Article by Dr. John Sullivan & Master Burnett
Last week we introduced the concept of an employment product manager, an individual who would oversee the development and positioning of employment opportunities using approaches similar to those used by product managers in a products company.
This week we will turn our attention to the development of a prototype job description for such a role and explore where the role should be positioned in the modern organization.
However, before we begin, we would like to take a quick opportunity to respond to several questions that arose following last week’s introduction of the concept.
Question One: Do you think the time will come when employees will ever be willing to “pay” for the opportunity to work for a specific company? Or are they doing that already?(Submitted by Maureen Sharib of the ERE community.)
This is a great question, and one that gets to the very distinction our previous article was trying to make. The answer is that we believe employees are already paying for the opportunity to work for a specific company, they are just doing so using a currency we often do not consider. If you look at employment opportunities as products, each with a unique set of features and you look at talent as consumers, it becomes clear that talent buys employment opportunities using a combination of currencies that include time, motivation/commitment, skill/knowledge application, etc.
Many organizations already demonstrate the flip-side of this mentality, viewing talent as the asset being acquired primarily because organizations use a more traditional currency to pay for it. In reality, a true barter system is a play. To make the most of such a system, we have to become as adept at marketing unique opportunities as talent does at packaging a unique combination of skills, knowledge, and abilities.
Prior to asking this question, Sharib indicated concern that the vast majority of the talent population do not have what it takes to respond to an employment opportunity and that until the masses stop manifesting the “soup to nuts” expectations they have of employers, they will not respond to the concept of product marketing.
While not phrased as a question, this point is a critical one. While product marketing would most certainly become an output of implementing a formal employment product management role, product management and product marketing is not the same thing. The role of the product manager would not be to position an existing set of employment products, but rather manage the development of new ones and the revision of existing ones using a defined methodology.
With regards to talent not being capable of responding to employment opportunities, our response is simply that the inability of them to do so is our fault. When a product fails to generate the demand and consumption by a target customer group, it is because:
- The product did not meet the perceived needs of the consumers.
- The product was not positioned appropriately.
- The product was not visible to consumers.
- The product was not priced so as to contribute to the perception of best value.
- The product sucked.
Sales professionals have long understood that to make a successful sale you must be able to align expectations. The HR profession has long practiced the art of inflating expectations, not setting realistic ones that can be delivered on. Nearly every piece of recruitment marketing that exists today communicates a bland, non-descript employment opportunity that does little to establish expectations among the talent population you hope will respond. We use terms like “employer of choice,” that lack a consistent definition, which enables the talent to develop their own definition, one rarely if ever communicated to the employer. When customers are permitted to establish their own expectations in secret, your chances of meeting them as an employer are slim to none.
Question Two: I can easily see how companies that can execute this concept would develop a true competitive advantage in the labor market, but how realistic do you think it is that HR would ever be given enough authority to formally manage employment opportunities given that a large portion of what defines an opportunity is controlled by line managers? (Submitted by Todd Kaufmann via e-mail)
This is, for lack of a better word, a phenomenal question. The human resource profession has historically (and continues to) position itself as an administrative function. While many human resource leaders were granted a seat at the table under the auspices that their functions could contribute strategically, in reality, few functions ever transitioned beyond the realm of transactions. Our current position can also partially be attributed to the lack of a standards organization to provide leadership to the function, but that is another topic. Luckily, organizations may be more ready for the employment product manager than many current HR professionals perceive.
Around the globe, traditional HR leaders are being tossed aside, replaced with professionals from operations, finance, marketing, and in some rare cases, engineering. This trend signifies that corporate leaders not only expect the development of business infrastructure within the human resource profession, they demand it and will supplant any human barrier that stands in the way. Could the role of an employment product manager be established in a traditional HR organization? Maybe. But it is much more likely to be established in a category-killing organization that demonstrates they value top talent as opposed to merely talking about it!
To everyone who commented online or via e-mail, we thank you for contributing to a concept that could change the profession. Now on to that prototype job description.
The Employment Product Manager Job Profile
As you know, we hate job descriptions but accept that they play a role in our profession. What follows is an overview and list of major responsibilities for the role of employment product manager and a review of the basic skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to perform the role. (If you would like to add to the profile, we welcome your insights.)
