Laborious task of tracking skills and performance streamlined by technology

Expectations for employee performance are much more fluid than in the past, a reflection of the breakneck pace with which the business environment continues to change

Many HR managers are under pressure to find ways to get the highest return on human capital investments. In most cases this means ensuring talented employees are in the right position, doing their best work in alignment with business objectives.

Overall business objectives must flow down through the organization, dovetailing right to the individual responsibilities and career goals, ultimately shaping manager’s expectations for employee performance.

Organizations must clearly define and communicate talent expectations as well as the competencies and knowledge each employee must acquire.

At the same time, expectations for employee performance are much more fluid than in the past, a reflection of the breakneck pace with which the business environment continues to change.

For example, instead of replacing departing employees, it is common in many organizations for work responsibilities to be reassigned within the group. An employee’s job title may not change, but the scope of work is broadened significantly, requiring the acquisition of new skills. Likewise, employees who take on special projects in addition to their day-to-day jobs or who are temporarily seconded to other parts of the organization, may require additional skills.

To meet these challenges, a growing number of organizations have moved from a more static job-role based compensation process to more comprehensive talent management programs — the practice of recruiting, training, evaluating, compensating and promoting employees, all within the context of big picture organizational goals.

And while adapting a talent management model can be an enormous undertaking, recent human resources management systems (HRMS) solutions have evolved to make it easier.

In the past, the task of capturing, measuring, and developing the skills of employees and matching them to business objectives was a laborious process. With technology, today’s businesses can automate and streamline the process which entails:

•identifying the competencies and skills required for each job;

•matching people to those jobs;

•recording deployment constraints and preferences;

•setting targets and measuring competencies;

•improving skills with integrated training; and

•conducting appraisals and career planning.

To make the transition from a job-based to skills-based system, business leaders and HR decision-makers need to have a clear picture of the skills, competencies and expectations of the entire organization right down to the detail of what each employee does.

Incentive compensation programs should reward skills and learning that contribute to the overall success and bottom line. The HR department should be able to track progress across departments to establish whether the application of newly attained skills materially affects an organizational outcome. If a company introduces vertical industry training for its product sales representatives, it should have the ability to track the resulting sales activities to measure the program’s efficiency and return on investment.

A technology framework for talent management

Today’s advanced HRMS solutions, with built-in analytical capabilities and business intelligence tools, provide frameworks for corporate talent management and continuous process improvement. There are tools that can provide strategic analysis of an organization’s or department’s key performance indicators and the skills which match these indicators. A competency gap analysis report can then be generated to determine which of these skills the organization has and which ones it still needs.

Internet-enabled technologies also assist in administering skills-based programs. Managers can quickly access online resources to review employee competencies and training, and conduct automated assessments as part of their regular planning, development and evaluation process.

This readily available information gives managers the ability to compare skills against job-suitability criteria. This frees HR personnel from having to perform competency analysis and removes unnecessary barriers between management and the information they need for optimal proficiency.

In addition, by providing training online through an HR system, employees can complete the training according to their individual schedules, with minimum disruption to their daily work.

Proving fair evaluations

HR systems can also be used to ensure and document fairness in the rating of employees. By having an online, standardized process of recording employee performance, appraisals are more likely to be based on how well an employee actually completes the job rather than the personal sentiment of a manager.

An HR system can help an organization meet its legal obligations. On June 1, 2004, Quebec will enact legislation with the purpose of eliminating psychological harassment in the workplace. For an organization to effectively comply with this legislation one of the first crucial steps is to educate employees on psychological harassment and the avenues for recourse should it occur.

HR systems can be used to deliver consistent information, knowledge and training across the enterprise, accurately identify individual and team knowledge gaps, and deliver the appropriate learning to close those gaps. The system also provides an online record of the organization’s efforts to comply with legislation.

However, as indispensable an HR system is to developing an effective talent management program, it cannot be left to technology alone. Judging an employee’s value in relation to the attainment and application of new skills will remain a managerial call.

Karen Williams is the HRMS sales consulting manager for Oracle Corporation Canada based in Mississauga, Ont. Caroline Beach is product manager, talent management, Oracle Corporation based in Redwood Shores, Calif.

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