HRMS of Future, will be about less-is-more

The genesis of any product is identifying the stakeholders. Basically, “who are you building this product for?”

This is precisely, where we have gone wrong with HRMS of the past.

 

Look at any of the legacy HR-tech solutions. What do you see? Mammoth heavy-duty, feature overloaded (“15000-feature solutions” as I like to call them), chunky software, based on super-standardized HR processes. Uncannily, they sync well with existing IT workflows in the organization, which makes for a strong selling point. I have a question at this stage. Whose life becomes easier with the above? 

The lives of the department that needs to administer these processes, i.e. HR and IT. These functions are also typically the decision-makers of an HRMS purchase. In other words, HR and IT are the “customers”, i.e. buyers. In itself, that is not a problem. 

Problem is this.

Who are the actual end-users? The “consumer”? 

Employees. 

 

And the problem is, the entire HRMS product design caters to the “buyer of the product” and completely overlooks the experience of “user of the product”. 

 

Philosophically, this is what I call a “point-of-sale” approach. The product design is focused on what makes it easier to sell to the buyer, instead of improving the experience of the user. 

Unfortunately for the sale-driven products, employees are becoming increasingly empowered. They no longer accept an experience imposed on them, nor have qualms making themselves heard, and worse – walking away. Therefore, this strategy will no longer work. Simply put, HRMS design simply cannot afford to ignore this user. 

 

Here is what I think, will work.

 

HRMS of the future will be about doing a few things really well. Innovation will be, not in terms of the number of features, but going in-depth into each process. This coincides with the evolving HR approach of acknowledging each employee as unique, requiring a unique approach. Tech products will need to support those micro-processes, naturally requiring deep solutions. 

For example, to date, we have blanket compensation structures for all employees. But don’t we all have different needs at different points in time? Some may need more cash, and others more benefits. 

Similarly, for learning. Why do we have mass training workshops? Wouldn’t micro-modules of learning, at the time you need it, work better?

 

But do HRMS tools enable a unique approach for every employee? No.

 

But they will need to.

This is why organizations need to choose specialized deep solutions, instead of bulky platforms that try to solve all problems; but end up addressing none, effectively.

 

Yes, I know the questions you want to ask at this stage.

 

1. Wouldn’t it be a challenge for employees to engage with multiple specialized tools instead of one standardized end-to-end HRMS?

This answer is simple. 

Today technology has made it possible. API integration allows organizations to bring together multiple deep-solutions to build a consortium of HRMS, where the tools can talk to each other, and employees interact across tools, effortlessly. 

2. Will it cost us more?

This answer is more of a question. 

We are talking of HR as a strategic partner today. If that be true, for how much longer will it take for us to transition from “cost-saving” to “value-creation”? The Indian HR market has been marred by the approach of 30 rupees-per employee for checking all boxes. Actually, I am asked this question often. Sometimes my question in return is, “how much do you spend on toilet paper?” The new age HRMS might cost less than that.

As I see it, the cost is not so much an issue. It is the inconvenience of change.

Elon Musk said, “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is a disaster.”

Ignoring the empowered employee of today is nothing short of business disaster. This has been established often enough. Therefore, the only option is to change the way we approach HRMS in future.

And in that future, HRMS will need to be about, less-is-more.

 

Have you met Madame Procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of postponing tasks armed with the knowledge that you can “always get it done later”. And when it comes to your workplace, trust us when we say that there’s always more than enough room to procrastinate.

I was rather young, in my early twenties perhaps, when I first encountered Madame Procrastination. All decked up in glittery daydreams and distractions; she was quite certainly one of the most attractive things at work. Oh, the prospects of whiling your time away in between the office walls, preserving your best for the last are rather hard to avoid. So naturally, her followers were plenty and they were happy too! 

Take for example, your super-smart colleague who wastes almost all of their time only to crunch like it’s the end of the world right before a deadline! You know, the guy who is never at the team meetings? What about the other one who is always coming up with excuses for “doing it later”? And let’s not forget the ones who actually tell you that they work better if they waste time. 

Though it might seem mildly (and at times majorly) infuriating to see your colleague waste their time while you slog behind screens, you can rarely shut them up about why we must all Vote for Procrastination. After all, if you are well-versed in the art of delay, you feel that you are equipped to take better, more efficient and creative decisions that help you thrive in your dreary 9-5 job. In fact, believe it or not, hundreds of such individuals exist and firmly believe that the very act of voluntarily delaying their work enables them to tackle challenging deadlines, prioritise work and evade things that are just not important enough. 

While it might seem like a smart solution for individuals to flourish at work by doing the least they can possibly do to survive, what they don’t see is the dark side of procrastination that could lead to utter chaos. Many a times, what starts off as planned procrastination can quickly hurtle down the path of laziness, missed deadlines and a hassled team trying to do all that was left to be done at the last minute. 

If you actually get down to thinking about it, you’ll realise that procrastination never helped anyone the way motivational posts on the internet claimed they could. While losing precious hours is the most obvious drawback of procrastination, missed opportunities and deadlines, a damaged reputation and low-self esteem also make this workplace sin so utterly deadly.

