Sliding into the right place

The lowdown

What is human capital management? HCM supports the notion that workers are valuable resources that you can develop for mutual benefit. It goes beyond traditional human-resources payroll or benefits applications to apply business intelligence to staffing issues. HCM can be very broad, with suites of tools for maximizing personnel, or targeted, such as programs for recruiting employees.

Why have an HCM solution? It can help find, develop and keep workers to meet the needs of an agency. HCM can help agencies build business cases for HR-related initiatives and identify ways to justify the costs of programs.

What's most important when choosing HCM software? Make sure the HCM software can integrate, or at least exchange data, with your HR or enterprise resource planning software. You'll need that data to get the most from an HCM system. Also consider security, to keep employee data confidential; compliance, to meet regulations and policies; and reporting, to produce information in the form you need it.

Human capital software helps make the most of employees

Human capital management starts with the idea ? radical to some ? that workers have value. The experience and expertise of employees may be the most valuable assets an organization has.

Human capital management software helps an organization pinpoint, maximize and manage the inherent value of its workers, going beyond the usual human resources functions of payroll and benefits.

In government, with agencies required to make business cases for virtually everything they do, HCM software can help justify the cost of workforce decisions. Need funding for a new initiative? Here's how to figure the HR component. Need to maximize your workforce by rearranging resources? 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 a project engineer. You want to identify and hire the best candidate. HCM software can help determine, from hundreds of specialties, what kind of engineer you need, how to define the position, what qualifications to look for, where to publicize the job and what the salary should be. 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, you want to leverage a worker's skills. HCM software can help track employee qualifications and match them to task requirements, so you have the right person in the right job.

Development. You can make your employees more valuable in several ways, such as training and assigning tasks that build experience or abilities. HCM software can monitor employee credentials and suggest growth opportunities. It's more efficient to develop employees than to find and hire new ones.

Influencing behavior. HCM software can track performance in many ways, and offer feedback. An agency may get more reliable and motivated workers while the workers may earn rewards. Also, if workers see that standards are applied fairly to everyone, they will feel more positive about the agency and their roles in it.

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

Suites or point products

Some HCM solutions 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 more than 800 employees who perform administrative services at the Capitol. "Time management tools can eliminate problems and keep employees more responsible," said 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. of Boulder, Colo. The solution features a hand-scanner to provide biometric security and identity verification. It also offers many canned reports as well as allowing custom reports. The agency uses this feature to link records of leave granted and actual attendance.

If an 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 offers the function you're looking for. Make sure that a standalone application can interact appropriately with 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 HR software in the Senate secretary's office, although, for jurisdictional reasons, the two have not yet been linked, Jacobs said.

The compliance angle

Government agencies also must weather a blizzard of regulations and policies. HCM software can help automate and simplify compliance. However, the HCM software must have policies built in or customizable to handle what is needed. If specific reports must be filed, you should be sure the solution either provides the reports or lets you design them as needed. Identifying a government-oriented solution, rather than a general-use one, may save you a lot of trouble.

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

Each agency can, and should, design its own workforce. HCM can help create the right staff. It also can optimize the quality of a workforce and improve productivity. The right solution can give a big picture of tasks and the people you need for them.

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

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