iQoncept - Fotolia

HCM tools best as an enabler of human interaction

For human capital management to truly live up to its name, software buyers must make sure their old-school core HR functions work well with trendy talent management suites.

"Coffee Talk with Linda Richman," a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live, had Mike Myers imitating his then mother-in-law in big hair, long nails and a thick New York accent spitting out topics. "The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Discuss." A cynic might enjoy such wordplay with human capital management, which sounds anything but human in treating people like capital -- and management is sometimes more wish than reality. But unlike the provocative hypotheses in "Coffee Talk," the challenge with HCM software and processes is to make them live up to the plain meaning of every word.

HCM tools can help employees reach their full human potential and enable organizations to humanely accumulate, nurture and retain a resource that is often more valuable than monetary capital. Managing the moving parts effectively -- people plus technology -- is a real accomplishment for companies that are plagued with disconnected systems, lame HR processes and workers walking out the door faster than they can be replaced.

The challenge is to assemble a well-fitted suite of HCM tools that handles the old-school HR functions -- payroll, employee records, benefits administration, maybe a self-service portal -- while excelling at the talent-management processes through which people are recruited, trained, compensated and encouraged to perform to their true potential.

The best HCM tools do both parts equally well, but with the talent management component so often delivered as software as a service (SaaS) -- and legacy systems holding on for core HR -- many organizations face deployment decisions that can interfere with higher goals. That's especially true when hybrid SaaS and on-premises systems aren't well integrated.

Regardless, the basic route to choosing and implementing HCM software is well-trod, even if the details threaten to bedevil anyone who sets out on it. Start by learning the elements of an HCM business case. Develop a working understanding of how the many cloud options differ from the on-premises ones. Finally, talk to consultants, analysts and successful users about what it takes to truly unite core HR and talent management. The solution may involve mapping out an integration and data-cleansing strategy, but as with any discipline involving fallible humans, scarce capital and difficult management issues, realizing the full potential of HCM tools requires good connections among people and processes. That's true whether the technology helps or gets in the way.

As Linda Richman would say: "Talk amongst yourselves."

Next Steps

Read how Oracle views HCM integration

Integrate SuccessFactors and SAP HCM

Learn how platform as a service can help

Dig Deeper on Social HR and collaboration strategies