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HR Technology: “Do Your Own Thing” – Even in Light of Ch-Ch-Changes


When federal agencies talk about major changes, they often inspire fear and resistance. For good reason: studies over the years indicate that the failure rate for organizational projects stands at 60 to 70 percent.

In light of ever-advancing talent management analytics, however, change is inevitable. As the recently departed David Bowie sang, “Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes.” Yet, another classic rock lyric aptly summarizes the resulting pushback, from Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”: “I’ve been afraid of changing, because I’ve built my life around you.”

Departmental Autonomy

In this case, “you” refers to the sense of autonomy that individual agency HR units have grown accustomed to, over processes which they’ve developed to work smarter, faster and better. They’ve come up with their own best practices to address recruitment, hiring, onboarding, performance appraisals, training, engagement initiatives, etc. They do not want a new “tech thing” to be “forced upon them,” dictating entirely different procedures, undoing everything which has proven successful.

True, processes that are unique among separate units may lead to a decentralized agency structure. But the decentralization serves a useful purpose; it often accommodates and even maximizes the value of each unit’s people and resources.

The Need for Centralization

That said, in seeking a cohesive enterprise view of data related to time to hire, quality of hire, length of employment, career growth, succession planning, etc., Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) and their senior, department-level leaders yearn for consolidation and control. In the interest of elevating the impact of new analytics solutions, they benefit from a single, unified way of gathering reporting metrics on these and other talent management data sources.

So are autonomous, decentralized practices and a single, enterprise view of reporting mutually exclusive? Hardly. Especially as agencies migrate from cumbersome, expensive legacy systems and acquire more forward-thinking, cloud-based analytics.

The Best of Both Worlds

Readily available analytics products today offer uniform reporting, while still allowing for decentralized agency units to continue pursuing their missions in the way which suits them best. In other words, they can “do their own thing” – while CHCOs receive actionable talent management data “in one language.”

Customization remains key. IT vendors are increasingly recognizing that they can no longer force tech to dictate functions. They understand that – if solutions do not adapt to existing, preferred processes – then users will reject the new tech outright. And that’s where the 60 to 70 percent failure rate comes into play, wasting too much time and taxpayer dollars.

To make this work, CHCOs should define their “must have” data points. Then, the solution has to collect and report these data points in a user-friendly, automated manner. At the same time, the solution must be flexible enough for individual HR units to customize and otherwise configure it around their unique and essential processes, so they are not disrupted.

In addition, the solution should adapt to future processes, so the units can continue to build upon best practices, incorporating approaches which are more efficient and effective. Thus, it extends the potential for optimal workflows – even setting the table for new, more revealing talent management reporting data for CHCOs and other HR leaders to consider in their strategic achievement of larger, enterprise-wide goals.

In the end, everybody wins. Agency units keep “doing their own thing” with tools which align to their processes, instead of blocking them. In turn, the units generate required analytics for CHCOs, and discover new streams of data to enhance reporting. The CHCOs, meanwhile, receive the reporting in a consolidated, coherent presentation. With this, ch-ch-change is universally embraced agency-wide – not feared.

Joe Abusamra is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Katarina Hong

Great post! I especially like when you said “customization is key” because it is so true. Thanks for posting!