Enterprise Performance Management: The One Over the Many
Let’s begin this piece with the understanding that this is an editorial, not an endorsement of any particular platform or process. I feel the need to set that as a foundational understanding as so many people in Talent Management are grappling with how best to support their organizations. I don’t feel there is any one correct platform or methodology – it has to work for your given environment. That said, the following is simply one person’s opinion and hopefully it will either reinforce or inform your personal thoughts on the topic.
We experienced the first wave of performance platforms as standalone solutions, first behind our firewalls and then SaaS. Then came the cannibalization of platforms to form what we now refer to as Integrated Platforms. While we can still purchase “best in class” or standalone systems, the move from 2010 to current times has seen the rise of the Integrated Talent Management Platforms.
Now, we’re seeing a move towards channel environments, or a more user-centric focus where we push data to mobile applications of which users are familiar. The thought being to meet people where they are, rather than where the organization is. This has the potential to yield a higher degree of engagement (and compliance) but means we may have many disparate and unattached systems behind the scenes.
Having the ability to support real-time coaching conversations and then follow-up with recommendations for learning events is vital to an effective performance strategy
My concern is two-fold; access to platforms and the ability to manage the data. In other words, do we really want our employees to download/use multiple mobile apps? Or would the experience be better with one seamless interface? Also – while it may be convenient to respond to a sms text or link, will the information we obtain be meaningful or useful to the organization?
My personal feeling is that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice the user experience or the data we need. I still believe in the “promise” of integrated talent systems in that with one simplified UI, we could, as one example, take a competency assessment (performance), be pushed a development plan with appropriate learning resources (learning management) and have the progress visible during talent reviews (succession planning). I don’t see this capability being present with multi-channel delivery vehicles.
An advancement would be the ability to configure one UI that could bring best in class systems under one umbrella. Instead of being forced to choose between the 3-5 major integrated platforms (the variance in numbers reflects how people may define “major”), instead we could pick and choose modules from different vendors and simply “add” them to our talent ecosystem. I don’t see this happening anytime soon as the variety of coding and feature sets makes this a very challenging task.
Performance Management Technology should support the organization’s culture and business process. The technology should aid in efficiency, not simply offer an online version of an offline process. Having the ability to support real-time coaching conversations and then follow-up with recommendations for learning events is vital to an effective performance strategy. Therefore, and I’ll refer you back to the first paragraph, I don’t believe standalone performance solutions are viable. Without access to resources that speak to identified gaps in performance, we’re only doing half the job. Telling an employee, either directly or through a system, that they have a gap is akin to a Dr. telling a patient they have diabetes and then walking out of the room. Providing holistic solutions that will remedy this gap in performance is a key component of performance management – it should not be considered a learning management process. That is why my approach focuses on integrated platforms over best in class or channel delivery ideology.
While still confined to one of the major platforms, at least I have the ability to ensure the user experience is a one-stop shop. Within one platform you can search jobs, take an assessment and begin building your performance capability to be considered for future opportunities. I can see and align my work with others, track my progress to goals, and all the while these actions will be visible to my supervisor or available for consideration as the organization grows.
I’m of the opinion that “advances” in Performance Systems are only done to differentiate feature sets and position those platforms as more competitive. I don’t see any recent changes as solving true performance challenges we face. We’ve seen the rush to eliminate performance reviews altogether, and while a lofty goal, I think most organizations miss the mark. The entire issue with performance management is that we don’t manage performance. This is not a system issue; it speaks to organizational culture.
We’re using performance systems as a bandage to address our inability to coach in the moment. Since we’ve failed to hold our teams accountable to a culture of continuous performance improvement, we make up for this by mandating a cadence of forced meetings we affectionally call performance reviews. However, if we actually managed appropriately, we wouldn’t even need these systems we’re trying so hard to reinvent.
We also use these systems to validate our philosophy of “pay for performance.” Having a structured process to record performance data allows us to differentiate pay increases. Without ratings (the theory goes), we would be hard pressed to defend compensation awards. So, organizations that have removed performance reviews have, and please correct me if I’m wrong, failed to address both the issue of coaching in the moment, as well as articulating compensation awards for a pay for performance culture.
Ultimately, we have choices. We can continue to use systems as either a means to document achievements or to identify gaps and provide requisite interventions. We can also choose to have multiple disconnected platforms, or one seamless system that may or may not meet all our needs. We could also move towards a channel delivery system, increase engagement but miss out on learning experiences and meaningful data.
Or, perhaps we can stop focusing on technology and consider what human interventions could be introduced to solve our challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tech…. but I’d also love to see our people managers offline, having real, meaningful and timely performance conversations.