But despite being plagued by procrastination, there is no reason for us to give in and accept it as the order of the day. And at Dockabl, we spent a lot of hours to finally figure out how to fight the evil charms of procrastination. 

Break down work: 

 

Setting up multiple, small tasks might seem futile, but we’ve realised that breaking up a large project into smaller tasks and deadlines keep procrastination at bay. Not only do employees feel less intimidated with smaller deadlines to meet, work pressure is evenly distributed allowing every person involved to realise what an important role they each play. 

 

Track progress: 

 

While tracking adults might come across as insulting to some, for a company, it is quite an invaluable action. Not only do they get to know who’s working earnestly and who are lazing their time away, but it also helps get a clear vision about goals, ensures that no single member of the team is overworked and even helps establish good practices that keep procrastination at bay.

 

Transparency and Accountability: 

 

If your employees believe that the work they do is not important enough, chances are, they will avoid it the best they can. By creating transparent processes that allow employees to manage their work and time better, daily reports become less boring than you expect them to. When everyone joins in to put their best selves forward, chances are, procrastinators will up their game as well. 

 

Rewards for the win

 

Every action has a reaction. And we believe that your work should too. With Dockabl, not only is recognizing hard-working employees a breeze, appreciating them is easier than you think it is. At the end of the day, little rewards can inspire you to DO. 

Guide: Transform Your Performance Management Processes

Chapter 1: Start thinking about performance management in a different way

 

For many years, companies have made a plethora of attempts to optimize their performance management process. Some changed their rating models, while others have attempted innovating with pay structures.

 

HR leaders are expected to own the performance process. A process where tracking completion rates is still the number one priority.

Despite all the resources deployed, the organizations are still struggling to set up a system that drives consistent results. It’s high time we moved away from “spraying and praying” and start rethinking performance management at a foundational level – by enabling performance in the flow of work.

If you’re reading this guide, I’m sure you’ve embraced that change is needed. Change isn’t necessarily getting rid of annual performance reviews or incorporating trendy fixes. Change needs to happen with company-wide mindset and culture.

Performance management exists for two philosophical reasons: competitive differentiation and coaching & developing. Competitive differentiation involves comparing employees to their peers when rewarding and promoting them. Coaching and developing, on the other hand, provides details about the past performance of an organization or an individual that would enable future growth. 

How has Performance Management evolved?

The Purpose of Performance Management is changing with the change in Economy. It is essential to ask leaders what they are doing for performance management and the possible outcomes they are trying to achieve through performance management practices.  

Bersin’s study, conducted in 2006, found out that 80 percent of the companies have a performance process designed to put individuals on a nine-box grid. A nine-box grid refers to performance versus potential when deciding the person to receive more money and promotion, as well as giving managers a coaching tool. 

Some clients believe that performance management process forces managers to communicate toughly with other employees within an organization. For example, in an organization where all people are friendly, managers can improve on accountability by forcing the distribution of ratings. This also helps them to determine people who are performing low or high in the organization.

This idea is real for some companies, especially those that are complacent. Typically, it takes place when leaders realize that most employees are not well-trained and cannot deliver according to what the company wants. Microsoft, for example, has been using a forced ranking approach to fuel its highly competitive culture. This culture enabled it to be the most leading company in Windows in the world. Even though most people did not like this approach, it helped the company to overpower its competitors.

Things have majorly changed in today’s times. The top-performing companies will admit that the goal of performance management is “growth and development”. This involves enabling your team to perform better and grow with their role. 

 

Chapter 2: How can you meet the expectations of millennials?

 

It is both appalling and intriguing. On one hand, we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution where man and machine will work side by side. Yet, we have managed to stay in the Flintstone age when it comes to talent management systems, used by organizations. Worse, we are resisting doing something about it.

The problem exists at multiple levels.

Firstly, it is the question of, who do these archaic talent management tools serve – the ‘talent’ or the ‘management’? Most employees will recall (painfully) the experience of filling year-end appraisals on this difficult-to-use, boring tools. The experience is like typing an SMS on those single-line display push-phones of the early 2000s. I am not even talking about the difficulty, a field staff faces while accessing these systems remotely. Even, HR folks themselves have a night-marish experience, often resorting to manual excel-based follow-ups, to complete the process.

Secondly, the problem is at the level of the very talent philosophy these tools support. We are still appraising employees once a year – despite all the talk about continuous dialogues. The entire process of performance rating is a black box for most parts. Even recognition waits for the occasional townhall and most people are not sure of the criteria applied to select those who are awarded. There is no transparency or consistency in the process.

Few key questions here are:

  • Is this the kind of talent philosophy organizations believe in?
  • If not, why is there a gap between the philosophy we propagate, and the one we practice?
  • Whether a tool does or doesn’t enable the talent philosophy; should this not be a key decision-making criterion for CHROs to sign-off on tools?

Thirdly, the generation of millennials is not one that conforms. They are not those who will do something, just because they are told – unless they see sense in it. They need to know how they are performing, here and now. They are not okay with waiting for a full year to hear a year-end prophecy about their future in the organization. They are not afraid to ask questions and express their disagreement.

