Introducing Appraisal Notes

Hot on the heels of the last new feature we introduced (Competency Comments), over the weekend we released another new feature – “Appraisal Notes”.

It allows HR and HR Partners to add notes to employee’s appraisals. It can be used as a stand-alone feature or in combination with the Appraisal Tags feature we released late last year.

Please get in touch to find out more.

 

Introducing Competency Comments

Over the weekend we released a new feature for competency based reviews. It allows managers and direct reports to add comments against individual competencies when reviewing performance against them.

As a bit of background – before the release, if you are using Competencies in PerformanceHub, then at appraisal time the manager and direct report are required to select a performance level for each competency in the DR’s role. The available performance levels are based on your competency framework.

The new Competency Comments feature gives employees the opportunity to add comments to each selection. A little ‘comments’ icon will show users if notes are available and indicate if notes are mandatory (see later).

To turn Competency Comments on, just go to the Configuration page and under the Competencies section, you’ll see a new option for comments. If you enable comments, another option will appear to ask if you want to make comments mandatory. If comments are mandatory, both the manager and direct report must add comments to each competency, otherwise the appraisal cannot be marked as finished.

Appraisal Tags – A New Feature

Appraisal Tags in PerformanceHub are powerful ‘snippets’ of information HR can create and associate with an employee’s appraisal. Think of them like ‘stickers’ that you can ‘put on’ employee’s appraisals and are only visible to HR.

Err, ok, so what does that mean?  Well, you can use them for all sorts of things, but perhaps the best way to describe them would be to walk through an example use.

Let’s say that you have a talent management and succession planning process you want to keep track of. You already have all sorts of information in PerformanceHub about people’s performance, and you may also collect other data you can make use of through PerformanceHub’s “Appraisal Fields” feature too, but how do you bring it all together in a meaningful way? Well, that’s one way Appraisal Tags can help you.

You could define a set of tags for Talent Management and Succession planning.

For instance:

  • Flight risk
  • Impact of leaving
  • Ready for promotion
  • Potential
  • Willingness to travel

Once you have created a tag, you can then create some values that tag could take.

For instance, the Flight Risk tag could have values:

  • High
  • Medium
  • Low

and the Ready for promotion tag could be:

  • Now
  • Within 12 months
  • Within 24 months
  • Within 5 years
  • Never

Once you have set-up your tags, you can apply them to appraisals. Why an appraisal and not an employee? Well, we thought that applying them to an appraisal would give you an opportunity to see how things have changed over time. Is Donald getting closer to that promotion? Has Theresa’s risk of leaving increased?

Once you have tags applied, then you can use them in reports and the distributions reporting tool. They fit neatly into the other reports PerformanceHub has, so you can answer all sorts of questions about your employees.

This is just one example of how you may use Appraisal Tags, but you could use them for all sorts of other things too.

If you would like an online demo of how Tagging works, then please drop me a mail.

Also in this release

  • A new “Probation Employees” report
  • Employee location added to the interim report
  • Employee start date added to the Objectives Count report
  • Employee status added to the Last Login report
  • Various small tweaks to the layout and in-line guidance

What’s best: Lock-step or anniversary based employee performance reviews

We are often asked whether PerformanceHub supports anniversary based performance reviews. The short answer no. PerformanceHub only supports ‘lock-step’ reviews (sometimes referred to as “focal performance reviews”).

If you are thinking about this for your organisation, here is some of our thinking as to why we went down the ‘lock-step’ route. Maybe it will help you decide. 

 

Arguments in favour of lock-step reviews :

  1. Gives you a view across all your employees at the same time. If you have anniversary-based reviews, then some people may have a recent review, with others being as much as 11 months out of date, making performance comparisons unfair.
  2. Makes it easier to change your process, as you’ll have clear water during the year when no-one is doing reviews. So you can make the change and train / inform people as needed.
  3. Better completion rate: everyone else is going through the same process at the same time, so people are more focussed on getting it done. HR and managers know exactly where everyone should be in the process and can chase accordingly.
  4. Encourages the manager to consider the performance of individuals in the context of team and organisation performance. Managers can benchmark across their team, and with other managers, and HR can benchmark / calibrate across the whole company.
  5. If pay reviews are also anniversary-based, then some people may get unfair pay changes compared to their colleagues, particularly if part of bonuses and/or raises are tied to company performance. Eg a company goes through a lean period, then lands a big customer and is feeling more flush. Depending on when your review was, you may have got a small or large bump. It may be that reviews held later in the financial year are more likely to get a good raise/bonus, if the company is feeling confident of meeting the budget.
  6. Easier to keep people aligned to company objectives, and to know how much work is going on that’s not aligned to current company objectives. Also easier to build momentum for the start and end of the review periods, eg with all-hands meetings.
  7. Because people are out of step, it can make succession planning harder.
  8. Overall it’s less effort for HR and managers.
  9. You can do lightweight refresher training, but doesn’t make sense to do when it’s spread throughout the year

 

Arguments in favour of anniversary reviews:

  1. You can guarantee performance data for the first performance review of new starters.
  2. It spreads the load of doing performance reviews through the year; with lock-step reviews there’s one time every year when managers have to spend a lot of time doing reviews.
  3. If performance is measured against some standard or fixed criteria, then the benchmarking benefit of lock-step may not be so important.

