Putting Humans in HCM

Human Capital Management is a catch-all term for anything touching on moving, hiring, promoting or dealing with all those messy humans that populate so many companies. On the technology side, there seems to be a definite drift toward reducing humans, who are infinitely complex and entirely unique, into a set of numbers and checkboxes.

  • Was the correct paperwork completed?
  • Are we in compliance?
  • Did the right person get the right pay raise at the right time?

All of these are important questions, I don’t dispute that for a minute. But in the vast majority of the technology offerings I see in the market, and in more than a few of the HCM consultancy companies, the focus is very much on high level, strategic, considerations and not very much on the people in the organization. The focus is on “which direction the organization needs to move”  without spending time learning if the people that need to implement these plans are on board or capable of moving in that direction.

Without a deep understanding of the people in an organization, these strategies are severely handicapped before they even begin. This would be the same as trying to drive a race car without knowing that it tends to drift to the left at low speeds and third gear is missing. You need to know the people in your organization, your grand strategic plan will not, cannot, succeed without this information.

So here are some steps you can take to put Humans back in Human Capital Management.

1. Learn to talk about people

As with any complex discipline, you need to have a vocabulary for talking about your subject matter. The easiest models I have seen is the Competing Values Framework, but almost any model is better than no model at all (except the MBTI, don’t even get me started). See the article I wrote on how to select a good personality test: 8 simple rules for choosing a Personality Test.

You need to have a model to give you a vocabulary. You need the vocabulary to talk about these issues in your strategy and  communicate this to all levels of the organization (management, operations, HR, etc). A cornerstone of strategy is making sure everyone knows what the strategy is.

2. Consider Culture

Organizational culture might feel like an indefinite, ephemeral construct, but it is very real. Ignoring it will very definitely bite you on the butt. The culture of your company is how people are promoted, how managers deal with employees, the relationships between employees and the organization, the actions that are encouraged, the behaviors that are discouraged, etc. Culture is a web that touches and connects every part of your organization together. You need to know what the culture of your organization is before you make strategic plans.

Again, I gotta recommend the Competing Values Framework for this. Here is an article that talks about the OCAI model, I highly recommend that you read that. Luckily, the model is well known and you can find lots of providers in the marketplace.

3. Think about Values

You can hire people that will do the work and get them all moving in the correct direction and implementing your strategic vision. This is a recipe for success and is the bare minimum that HCM should be doing.

Here is what will take your organization to the next level: passion. Passion (the term of art right now is “engagement”, but I prefer “passion”) happens when the values of employees match up with the values of the organization. Our vocabulary for talking about value is the Schein model of Career Anchors. I made a video about this:


And there you have it. Three not-so-simple, but very important steps for putting Humans back into Human Capital Management. Your comments and feedback are welcome!