Day of the Zombie Performance ReviewsHR and business leaders don’t buy technology; they buy solutions to problems.

My recent blogs have focused on how to buy solutions to problems, and one of the best examples I can think of to illustrate the point is around performance management. To set the stage, research firm i4cp says that only 28% of companies believe they are effective at managing performance. No question – that’s a problem, and, unfortunately, most HR leaders would agree, especially when they are gearing up to complete this internal process.

I remember working as the HR Director for an organization where Microsoft Word was the backbone of our performance management system. I also remember when we got “innovative” and added checkboxes to our Word forms to allow employees to complete reviews on a computer.

Despite having a clear process, the entire undertaking was burdensome and painful for our managers and staff. What was worse is that after all the work our team did to collect information, provide thoughtful responses, and sign the forms, there was no way to go back and look at the data. Managers couldn’t see previous forms unless they kept a copy for themselves and there was virtually no continuity from year-to-year in terms of goals, progress, or focus areas.

As I said, this is a perfect example of how technology can bring value to a process.

A Continuous View of Performance and Development

If you’re a mid-size organization still using paper or electronic forms to complete your performance management, you are:

  • Storing data in an unusable format
  • Creating a frustrating set of back-and-forth churn
  • Unable to track, review, and monitor yearly progress

That’s where a technology solution comes in. The ability to complete performance reviews within a piece of HR software is powerful because it offers ongoing visibility into talent, both for performance tracking and development purposes.

Think about it–many firms add development goals and objectives into the performance management process. Being able to track that ongoing development over time is a great way to see how an employee is being groomed for the next role. In addition, being able to view performance for a longer period helps to identify what a person’s strengths and challenges are and use that insight to give them the best role to capitalize on their skills and abilities. It’s a win-win for the employee and the organization when seen through that lens.

Anywhere, Anytime Performance Reviews

Another key piece of value that comes from having the right technology is mobility. In a previous article, I wrote that our employees are evaluating our value as employers based on the technology we offer. Allowing them to use a technology that is mobile, intuitive, and user-friendly is a great way to demonstrate the value we place on them. Although not yet mainstream, mobile access is important because it encourages managers and employees to assess performance on-the-fly when they see/think about it as well as when it is convenient. Look at how this delivers value for both managers and employees:

  • A manager accesses performance goals on his tablet during one-on-one meetings with his/her employee so they can discuss daily tasks and long-term development and objectives
  • An employee is preparing to ask for a raise; as she rides the train to work, she uses her smartphone to access her performance goals and accomplishments from the last year or two to refresh herself and help build her case
  • A group of leaders is discussing succession planning and who is the right fit in terms of performance and potential. Managers can have the previous accomplishments of their top candidates on their mobile device during the meeting to go to bat for their inclusion in succession

These use cases illustrate how leveraging a purpose-built system is more valuable than a traditional, paper-based approach. Again, performance management is just one example of how technology can bring value to a legacy HR process, but it helps to demonstrate how important it is to have the right technology in place to solve those common, yet challenging, problems.

Written by: Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst, Lighthouse Research & Advisory