White Paper. Employee Performance Management: Making it a Reality in your Organization

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1 White Paper Employee Performance Management: Making it a Reality in your Organization The advantages of employee performance management (EPM) are widely recognized today. Thousands of companies have implemented EPM systems enhancing their employee performance appraisals and assessments, and obtaining greater strategic value out of their HR divisions. This is why more than 90 percent of HR professionals rate EPM as a top priority. Yet considerably fewer have EPM systems deployed within their organizations.

2 By any other name EPM and related concepts can be referred to in many different ways. Some of the most common permutations are: Workforce Performance Management Talent Management (a broader category that includes compensation, learning and recruiting) Workforce Lifecycle Management (a broader category that includes incentives and learning) Human Capital Management (a high-level categorization) Getting past the good idea stage The advantages of employee performance management (EPM) are widely recognized today. Thousands of companies have implemented EPM systems enhancing their employee performance appraisals and assessments, and obtaining greater strategic value out of their HR divisions. This is why more than 90 percent of HR professionals rate EPM as a top priority. Yet considerably fewer have EPM systems deployed within their organizations. The reasons for this are many, and almost all of them stem from issues around planning and preparation. A good number of HR professionals express uncertainty about how to begin the process of acquiring an EPM system. Many more have concerns about securing upper management support and financial commitment. Both of these latter considerations hinge on the ability of the HR team to present a persuasive case that the EPM project will be successful and that it will yield a satisfactory return on investment. While there are no short cuts to getting project approval, a structured and thorough approach to selecting, planning for and implementing an EPM solution provides HR managers with strong arguments for their organizations to move forward. This white paper details such an approach, outlining all the key steps involved and indicating ways for HR practitioners to shine a bright light on the benefits of EPM. 2 Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization

3 Building a vendor selection plan To drive the acquisition of an appropriate EPM system, HR managers must establish a vendor selection project plan. This involves creating a timeframe for progressing through eight critical steps: 1) Become familiar with solution pricing 2) Establish organization-specific business needs, priorities and benefit expectations 3) Gaining initial management buy-in 4) Prepare a draft Implementation Plan 5) Evaluate EPM vendors 6) Refine the draft Implementation Plan with preferred vendor in mind 7) Present vendor recommendation to executive 8) Act on executive approval and establishing contract The final stage, following all of the above, is the execution of the Implementation Plan. The following sections explain each of these steps in greater detail. 1. Become familiar with solution pricing This is a straightforward activity that can be completed with minimal effort over the course of a day or two. It is important for an HR manager to appreciate, starting out, how the various offerings available conform to his or her organization s budget. Any of the top vendors should be willing to estimate rough costs for this purpose, and many provide licensepricing figures on their websites Establish organization-specific business needs, priorities and benefit expectations To establish the business needs of their organization, HR managers should begin by documenting their current employee appraisal processes. Any modifications to this process changes that it is hoped can be achieved through EPM automation should also be noted. It is critically important that the organization s own unique needs are captured through this exercise. While vendors may offer generic matrices for evaluating requirements and benefits, these are of little use if a company s essential EPM needs areas are left out of the equation. The ability to achieve a strong return on investment which will be discussed further in this paper derives in large part from the requirements defined at this early stage. 1 Halogen Software is one such vendor. For pricing, visit: Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization 3

4 The following points indicate the kinds of pains organizations typically face with respect to managing employee performance: Lack of goal alignment Employees are not focused on organizational priorities, wasting effort Inefficient appraisal process Employees and managers spend too much time on appraisals rather than main business functions HR spends too much time on process rather than optimizing human resources Appraisal work is lost through clumsy electronic document handling (e.g. loss of file attachments, etc.) Failure to complete appraisals/unprofessional appraisal process Resulting in situations where top performers are being lost, employees are dissatisfied and productivity is affected Creating risks around accreditation Creating risks around litigation and cost for wrongful dismissals Whether these or other so-called pain points are identified and an organization-specific set of requirements is laid out, HR practitioners can then view top vendors marketing materials and online demos, knowing exactly what they are looking for. Following that kind of brief survey, it is a good idea to revisit the original requirements list and subdivide it into mandatory and desirable elements as in the following example: MANDATORY Easy creation of appraisal form and process workflow Goal and competency management Line manager authoring aids including spell check, language sensitivity and comment helper Automated reminders Development plan recording and reporting DESIRED Sophisticated workflow capabilities Performance journal Electronic signature Seamless integration with merit-based compensation programs Customizations available if needed Centralized at-a-glance process status view 4 Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization

5 Beware what some refer to as advanced VCR features : the sophisticated bells and whistles vendors tend to promote with their solutions. These may be tantalizing but not practical, and can add unnecessary costs and complexity At this stage, HR leaders should outline the benefits they expect their organizations to achieve by implementing an EPM system. This is always a crucial component of any presentation to management. EPM benefits extend from the line manager and end-user level through HR and out across the entire enterprise. Some of the most cited benefits include: ORGANIZATION-WIDE Improved goal alignment Higher appraisal-completion rate Better-quality appraisals HR DIVISION Reduced administration time Complete status reporting Simpler way of meeting compliance/ legal requirements LINE MANAGER/END USER Ease of completion (writing assistance) Faster completion Clear direction re: requirements for completion 3. Gain initial management buy-in Once they have laid this groundwork, HR managers are in a solid position to approach their organization s executive team and win support for taking the EPM solution-selection process forward. Essentially, this requires: A summary of the organization s pains and requirements, and a description of how an EPM solution will address those. A brief presentation of general costs based on the estimates gathered from solution providers. A clear outline of the next steps in the process, including: vendor selection (estimated at two months, encompassing the establishment of evaluation criteria, identification and evaluation of top vendors), and implementing the solution (estimated at one month). Armed with such information, the management team is likely to approve moving ahead with the EPM evaluation process. Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization 5

6 4. Prepare a draft Implementation Plan The Implementation Plan covers the period after the eventual contract is signed up to completion of the first appraisal process. The plan should include: software installation training set up of appraisal forms and processes population of user data launch monitoring of the live process Once a vendor is selected, the timeframe associated with each of these tasks can be defined with greater precision; because of their different methodologies, vendors often assign a slightly different effort and duration to these steps. 5. Evaluate EPM vendors Most organizations allow two to four weeks for this part of the process. Based on their own research and on the advice of industry analysts, HR managers should prepare a shortlist of companies to evaluate. The goals of the evaluation process are to: a) Ensure that the EPM solution can support all steps of the organization s appraisal process. b) Compare the solution s capabilities with the mandatory and desirable requirements established during stage 2. c) Verify that the product will deliver the expected benefits. The best way to assess a vendor s suitability is to request a product demonstration. HR managers should ask vendors to create and demonstrate using their system at least one of their organization s existing appraisal forms as a proof of concept. It is common for organizations to require multiple demonstrations of the product to make an informed and confident decision: don t hesitate to ask to see it again. The evaluation stage is also an appropriate time to request detailed, multi-year costing including license fees, installation fees, implementation fees, training fees, hosting fees, maintenance, support and any other applicable fees. To ensure that your assessment is objective and focused, it is best to make use of a well-defined evaluation form. 6 Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization

7 An example of such a form is provided below. Vendor A Vendor B Vendor C Features - Mandatory Goal and Competency Management Y Y Y Development Planning Y Y Y Sophisticated Automated Workflow Y N N Automated Reminders Y Y N Comment Help Y Y N Spell Check Y Y Y Y Y Y Language Sensitivity Check Y Y N Ease of Use For End Users Y N Y Ease of Use For HR Administrators Y Y Y Highly Configurable Without IT Involvement Y N Y Support For Focal, Anniversary & Probationary Y Y Y Features - Optional Electronic Signature Y Y Y 365 Day Performance Journal Y Y Y Integration With Compensation Y Y Y Multi-rater / 360 Integration Y Y Y Current Number of Customers References Good Weak Good Pricing Year 1 Costs $20,000 $15,000 $30,000 Year 2 Costs $4,400 $12,000 $6,000 Year 3 Costs $4,400 $12,000 $6,000 Year 4 Costs $4,400 $12,000 $6,000 Year 5 Costs $4,400 $12,000 $6,000 Once this form is completed, the results can be tallied for each of the vendors under consideration and a clear leader should emerge for recommendation to management. Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization 7

