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Refocusing HR Systems at Canon USA

October 26, 2007
Related Topics: Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Featured Article
I f you ask David Metzger about the most important part of Canon USA's new HR systems, he won't start with the software.

    True, the consumer electronics and imaging company is in the midst of plugging in Oracle PeopleSoft software for employee performance management and installing a new learning management application from Plateau Systems.

    But Metzger, Canon USA's director of management development, is more concerned about employees and processes than bits and bytes. In particular, he's focused on making sure the firm's 2,500 workers develop new habits and practices as part of a broad push to make objective competencies the basis for a better, integrated approach to people management.

    As Canon works to get the PeopleSoft application running by year's end, it also is training managers on Canon's expectations of them as company leaders, including the importance of setting goals collaboratively with employees and checking in throughout the year on their progress.

    The PeopleSoft ePerformance tool can be set up to notify managers with e-mails suggesting they do these things, Metzger says. But in his view, software alone won't make the project succeed.

    "We felt that if it was a system-driven process, people might get the reminders, but they may not emotionally buy into it," he says.

    In preparation for the new technology systems, Canon also spent a great deal of time defining the skills and abilities that matter for its leaders. With the help of consulting firm Development Dimensions International, Metzger and his crew interviewed more than 100 Canon employees about what skills they should demonstrate to be successful now as well as in the future.

    Metzger and Canon USA, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Canon, embody an approach to human capital management software that experts recommend. Technology tools for recruiting, managing and developing people have improved over the years to the point they can help companies make critical talent decisions more effectively. But the best talent management systems will do little for a firm if it doesn't pay attention to why it is using the software, the ways the company may need to do things differently, and employees' potential resistance to or difficulties in using the system.

    Cynthia Guzman, president of consulting firm Epiphany IT Solutions, says Canon USA is wisely remembering the "human" in human capital management. "So many companies put millions of dollars into the software and don't want to spend a dime on training or communication plans," says Guzman, who is helping Canon USA with its ePerformance implementation.

    Metzger is hopeful about Canon USA's competency-based HR push. Approved directly by chief executive Yoroku Adachi, the initiative could eventually reach the bulk of Canon's 11,000 employees in the Western Hemisphere.

    So far the technology projects are on schedule, Metzger says. But, in keeping with his view that the overall effort requires much more than software that runs smoothly, he is cautious. "I'd like to think we're doing the right thing," he says. "But the proof is in the pudding."

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