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Three Wrongs When it Comes to Profiles in HCM Technology

We have to admit it - the modern world loves profiles.  Every major service that “sticks” has a profile component that is meant to describe us.  HR technology isn’t an exception. Every major vendor has made at least some attempts to position their profile components as truly central elements of their suite.  So why is it that in the world where the profile is supposed to “rock”, we still know more about people that we are about to hire than about people who actually work for our organizations? 

Here’s my attempt to highlight three reasons why HCM technology has so far failed to deliver a meaningful “employee profile” and few thoughts on what could make it truly better: 

1. Today’s profiles are based on inaccurate, outdated, practically meaningless pieces of data.  You want examples? Basing your employee profiles on titles, completion of formal learning and alignment of few organizational goals doesn’t mean anything.  Titles don’t describe what we truly do and they don’t even come close to describing what we are actually good at.  Adding this junk to employee profiles actually does great amount of disservice – we look for wrong things based on wrong data – no wonder people in most companies feel unappreciated – the root of all evil is in a simple fact - they are not described correctly!

2. The most key of all profile components – performance management data – is lacking any and all meaning.  You can only find stars in the dark when they shine.  Assigning a performance review score to someone once a year and more importantly basing that very score on a junky set of corporate objectives that are about 10 times outdated since the day they were set is a crime.  HR should be literally held liable for managing performance in organizations using this outdated method, yet most companies still don’t see the light.  Lines of business are significantly more agile than human resources teams – the result is a drastic disparity between effort, excellence, true contributions and formal measures of those contributions that ought to comprise the fundamental platform for all decisions related to people management in organizations.  I’d like to go slightly further and propose that performance management data should comprise the “fundamental platform” that I am advocating for all decision making related to people.  But this simply can’t happen if today most organizations can’t use performance reviews to actually improve performance and can’t set goals that align with the agility that is increasingly instilled in their lines of business.  Why don’t startups in Silicon Valley implement HR technology with the same priority that they assign to the implementation of Google Apps?  Nobody can see any benefits associated with it.  In fact, most startup engineering executives believe that their teams will quit somewhere in the middle of their first performance review, if it was to be conducted in the same old way that creates friction and lacks meaning.  There is some true innovation that is finally happening on this very topic and I will dedicate upcoming blogs specifically to this, but this transformation simply can’t happen fast enough.

3. Profiles should be social and many thought leaders in HR Technology have made this claim, but social does not automatically equal goodness. In fact, I’d love to see what kind of debate my next statement would generate.  Social by itself is just a bunch of reckless junk, unless it is implemented in a very business-relevant way. Let me clarify – I don’t want to see self-described social competencies in employee profiles.  Instead I want to see social competencies with community-validated proficiency levels that feed directly into feedback loops and then directly into the process of deriving a formal performance score.  I don’t want to see the manager’s evaluation of employee performance that is done using a tool that auto-populated buzz words into the review form.  Instead, I want to see social elements that allow a team across an organization to offer meaningful, yet also a timely feedback to someone throughout the year. I don’t want to see top level organizational goals that are set at the beginning of the year and entered into the goal management module by the CEO’s assistant or by the head of HR, only to be found on a formal review form later during the year.  Innovation happens with agility and there is just no way to achieve that agility by setting a “monolithic” goal at the beginning of the year.  Innovation happens in weekly iterations, in sprints where goals are set each Monday.  Smart profiles have to let us do the same.

We are ready to transform employee profiles! Who’s got some thoughts on this?  Please chime in and thanks for reading.

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