8 In the case of the figure above, Vendor A s solution is slightly more expensive to implement, but the annual costs are considerably lower. (For this reason, it is essential to request multi-year pricing from each vendor being considered.) In fact, Vendor A and C employ a perpetual licensing model, whereas Vendor B sells its software as a service meaning that at the end of year five customers may have to renew at higher rates to preserve their databases. Some organizations require detailed return-on-investments data; others don t. Those that do should ask their selected vendor to help calculate ROI or provide client case studies that document other customers investment returns using their EPM solution. Outside of the solution itself, it is valuable to know as much about each vendor as possible. How viable is the company? How many EPM customers EPM specifically has it served? Do check the references provided; a frank and friendly conversation with someone already using the vendor s solution can yield priceless insights, especially when it comes to support and customization. Finally, there are other considerations to be factored in to the decision: Application hosting is this to be done at the customer site, or the vendor s? Either way, the pros and cons must be weighed carefully. In-house hosting can put strains on an organization s IT department and potentially compromise responsiveness if the system requires support; external hosting by the vendor raises questions about security (of customer data and the hosted environment itself), reliability and scalability. Customer profile depending on an organization s size and needs, some vendors may be more appropriate than others. HR managers should review the logos or customer lists on each potential vendor s website. A small or medium-sized organization, for example, may not wish to sign on with a vendor whose customers are primarily Fortune 500 companies; it s possible the smaller company will suffer from lack of mindshare when it comes to support or contributing to product direction. 6. Refine the draft Implementation Plan with preferred vendor in mind Prior to making a presentation to their corporate executive team, HR managers are advised to refine the draft Implementation Plan, tailoring it to the methodology of their selected vendor. This ensures that the organization s leadership has as complete a perspective on the EPM implementation as possible, which in practice has been found to help secure support and buy-in. 8 Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization

9 7. Present vendor recommendation to executive Generally, company executives want to be confident and to see that their HR managers are confident in the prospects for a successful EPM implementation under the chosen vendor. While they do not typically require extensive detail, the high-level overview they seek includes: A clear definition of the expected benefits A clear rationale for the choice of vendor (which the completed evaluation form and associated information will provide) An understanding of why competing vendors were not chosen A price comparison between all vendors; and A solid implementation project plan. The chosen vendor will usually be happy to help prepare for and even participate in this presentation, if desired. Certain questions routinely come up during these presentations. HR managers who prepare for them in advance will be well-positioned to garner support for the chosen vendor. One of the most crucial is often: Can we complete the work in time for our next appraisal process? The answer should be accounted for in the Implementation Plan. As well, the chosen vendor should be able to provide examples of customers who implemented their solutions successfully in a short space of time. Will our data be confidential? This is most critical for vendor-hosted solutions. Be sure to have a description from the vendor of the security and reliability of its hosting environment prior to the management meeting. What is the return on investment? Having established an ROI estimate with the vendor ahead of time will help address this question. 8. Act on executive approval and establish contract Once the executive team approves the selected vendor (which should be the outcome of the presentation described above if the groundwork has been laid properly and the required information has been communicated effectively), the organization can firm up contract details with the vendor based on the requirements and Implementation Plan that have been developed and refined previously. HR managers are advised to capitalize on the momentum gained during the evaluation process to move ahead with the contract. Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization 9

10 Execute the Implementation Plan With a contract in place, the organization is now ready to carry out the Implementation Plan and launch its EPM system. The most important consideration is that the EPM solution ultimately chosen must satisfy the particular requirements of the organization in question. Flexibility and adaptability are key factors, as is the vendor s performance history. As with any technology/business-process project, there are always unexpected occurrences to contend with. An established vendor with a base of loyal customers is likely to have demonstrated the ability to identify and respond effectively to such contingencies in the past. While no single plan works for all organizations alike, the approach detailed in this paper will help HR managers demonstrate their due diligence when proposing an EPM solution to their executive team. About Halogen Software Halogen Software ensures HR is certain to succeed with powerful, simple to use Talent Management solutions that put HR in control. Our practical, affordable approach makes it easy for HR to align their workforce, improve productivity and develop human capital as a competitive advantage. Halogen helps HR to be strategic to be brilliant at Talent Management. 10 Employee Performance Management: Making it a reality in your organization

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