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The employment product manager plays a leadership role in the employment opportunity development process.
Strategically, this position partners with senior corporate leaders and the human resource function to craft employment opportunities throughout the enterprise that are seen as viable career opportunities by the world’s most elite talent.
Tactically, the employment product manager develops comprehensive employment product definitions that define the employee experience required and outlines the characteristics of all systems, processes, and organizational interactions required to deliver the requisite experience to a predetermined level of measurable quality.
This role owns the entire employment product development life cycle, from conducting market research and developing employment product definitions to delivering the products to market and troubleshooting/resolving any systemic issues that arise.
Employment Product Manager Responsibilities
The role of the employment product manager is one that involves both strategic and tactical deliverables. Approximately 40% of the managers’ time should be dedicated to strategic deliverables, while 60% should be allocated to tactical delivery. The major responsibilities in both categories are outlined here:
Strategic responsibilities include:
- Participating in workforce feasibility discussions regarding all new business concepts and initiatives, and strategic plans for existing operations.
- Consulting business managers during the development of business plans and work allocation models.
- Ensuring that optimal labor allocation plans demonstrate significant value for target labor segments, including full-time labor, part-time labor, temporary labor, outsourced labor, offshored labor, strategic partner labor, acquired component labor, and workforce automation; and that said labor can be secured at a total cost point that would deliver an acceptable benefit to the organization.
- Ensuring all resources needed and organizational experiences required to secure top talent are defined to the extent that requisite systems to ensure delivery can be developed through the human resource function in partnership with line and corporate management.
- Supporting and consulting in build vs. buy analysis for talent.
- Creating proof-of-concept documents that validate proposed employment products will deliver on labor requirements.
Tactical responsibilities include:
- Creating the employment product requirements definition (EPRD). This document outlines the specifications/requirements of employment opportunities needed to satisfy the expectations of pre-determined talent pools.
- Working with various human resource departments and functional leaders to ensure that human capital management systems developed conform to the requirements stated in the EPRD.
- Facilitating human capital management system design review meetings.
- Facilitating resolution of systemic employment issues.
- Working with line management to provide support.
- Working with organizational quality management staff to develop robust test plans and talent acceptance test plans.
- Creating employment product delivery plans, including work assignments, key milestones, timelines, deliverables, and product evaluation analytics.
- Facilitating employee/candidate perception testing (market research) when applicable.
- Working with other business functions to coordinate interdependencies and resolve issues.
- Reporting to the executive committee on the positioning of the enterprise and its component groups as an employer.
- Collaborating with product marketing professionals to outline the employment brand development strategy and ensure developed communications conform to messaging requirement outlined in the EPRD.
Employment Product Manager Requirements
The employment product manager role is a complex strategic-level role. To adequately perform all of the responsibilities defined above, organizations should look for individuals with the following combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities:
- Prior experience with product development or in-depth understanding of product development methodologies, combined with demonstrated project-management expertise.
- Ability to perform and oversee multiple complex projects.
- Ability to manage several timetables successfully in collaborative cross-functional environments.
- Demonstrated ability to quickly understand complex issues in human relations.
- Demonstrated ability to understand the business, and the core product/service development life cycles that the labor force must execute.
- Must be comfortable speaking in front of large groups that consist of a cross-functional group of management and line managers.
- Must understand abstraction layers between the “big picture” and the detail-orientated, and be comfortable working in both arenas.
- Good at troubleshooting, root-cause analysis, and remedy of systemic employment issues.
- Ability to effectively lead and influence cross-functional teams.
- Must be able to motivate others outside of direct reporting line.
Positioning the Employment Product Manager Role
Place this role within the enterprise such that it can wield a significant degree of organizational power and influence. Burying this role in the staffing department, or the human resource function, would all but kill the opportunity for this role to achieve its objectives.
It is clear based on past experience that for this role to succeed, it must exist as a leadership role within the executive operations rank. The optimal position for this role would be one directly reporting to a matrix of C-level executives including the CEO, CFO, and COO.
The time for change is now. The human resources function and the staffing departments cannot continue to exist as isolated, non-integrated units in service to the business. They must become part of the business. Look at employment opportunities as products, and formally manage their development and delivery across the enterprise using a methodology and infrastructure consistent with that which drives the development and delivery of the organization’s core products and services. Are you ready?