 

So, there are some good arguments to go with anniversary based reviews, but not so many as the ‘lock-step’ method. Also, the arguments aren’t particularly strong, particularly if you have probation reviews or regular one-to-one meetings (both supported by PerformanceHub). When using these features, employees starting shortly before your organisation’s ‘appraisal time’ won’t cause any problems.

We’re not too convinced about the ‘spreading the load’ argument either. Sure, it might be less disruptive to not have to review your whole team at once, particularly if your review period ends at a busy time for you (end of year accounts for instance), but we feel that the amount of effort is increased if you have a constant trickle of reviews going on over the year rather than planning to do them all at the same time.

Effort can always be reduced by having regular one-to-ones, and by reviewing objectives as they’re completed. Also, by keeping the appraisal form as short as you can. Our tip here – for every section you want to add to an appraisal, consider asking yourself:

  1. Will filling in this section help either the manager or employee improve the employee’s performance (either by helping them form concrete plans or by getting them to think about something they wouldn’t normally)?
  2. Will filling in this section help the organisation improve performance (e.g. by analysing the data centrally and then acting on what you find)?
  3. Do we have a process and resources to analyse the data, i.e. will we do anything with the information once it’s collected?

 

New Feature: One-to-One Meetings Support

We recently released a new version of PerformanceHub which includes support for One-to-one meetings. You can enable this feature at any time. One-to-one meetings are widely acknowledged as a critical mechanism for ensuring effective communication up and down the organisation, and for building employee engagement.

 

In this post we give an overview of this new feature.

 

When you enable this feature, you get to specify the default meeting interval:

Meeting schedule

Managers can choose to change the meeting frequency on a per-direct-report basis.

 

After having a one-to-one meeting, the manager and/or the direct report can record meeting notes:

Meeting Notes

Both parties don’t have to record notes. For example a manager may ask her direct reports to write up their meetings, and only add her own notes where she wants to add something to the record.

 

After confirming a meeting, you’ll automatically get an entry for your next meeting, with a tentative date (based on the meeting frequency):

More meeting notes

You can record notes in this placeholder, for example as part of your preparation, or to build up a list of topics during the time between meetings.

 

The meeting record for a past meeting is locked 7 days after you confirm the meeting. These meeting notes form part of the historical record for employees, so it’s important that neither party can go back and change the record long after the event. A meeting record is locked even if neither party has recorded any notes.

HR have an interface for browsing all employees, and seeing the meeting configuration at a glance:

Meeting reports

From this HR can see where meetings are overdue, and where managers have changed the meeting interval from the default they set. Clicking on the View button against an employee brings up a meeting viewer, which lets HR page through the meeting records:

HR meetings view

 

PerformanceHub is always evolving, and most of that is driven by customer needs and feedback. Please let us know what you think of this feature, and share any ideas for improving it.

 

New Release: Visualisation

A quick update to tell you about our latest PerformanceHub release.

This new release really takes advantage of our online performance review software real-time capability. It’s a new visualisation tool designed to keep you on track of your process.

 

New ‘Sunburst’ Chart

Your CEO and HR Admin can now see at a glance where everyone is in the appraisal process using the new interactive sunburst chart.

Here’s an example.

New Release: Visualisation   2014-03-07 11:27:01

The chart arranges your organisation as a set of concentric circles. Each segment in a band corresponds to an employee and is colour coded from red to green to tell you where they are in the process.

Clicking on a segment will give you more information and double-clicking will zoom the chart in (double click the centre to zoom back out again).

If you are colour blind, then you can switch views to change the colours by clicking the ‘colour blind’ link at the bottom of the legend.

If people find this sort of view useful, we may use it elsewhere, such as tracking progress on Interim Reviews. Another idea we’ve had is to give you the ability to put this info on your Company tab, so everyone can see where you are in the process. We thought this would be a good way to ‘inspire’ people into getting their appraisals done on time. Do let us know what you think.

Other items in this release

  • Added Employee Number, Gender and Start Data to employee records
  • Better ways to find employees on drop-down menus
  • Further enhancements to user prompts in text fields
  • Improvements to Feedback request notifications and other Feedback usability enhancements
  • Squished a few bugs

Performance Review Tips – Getting the most out of performance reviews

 

 

Performance reviews are sometimes seen as stressful by employees and managers alike. Or worse, a time vampire with little payback. However, with a simple bit of preparation, performance reviews can go from a dreaded process to a rewarding way to develop and motivate your employees. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of your Performance Reviews:

 

No surprises

Make sure that you have regular meetings with your direct reports during the course of the review period. If something important comes up (good or bad) provide feedback as soon as possible. There should never be any surprises when it comes to the final performance review.

