New Performance Technology? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Performance Technology
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You’ve purchased one of the new performance management software programs for your company, or you’ve decided to finally turn on the performance module in your current HR system. You’ve spent quality time with the IT team to ensure the thing is properly configured to match your company’s needs. You’ve developed a great training program, materials for managers and employees, and you’ve held successful training and kick-off sessions.

You’re all set to launch a new technology that is going to make managers’ and employees’ lives easier and more productive. What could possibly go wrong?

Will the Tool Be Used Right?

The wild card in performance management — as in many other things — is people. They’re going to surprise you in ways you didn’t predict. The great majority of supervisors and managers do not enjoy talking about performance with employees. They’ve learned early on not to touch a hot stove, and likewise, they view performance reviews as a painful and unproductive process to be avoided by any means necessary. Throwing a party to introduce a newfangled stove isn’t going to convince them to put their hands on it immediately.

I recently configured and rolled out ADP’s Performance and Goals modules on my company’s HR platform. Historically, the company hadn’t placed a high priority on regular performance reviews with employees. Performance reviews were sporadic, forms were antiquated and managers had little training in performance management. A new leadership team wanted a culture with a stronger focus on employees’ well being, including development and training.

An ADP Workforce Now upgrade to the HR system provided the means to reengineer and move the performance management process online, and it seemed like a good time to take the plunge.

And it was. But, as with any new technology, there were bumps in the road to a fully successful implementation. Here are two things I learned from the experience:

  • Managers who don’t like having performance conversations can leverage technology to avoid face-to-face interactions with employees. My company is located entirely in Southern California, and all employees are easily within reach of each other. Yet, a number of managers conducted their performance reviews electronically, with no face-to-face contact with employees. The configuration of the system permitted them to do so. I failed to predict this behavior. (I know. I know. It seems obvious with the benefit of hindsight.) Unhappy and disappointed employees were the result.
  • Glitches arise in the rollout of any new technology. I’m not talking about major system failures or stoppages, but annoying issues that distract and slow down a manager who is trying to get a job done: a link that doesn’t work as promised or a SAVE feature that fails to actually save a draft review. System issues like this can drive some managers crazy and lead them to discredit the entire new system and process.

We worked through these issues at my company. First, we enhanced managers’ training to reinforce the company’s expectation that performance reviews are personal, face-to-face meetings with employees focused primarily on development. We introduced Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni’s book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, as a resource to help managers structure conversations with employees.

The initial system glitches were also resolved. They were annoying, but minor. Subsequent technology rollouts included more testing to reduce unexpected problems.

Moving performance reviews online has been a successful project. An advantage of the technology is that it provides better tracking to ensure employees receive timely reviews. Employee feedback on the new process led to enhanced coaching and development training for managers.

The company’s most recent survey reported that two-thirds of employees felt they had benefited from a more meaningful conversation with their managers about their strengths and development opportunities during the performance review meetings.

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