At last year’s Halogen Software Customer Conference, I had the opportunity to hear several speakers talk about business strategy. Keynote speaker Chester Elton, author of the best-selling book “The Carrot Principle”, shared with the group case studies of companies that were driving business results through a performance culture.
But one speaker, Kathleine Emerson, senior people services system consultant at First West Credit Union (FWCU), really impressed me by walking us through the steps her company took to transform their performance management process into a business strategy that drives results.
Kathleine shared that FWCU started focusing on their performance management system as a result of their growing employee base. The organization was expanding via mergers and needed to be in a position to onboard large groups. Being able to effectively manage these big “chunks” of data was critical to their success.
IMHO, what made this story so interesting was that FWCU could have easily focused on their efforts on their onboarding process but that’s really short-term thinking. Their focus on making sure FWCU’s new employees are performing at a high level is truly connecting HR with the business.
Here are the steps FWCU took to align their performance management system with organizational strategy. I believe these steps can be used to transform any organization’s performance strategy:
STEP 1: Stick to the basics. It’s easy when you’re creating a new program, process, or strategy to throw your wish list at it. That way, every little thing that ever annoyed anyone is fixed all at the same time. Kathleine suggested it might be too much change. Get users accustomed to the new way of doing things, then introduce changes gradually.
STEP 2: Keep timelines fluid. Even the best laid plans have hiccups. Kathleine recommends having contingencies in place and being prepared to draft new timelines. The important part is getting it right. Delivering outcomes on time with poor quality doesn’t help the business achieve its goals.
STEP 3: Use technology and automation strategically. Especially when you’re implementing a technology solution. It can be tempting to automate a process too soon because the capability now exists. The key to implementing something is for it to stick and become a part of the organization. It also allows users to become part of future changes.
STEP 4: Hold people accountable. Sometimes labeling a project as “easy or simple” can be a curse. Just because the implementation is simple and the project timeline is flexible, it doesn’t mean that team members don’t have to deliver. Even the simplest projects can go horribly wrong when team members don’t hold themselves and each other accountable.
STEP 5: Be consistent. Implementation is the most visible part of any transformation process. Everyone is watching to see how successful (or not so successful) the rollout will be. Maintaining a consistent approach allows users to feel comfortable with the implementation. The more comfortable users are, the smoother the rollout will be.
STEP 6: Manage change carefully. Kathleine said that using a phased approach with changes was very well received. FWCU also used pilot groups to test new initiatives before implementing them company-wide. Building a change strategy into your transformation process is a win-win for everyone involved.
Performance management often gets a bad rap in organizations. Truth is, performance management is a necessary part of business. Employee performance drives how our products and services are delivered and how the business accomplishes its goals. It’s essential to have a strategy that aligns with the business.
If revisiting your existing performance management system is on the “to-do” list for 2014, these steps can help you make changes and effectively manage the process.