Sunday, December 6, 2009

Enabling Line Managers -- The Holy Grail

As any of the very talented Product Managers around me at PeopleSoft back in 2000 and 2001 would attest, two staples in my HCM vision pitch were … “Line Manager Enablement” and “Line Managers are the stewards of Human Capital Management.”

The role of Line Managers in core HR processes like Recruiting, Compensation and Performance Management is quite obvious. What is perhaps not as obvious is the role Line Managers play in promoting work/life balance (i.e., healthy, engaged employees); promoting desirable behaviors, values and the target corporate culture overall; and getting employees to create and deliver value commensurate with their potential. So let's never forget that Line Managers hold the biggest key to realizing expected ROI from HR Technology.

At the heart of true Line Manager Enablement via HR Technology (beyond providing supremely intuitive and agile solutions) is having solutions that are aligned with the way Line Managers think about and approach the people management aspects of their job.

Step 1 is to realize that Line Managers are a very diverse group. Some are “data freaks” and want to see, slice and dice as much (potentially relevant) data as possible, including market/competitor data, financial data, strength of competencies, planning and modeling scenarios, etc. Even within this group, some managers much prefer to work with visual or graphical representations, where others are fine with plain old numbers.

Then you have the subset of Line Managers that are minimalists when it comes to data requirements before making workforce-related decisions. They just want to get through the HR process (e.g., doling out increases or bonuses) and return to the other aspects of their job.

One implication of the above for HR Technology implementers is to consider having some type of taxonomy with respect to how different classes of Line Managers want to engage and leverage HCM solutions. Given how arduous and/or costly a task this might be for very large, dispersed organizations, the degree of HCM solution configurability achievable with minimal IT support should ideally extend to the Line Manager User Experience.

And a related suggestion for vendors in this space … consider hiring more product managers and product executives that have spent time working with -- and being answerable to --Line Managers within customer organizations.

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