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How can technology help?

Mar 8th 2013
By Vikram Choudhury

Many organisations view technology as the answer to all their performance management woes. A well-designed performance management platform is one that is able to accurately capture an individual's performance across the year, and eliminate all forms of perceptional biases.

Recent trends indicate that Indian companies are rapidly moving away from tedious, paper-based processes to automating the performance management lifecycle. The question is: does the task end simply with automating the process? As Siddhesh Bhobe, Business Head at Persistent Systems, an HR gamification technology company, puts it, "Merely moving from a paper-based to a technology-based process cannot resolve an organisation's performance management woes."

Many factors come into play in a performance management process. These range from internal factors such as organisational culture and management principles, to external factors such as the type of product or service produced by the firm. A good technology platform is one that not only captures these factors accurately, but is also able to drive and shape them according to the organisation's requirements.

Says Adele Bernard, Head of Marketing, Cloud Unit, Asia Pacific and Japan, at SuccessFactors, an HR technology company, "Research proves that a good performance platform can reduce employee turnover, cut employee costs, and increase time spent in strategic activities." And a 2012 Bersin Consulting report revealed that performance and succession management solutions is the fastest growing segment in the talent management solutions space globally.

Gamification is big

Quite a few gamification technologies have emerged in the performance management space recently. They employ game mechanics to track and motivate performance in employees. IBM and Deloitte are leading the pack among companies that have introduced aspects of gaming into their engagement and performance management strategies.

For instance, employees in these companies receive badges for complying with deadlines or completing tasks, similar to a video game. Another technique fast gaining ground is the concept of leaderboard. Leaderboarding is a technique that allows employees to view other employee's scores, create short-term and long-term individual performance enhancement plans, and compare performance progress across a period of time.

Gartner predicts that approximately 70 per cent of companies across the globe would have adopted some form of gaming technology to augment their performance management strategy by 2014. Persistent System and Wise Cells are two notable players in this niche segment.

Trends to watch out for

Typically, a performance management solution includes features to set goals and targets, objectify performance metrics, and identify gaps or development areas of an individual and a team. Organisations today need to consider the following trends while selecting a performance management technology.

On-premise to cloud: Most leading technology companies are introducing cloud capabilities in their product suites. Some of the leading performance management technology companies offering cloud-based platforms include IBM-Kenexa, Success Factors, Oracle-Taleo, Saba, and SumTotal.

Objective goal-setting: It is now possible for tech platforms to quantify performance assessment through objective metrics and measures. eMee, the gamification platform of Persistent Systems, allows managers to provide virtual gifts to an employee through the course of a performance cycle. These virtual gifts can be quantified at the end of the performance cycle, to arrive at an objective measure. At the same time, a manager can reprimand an employee by giving a virtual banana skin whenever an employee has underperformed in a project.

On-going performance capture: Rather than keep the process static, many companies want to capture employee performance across the course of the performance cycle. For such firms, IBM-Kenexa and SumTotal offer capabilities such as mobile integration and workflow tracking to ensure that employee performance is accurately captured on an ongoing-basis.

Integration with other business applications: Performance management technologies are getting smarter by interacting with other business applications to capture employee performance. This ensures that an employee's performance is tracked accurately and in real-time, eliminating the need for an employee or a manager to rely on memory and judgment to assess performance. Saba's performance management software, for example, integrates with an organisation's learning management system, allowing an employee and manager to devise constructive actions and meaningful conversations.
Dynamic configurability: Technology companies are offering options to change and remodel the components of their performance management strategy across the course of the year. Oracle-Taleo's performance management platform, for example, allows an organisation to easily configure review forms, rating scales, and workflows to fit unique functional, organisational, and geographic requirements.

While the possibilities are endless, companies that are looking to implement a performance management technology should start by setting down their key requirements from a performance management process, and identifying the end objectives that the platform needs to achieve.