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Performance Management Masterclass

Week 10

How to implement an online performance management system

Online performance management software, or ‘eAppraisals’, can bring a number of significant benefits to your organisation’s performance management including:

  • Gaining visibility of performance and personal development data from across the organisation
  • Getting rid of paperwork and streamlining the administration
  • Automating the approval process
  • Encouraging year-round performance management
  • Higher completion rates
  • Meeting the needs of generation Y and Z employees who expect everything to be accessible online

When making the transition to online performance management you need to choose the right software and implement it correctly, otherwise it can become a hindrance rather than a help. In this guide, we’ll be taking you through the 7 key stages of rolling out performance management software, and sharing our top tips based on our experience of helping organisations to succeed with performance management over the last 10 years.

Stage 1 – Choose your performance management software system

Here are some of the important considerations when choosing appropriate software:

  • Features. Avoid systems that have too many features. Whilst that might sound counter-intuitive, too many features can be distracting for users. Focus on what you really need the system to do and don’t get carried away by gadgets and whizzy dashboards that probably won’t get used!
  • Simplicity. One of the conclusions of the 2014 eReward performance management survey was that online performance software needs to be ‘ridiculously easy to understand’. A good test for this is that if you will need to provide training to employees on how to use it then it’s probably not simple enough.
  • Mobile responsiveness. Use of mobile smartphones and tablets to access data is increasing at an exponential rate. So make sure your software is ‘mobile responsive’ which means that it adjusts the screen layout automatically according to the device and screen size. That will lead to a great experience for mobile users as well as desktop users.
  • HR system integration. Unless you have only a small number of employees, you’ll want your performance system to integrate with your HR software so that you don’t have to update employee data (new joiners, leavers and changes) on both systems.
  • See it in action with live customers. Having a demo of the software is not enough. Visit one or two of their existing customers and see the software in action in a live environment. This will also allow you to get honest feedback about the good and bad points of the software (no software is perfect, despite what the salesperson may tell you!).
  • Data security. It should go without saying that the software should be secure. For cloud-based software, a key question to ask the provider is who hosts their software and data? Are they a well established, reputable hosting company such as Amazon Web Services, Rackspace or Microsoft Azure? Are they ISO 27001 data security certified?

Stage 2 – Prepare your business case and get buy-in

Once you’ve chosen your preferred software supplier, you may need to write a business case to get budgetary approval. We’ve created a template business case that you can use to obtain approval for your performance management software. It’s also helpful at this stage to present your preferred software to key internal stakeholders to get their buy-in to it. People can be very opinionated when it comes to software and you don’t want your decision makers and influencers to scupper the eventual rollout with criticisms and objections. They will be more likely to support it if they are involved early on in the process.

Stage 3 – Setup your system

Your performance management system will need to be configured and set up to meet your needs. Our advice here is not to get carried away with the possibilities. Online systems can be great at capturing and gathering data, but if you ask people to fill in too much, you risk your performance reviews becoming a tick-box exercise rather than a meaningful discussion. Remember that not every aspect of a performance discussion has to be captured on a form. Focus your online forms on recording data that you genuinely need to collate centrally (e.g. personal development needs or performance ratings) and things that have been formally agreed between the individual and their reviewer – e.g. agreed objectives, priorities and action points.

Stage 4 – Plan and test your data maintenance processes

Plan how you will get employee data from your HR system to your performance system so that you don’t have to maintain data in two places. Will you run periodic reports from your HR system and import them into the performance software, or will you build an automated link? Either way, don’t leave this too late, and be sure to spend the necessary time thoroughly testing your chosen method. Not having employee data and reporting lines correct in your performance management system can seriously undermine users’ confidence in it.

Stage 5 – Establish help and support arrangements

Whilst you shouldn’t typically need to train your employees on how to use your performance management software (assuming you’ve picked the right software and kept it simple), you may want to consider providing extra support for users who are not as computer literate. Putting together a short video that users can watch is much more effective than creating user guides or presentations. You can easily create a video using screen capture and video editing software like Camtasia which a number of our customers have used successfully and found relatively easy to learn. Another effective method of providing additional support is to train a system ‘super-user’ in each department who employees can go to if they have questions, concerns or difficulties with using the system. Some of our customers have also found providing 1 to 1 training for senior executives to be beneficial so that they engage with the software and understand how to get the most out of it (e.g. using the reporting capabilities).

Stage 6 – Run a pilot test

It is essential to run a pilot test before rolling out the software to all staff. Pick one or two departments to go through part of the performance management cycle using the new software and get their feedback. This will help you to ensure that the system has been configured correctly, that it is intuitive to use, that the data maintenance processes are working, that the reports are providing the data you expect and that your help and support arrangements are sufficient. If you are also launching a new or improved performance process, make the software part of the wider pilot test.

Stage 7 – Go-live

Before you hit the button to launch the system to the whole organisation, make sure that your IT department has ‘whitelisted’ the email address that the software uses to send automated emails. Typically a system will send out emails to all users upon launch to provide them with their login details. This will result in a large number of emails hitting your email server simultaneously, so if the software’s email address is not whitelisted on your server, the emails will likely get blocked or marked as spam. Similarly, it is worth checking with your IT department whether the URL (web address) of the system needs to be added to their list of ‘trusted sites’. Sometimes organisations block access to websites that have not been pre-authorised, so you want to make sure that all employees are able to access the software from day one. As a final tip, some of our clients have found that doing ‘desk visits’ during the first few weeks of go-live has significantly increased system engagement. This typically involves super-users or HR ‘walking the floors’ and speaking to employees to see if they have logged in yet and answering any queries they may have. This allows potential issues to be dealt with proactively and encourages employees who have procrastinated to get started with using the software.

Book a demo of Clear Review

If you are thinking of implementing new or replacement online performance management system, why not book a demo of our own Clear Review software? We can either visit you at your offices or arrange an online demo, whatever you prefer. Either way, we promise there will be no hard sell.