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Human Capital Management – The Paper Trail of Strategic Human Capital Management

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In general, too little emphasis is placed on the documentation necessary for the strategic Human Capital Management and Planning of the organisation’s IT Human Capital.  Especially the expectations of IT staff in terms of current position and prospects within the organisation.  An employment contract and a one-page description of broad responsibilities is about the most that an average IT employee can expect from their employer.  And this is seldom kept current and up-to-date.

The “administrative” side of IT Human Capital Management is well organized, with employment forms, leave forms, remuneration administration, etc.  But the “harder” issues of job responsibilities, deliverables, performance, competency management and career and succession planning are less well organized.

But what else should there be, and why?

Consider, when an organisation invests in a high-cost asset to improve it’s production flow and profitability, what is the normal procedure?  A feasibility study, a preparation of a Request for Proposal and the Selection Criteria, an in-depth evaluation of available products, an in-depth review of suppliers, a Purchase Agreement, a Maintenance Agreement, a Service Level Agreement, etc, etc.  Would any organization seriously consider a major investment on the basis of a Specification Sheet and a Company Order – I don’t think so!  Then why is this considered sufficient for our Human Capital – the “means of production” in the Information Age?  We need to take lessons from the “Manufacturing” era and apply them to the “Information” era instead of “re-inventing the wheel”.

The basic documents needed for effective strategic IT Human Capital Management are:

  • a Strategic Workforce Plan,
  • an Organization Structure Diagram,
  • a Job (or Function) Description,
  • a Competency Profile,
  • a Performance Plan, and
  • a Career Development Plan.

Strategic Workforce Plan

The Strategic Workforce Plan is the primary document for ensuring that the IT organization has the skills and competencies needed to drive the organization’s strategy.  As with any planning process, the plan starts with a focus on the planned activities needed to achieve the IT and organization’s strategic plan.  The Strategic Workforce Plan identifies the skills and competencies needed to perform the activities according to the timeframe and quality of the Strategic Plan, and maps the path to ensure that they are in place when needed.

Organization Structure Diagram

The structure of the organization is the formal way in which people and work are grouped into defined units.  It establishes common focus by creating standard processes, access to information, a common chain of authority, and provides employees with an identifiable “home” within the larger organization.  The Organization Structure Diagram is usually the first step of the Organization Design process.  It is about selecting a structure that is most likely to support development of the required organizational capabilities, defines the roles in the structure, and clarifies the points of interface between them.  Choosing the right structure depends on the particular focus of the strategy, complexity of the business, and size of the organization.

Job (Function) Description

The Job (or Function) Description (JD) is an integral part of the Organization Design (OD) process.  The organization structure diagram represents the structure that ensures that the organisation is able to achieve its strategies and goals, and the JD describes the role that each individual function plays in the overall plan.  A job is a collection of responsibilities, tasks and outcomes that an employee is expected to deliver.  Typically, job descriptions are used for advertising to fill an open position, determining compensation, and they are the main “contract” in terms of the tasks that need to be accomplished for Labour Relations Act purposes.  But JDs are also the primary documents for Career Development Planning and Remuneration benchmarking and planning.  They should be in as much detail as is necessary to give effect to the strategy.

Competency Profile

The Competency Profile describes, in measurable detail, the competencies and levels of competencies expected to be able to fulfil the requirements of the JD.  Employees in the same Function are expected to have the same competencies, at least.  Typically, Competency Profiles are used to assess competence, to create development plans, to guide career development and succession planning, to determine compensation, and are taken into account in the Performance Plan, and career and succession planning.

Performance Plan

A performance plan describes, in measurable, objective terms (preferably metrics), the results that an employee should achieve.  Previously it was popular to have defined appraisal periods.  Recent thinking on the subject suggests that appraisal against a performance plan should be on a continual basis, with the performance plan itself being reviewed at least annually.  This allows the appraisal process to be developmental.  The objectives described in the performance plan should directly relate to the responsibilities described in the job description, and the goals and strategies of the organisation.  The Performance Plan is used by management to guide employees towards goals and ensure that important goals are achieved, and is a tool that a manager can use to provide employees with developmental feedback and advice on a continual basis.

Career Development Plan

A career development plan is a written listing of the short- and long-term goals that an employee has pertaining to current and future jobs, and a planned sequence of formal and informal experiences to assist the employee in achieving their goals.  The goals are linked to the strategies of the organisation as well as the person’s potential.  Ultimately, the purpose of a career development plan is to assist employees in achieving their goals and, in so doing, the organisation increases the likelihood of retaining the employee.  It also assists management with succession plans.  The career development plan helps employees set realistic expectations of career growth, by suggesting time frames for certain milestones to happen (like promotions) and identifying areas that a worker needs to develop before becoming eligible for the next career milestone.  The career development plan does not, however, represent a commitment to the employee – it is merely a plan.

And Who should be Doing all This? …

Too often IT management consider this to be the domain of the HR Department.  Whereas the HR department has the overall responsibility for ensuring that these and the administrative processes are in place, they, generally, just don’t have the overall or in-depth knowledge of the IT environment to give effect to strategic documentation for IT.

So it really IS the responsibility of IT management to provide the thought-leadership and detail for the strategic management of IT human resources, in conjunction with their HR Business Partner.

Future articles will deal with each of these documents in more detail to assist both IT management and HR practitioners responsible for IT HR management.

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