Should I be surprised a subject like human capital management resulted in my spending the better part of yesterday being totally unproductive? Well I am not too surprised and sitting here right now I am actually feeling pretty good about it.
Our Greatest Asset
It seems you can’t read an organization’s human resources career site or a strategic plan these days without finding a declaration in the mission, vision or values on the importance of the organization’s people – their human capital.
- We value, challenge and reward our people
- Our people are our greatest strength/asset
- We recognize that people are our key asset.
What if these sentiments were more than just obligatory human resources messaging? What would it look like if you found an organization, particularly and IT department, where they walked the human capital talk? What evidence would there be showing the IT staff were the department’s greatest asset?
Answering these questions is where I began to lose my day.
Human Capital Management
Human capital management for some it is about aligning the goals of the employees with the goals of the organization. For others it is a strategic approach to managing people that focuses on their knowledge and skills and their ability to develop and innovate.
Human capital management (HCM) is more than just talent management as it considers the strategic use of human resources. Many CIO’s have likely already heard of human capital management due to a number of major software companies entering this space with new HCM product offerings. Companies like Workday offering a SaaS solution while others like SunGard are adding HCM to traditional products.
What would a human capital management plan look like for an IT department which saw its people as the most valued asset?
IT Strategy for Human Capital
The IT strategic planning model I use includes a Resource Plan as one of its main components. The Resource Plan address the required financial and human resources to support the other components of the IT strategy.
This model recognizes the strategic importance of human resources and the necessity to plan for staff development in support of other planned changes. This approach includes consideration of growing new leaders and ascension planning. It requires contemplation of any human capital risks which might exist and the need to mitigate those risks.
In plain terms, the strategic planning model I prefer to use forces CIO’s to do comprehensive strategic planning. It requires a strategic plan to address the IT trinity – People, Process, and Technology.
But in practice, very few IT strategic plans even touch on human capital strategies or staff development let alone Process. Clearly this doesn’t square with People being the most valued asset. Perhaps it is even evidence of viewing the IT staff as the least valued IT asset.
IT Assets Relative Value
When you consider the employee retention rates in higher education and in particular those for public institutions, CIO’s must anticipate every new hire is a long term investment. That might mean a hiring decision that affects the next 20 or 30 years.
By comparison, your enterprise application investment decisions might be with you 15 years or more but will constantly evolve and add new capabilities. Similarly, your servers, storage, and end user devices might last you 5 years before being replaced. The exception here is structured cabling, data center systems and some network systems will have somewhat longer life cycles.
And yet, the amount of time, money and thoughtfulness that goes into a software or system selection far exceeds that of acquiring the human resources. Not to mention the fundamental talent management question of growing talent or buying it is often never addressed. Compounding the problem is the ongoing emphasis on the technology in strategic plans with little or no thought for the human capital requirements.
Further evidence of the disconnect on the strategic importance of human capital management in IT is the lack of funding in operational budgets to support staff development. This is the point source of the IT department death spiral that plays out in so many shops.
Buy some new technology but don’t fund formal training of staff. Pay the vendor to implement it, and provide a day or two of knowledge transfer. Fire fight technical problems and pay the vendor again to fine tune or fix the issues and do some more knowledge transfer. IT credibility suffers, morale tanks and you repeat it on the next purchase.
This is completely upside down given the dependency between technology implementation, operational success and the capability of the human capital who do the work. This is the core of a sustainable technology ecosystem.
So where do we go from here? One thing might be to examine your own strategic plan and budgets using one of the assessment approaches I have described. Just do a quick tally of the dollars and initiatives targeting People, Process, and Technology. If your strategy and budget are like most, the People focus will be conspicuously absent.
For me , I am going to continue think about this and hope you will take a minute and share your experience and thoughts with a brief comment. If you do get a tally, please consider sharing your results.
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