive business decisions through people, data and insights. And HR leaders are expected to be not only a talent advisor but a business leader that uses metrics and hard data to support business performance.
Then, employee engagement really comes into play, as HCM technology helps employers create compelling work environments that make employees feel valued – meaning they will give that extra discretionary effort regardless of generation or preconceived expectations.
DelPonte warns, however, that even the best HCM technology will not yield results if the processes behind it have been ignored.
"Process improvements go hand-in-hand with technology investments," he says. "It would be a mistake for organizations implementing a new HCM system to simply automate existing tasks and procedures." Instead, he suggests considering why the current workflow is in place and if all of the current steps are still required. How could an existing process evolve?
With the challenges today in attracting and retaining a steady pool of quality talent, HR professionals need an integrated set of tools for managing and nurturing their organizations’ most valuable asset – from hire to retire. Most of all, HR leaders need to ensure that their people can consistently operate at the innovation stage of the HR maturity model.
"To ensure you are operating at the innovation level and, at the same time, addressing the needs of all your employees, you'll want an HCM solution that effectively straddles the salary-hourly divide, regardless of what percentage of your workforce falls into one category or the other," he says.