 

Get to know your direct reports

Discuss where your reports wish their careers to go, what they enjoy doing, their expectations, etc. This will allow you to develop and motivate them accordingly. Create a good working relationship with your team members; you will both feel more comfortable in each other’s company. Your role is as much to act as a mentor as it is to manage day-to-day activities.

 

Set clear objectives

Set clear, achievable and time-bound objectives. Make sure that time frames are realistic and discuss the objectives with the employee beforehand, making sure that you both agree on what they are expected to do. Have regular meetings to discuss these objectives. This will enable you to make sure that your direct report is doing the right thing and allow you the coach them in the right direction. This will make their performance much more effective and you will both know how they are doing prior to the performance review, so there won’t be any nasty surprises.

 

Evaluation

Make sure that both you and your direct report agree on how they are to be evaluated prior to the performance review. You must be clear about how you are going to evaluate, and what part they are going to play in the process. This way you will both know what to expect.

 

Preparation

Preparation is key for both you and your direct report. Make sure that you inform them about the upcoming performance review; this will allow them to complete any relevant documentation or finish up any objectives. For you, remember to make notes about their performance during the course of the year and bring along notes from your regular meetings held during the year. This will ensure that you do not focus the meeting solely on recent events, which may not give a fair representation of the entire year.

 

Constructive Feedback

It is important to discuss both negative and positive points during the performance review; do not just focus on one area. Give constructive feedback. Remember that this should be a two way conversation, instead of just giving negative feedback ask your employee how they feel they did on certain objectives and what they feel they could have done differently, in other words, let them self evaluate where appropriate. This is your chance to coach your employee and to give them the opportunity to see where they went wrong and how they could have done better, instead of simply giving negative feedback which could demotivate them instead of encouraging them to do better. Spend time exploring your direct report’s strengths and make plans to capitalise on them in the future.

 

Most importantly, remember that your direct report will respond best when they feel ready and they know what to expect from you. Develop a strong professional relationship with them; this will allow you know how to challenge and motivate them accordingly and, as a result, create a successful working environment.

 

Plan for the future

You know what your direct report’s career aspirations are; you know their strengths and weaknesses. Set objectives or make development opportunities to help them realise their aspirations, building on their strengths and help reduce their weaknesses.

 

 

One final note, some people just aren’t great in some areas. No amount of motivation (positive or negative) will make a difference. If it doesn’t REALLY matter and, in particular, they excel in other areas, don’t dwell on the weaknesses and play to their strengths.

HR In A Distributed World

Just over a year ago we released the first version of PerformanceHub into the world. Our plan was to first introduce it to UK based SMEs and worry about internationalisation once we had a good few customers. Well, that was the plan…..

Less than a year after it was first launched, PerformanceHub is being used in 17 countries on 4 continents!

So, what went wrong with the plan? Well nothing really, you’d be surprised by the number of UK companies that have operations dotted around the world. Working with these companies, we have seen how this distributed workplace challenges both Operations and HR.

Getting an effective performance management system in place in this distributed world is highly challenging and we’d say near impossible using anything other than a real-time online system.  The feedback we have received from our customers has been tremendous. PerformanceHub is really helping their performance management process run smoothly even though employees are in many different timezones. Customers have also told us how PerformanceHub is helping them set and meet objectives even though the bulk of the team is on another continent.

That’s it. No special message here, we just wanted to tell you about how we’re spreading around the world and acknowledge the fact it’s challenging.

If you are faced with the challenge of performance management and operations in remote locations, we’d be happy to help.

Rob.

New Feature Release

PerformanceHub takes another huge advance today with the introduction of 2 new features – Appraisal Balancing and Grandfathering.

 

Appraisal Balancing is used to try and ensure that the ratings given in appraisals are normalised across the company. This might be used by HR for a number of purposes, for example:

  • To ensure that a rating of ‘Excellent’ means roughly the same thing across the entire company.
  • To enforce a particular distribution of ratings; e.g. “no more than 10% of employees should get the top rating”, or “don’t end up with 80% of employees on the middle rating”.
  • To identify managers who are consistently under- or over-scoring.

PerformanceHub achieves this by introducing the concept of Provisional reviews and gives HR a gate to prevent managers progressing reviews until the balancing process has taken place. You can configure PerformanceHub to use either an “Early” or a “Late” gate. In a nutshell, the difference is whether provisional reviews can be shared with direct reports or not before the balancing process has been completed.

Grandfathering gives managers of mangers the option of contributing to their 2nd line reports’ appraisals. PerformanceHub does this by giving 2nd line managers a section to fill in on the 2nd line report’s appraisal form and by encouraging the line manager to discuss the 2nd line’s performance prior to an appraisal meeting. Gosh, that was a bit of a mouthful!

Grandfathering is a great positive motivator for employees, knowing that their manager’s manager takes an interest in what they are doing and getting the recognition they deserve.

If you like the sound of these features, you can switch them on in the Admin Configuration tab. If you want help factoring them into your current process, drop us a line and we’d be happy to help.