When the term “human capital management” (HCM) comes up, it is generally in the context of those who are employed by an organization, and in reference to
performance, productivity and/or engagement. I believe this limits our
thinking, and that viewing critical human capital as encompassing only those in
our employee base is short-sighted. To optimize HCM is to look beyond the org
chart, into a borderless environment which reaches all those who impact, or are
impacted by, our company.
Let’s consider an example: A high-tech company has hundreds of thousands of employees globally distributed and working in a myriad of silos. A central goal of HR executives is to maintain a reasonable degree of alignment, and to insure that the core brand is adequately represented to the stakeholders and constituency of the organization, including consumers, end users, channel partners and affiliated groups.
Given the distance between the corporate entity and the critical end users of the
products and services that the company produces or markets, there are hundreds
(if not thousands) of opportunities for misalignment. Oversight is spread
across multiple units of the company, from HR to Marketing to Sales to Logistics
to Finance, and on and on, while all rolling up to a C-Suite that may (or more
likely may not) agree on the foundation, ideology, principles and values of the
Moving past the boundaries of the organization, you find channels (resellers, VARs, contractors, etc.) that somehow must also be shaped to believe in the
fundamental value and values represented by the company. This is where
marketing meets HCM, where alignment, measurement, willingness and ability come together at that moment of truth when a customer is faced with a decision to either buy into (via a purchase) or step away from a relationship with the
organization and brand.
In a perfect-world, the goals and objectives of the CEO would cascade through and across the company, into the global stakeholder organizations, moving through them into the hearts and minds of customers, suppliers and investors. I ask you, when have you seen this happen?
At the center of HCM are the vision, values, and beliefs that define the near-term and long-term aspirations of the company. As you move away from the core, you have to ask, “are the goals, objectives, metrics and messaging that transport these beliefs across not just the company but the value-chain that includes channel and consumer factions – and supply chain too, for that matter – reinforced by the strategic, tactical and logistical elements that encompass all stakeholders?” If you take a holistic point of view (and this doesn’t matter if you run a chain of dry cleaning shops or a complex, global enterprise) and if you seek
out disconnects in the system, you will identify all the places that will benefit from added focus.
Your value chain is as strong as your most enduring links, but also as vulnerable as the weakest links. By considering the human capital issues and opportunities for reinforcement and growth at all levels of the expanded corporate “family”, you create new, significant moments of truth for building synergies and momentum.
Some questions to consider might be:
- Do your communications and messaging to your employees line up with the messages you are delivering to your channel and/or your consumers/end-users?
- Do you provide learning opportunities for development of your channel and consumers as well as your employees? Are the training interventions relevant to their specific needs? Do they reinforce the mission, vision and values of the company, it’s brand(s) and product(s)?
- How do you address the “willingness” of the entire chain to behaviorally demonstrate their support, advocacy and loyalty to the direction of your organization and the value of your products/services?
- Are your measures consistent with the financial as well as cultural, marketing and related non-financial positioning you are seeking to secure with your entire chain, from key suppliers to channels and end users?
By starting at this high-level vantage point, you will open up successive opportunities to engage on a more meaningful level with all your most important stakeholders. Some examples of companies that do this exceptionally well are Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Stonyfield Farms, and FedEx. I believe each of these organizations carry their HCM initiatives well beyond their associates, and do a particularly good job of actualizing their relationships with partners, resellers and consumers. As such, they are seen as icons or at the very least, as category
leaders. There is no reason your company can’t develop and adopt the
practices and protocols that will more firmly connect all those who interact
with your brand, products or services.