We are watching this story unfold in every organization. Take two of our clients. One of them is among India’s largest e-commerce platform. They are an organization who is as millennial as it gets. The other client is a Big 4 audit firm at the cutting edge of talent practices. Yet, both found themselves struggling with tools that are status quo in the market, which neither support their talent philosophy nor are well accepted by employees.

Times have changed. The technology has changed. Users have changed.

If organizations fail to change their actions, they will be much like the Emperor, parading in the past, to be called out in the open, by their very own employees.

Chapter 3: The Essentials of Continuous Performance

 

Performance management exists for two philosophical reasons: competitive differentiation and coaching & developing. Competitive differentiation involves comparing employees to their peers when rewarding and promoting them accordingly. Coaching and developing, on the other hand, provides details about the past performance of an organization or an individual that would enable future growth. 

Feedback is now a buzzword

Many people across the world think that feedback plays a significant part in performance management. Yes, it did before, but nowadays, companies are using check-ins, checkpoints, and conversations to collect essential information about the performance of people working there. 

According to Ashley Goodall from CISCO, it is helpful to use a tool for feedback because most people are always busy. As such, they do not get enough time to communicate with their managers. In such a situation, getting feedback online can be helpful. 

This isn’t as easy as it sounds though. Another study by Josh Bersin shows that only 22% of companies use feedback systematically. Some cultures promote open feedback in all directions; others do not. And this is often an issue-driven by company maturity.

Lastly, the term feedback is still a problem when looking at it from an HR point of view due to its negative implication. A new system of feedback can either improve or slow company performance. However, to improve on their market performance, companies should train their employees on feedback by giving the guidelines and tools to use. These companies should look at feedback as a cultural thing but not a tool for getting responses from each and every person.

Setting Goal: OKR Models and Intrinsic Motivators

For a company to succeed, it needs to have a budget, financial goals, and market targets. However, most companies do not consider all these things; they focus only on making a higher profit. Leaders, on the other hand, think about their projects and customers. The process of setting a goal is essential for the success of any business and is achieved by the good relationship between the employees and their employers, as well as their teams.

Although most managers are not familiar with the OKR model, it is the most successful model because of its simplicity. Some of the simple practices this model focuses on are;

  • Goals should have an outcome (objective leads to a result) and we should evaluate people based on a result, not just achieving a goal.
  • Goals should range from “simple and operational” to “stretch and developmental.” Everyone should have some goals for personal improvement and some aspirational goals each year.
  • Goals should be transparent so others know what you’re working on.
  • Goals should be simple and understandable, so we can actually achieve them and measure them.
  • Goals should be updated and reviewed regularly. At many companies, they are reviewed weekly in standup meetings, quarterly business reviews, and other management practices.
  • Goals should be aligned and supportive of the company goals (needs no explanation).

Although there is a need to have individuals who can set goals and share them, it is vital to have a developmental and collaborative process that will enable people to spend most of their time doing jobs. Most companies using performance management in their workflow perform better than those that do not implement it.

On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is also essential for your business. 

Many studies have shown that while goals are important, paying people for goals can hold people back. Intrinsic motivators (doing work you love, serving others, innovating, creating) are far more powerful than simply getting a bonus for closing a deal, so make sure your goal setting process is expansive and not too linked to pay. 

The need for Recognition

Employee recognition is a very powerful engagement tool. Even in a format as simple as a quick shout out in a slack group. 

Researchers have proven that when you thank someone, it releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes people more relaxed, collaborative and happy.

A Harvard Business Review study showed that recognition was the most impactful driver of employee engagement.

Companies are building a culture of recognition through social reward systems. New-age methods like weekly or monthly appreciation, and a general culture of recognizing all your workplace peers.

Key to enabling success here is to create a social environment where recognition can flow from peer to peer, freeing managers from being the “gatekeepers” of praise.

 

Develop both Managers and People

The final thing we’ve seen in the last few decades is that – there’s no point in giving someone feedback without showing them how to improve. 

One of the important trends, in fact, is the need to evaluate managers based on their ability to engage their teams. 

Yes, managers have to get work done; but that alone is not enough. We have to show them “how” to get work done well, and that means they need development too.

 

Chapter 4: Performance process audit and implementation

 

Auditing the current system

Interestingly, most people find themselves launching new systems without understanding how systems operate in helping them achieve their business’ objectives. Auditing the current system of your business is important as it enables you to concentrate on specific areas that impact your business positively. 

The two main factors you should consider when auditing your system include; 

  • Structural Analysis: Just like in building construction, it’s necessary to have a solid understanding of the foundation you’re building on. This can be enormously helpful in designing the blueprint for a system that is built to last. Look for answers to questions like:
  • Where is the current program already working well?
  • Where is the current program falling short?
  • Which areas can be improved immediately, and which will require more time and effort?
  • Identify and involve key stakeholders: A performance management program impacts everyone in the organization, from last week’s new hire to the CEO. That’s why it’s crucial to gain buy-in from all levels. Learn the history of your current program, identify its key stakeholders, and get their input. They will be instrumental in the success of this initiative.

How to meet and exceed your Employee expectations

In order to meet the needs of your employees, it is important that any initiative or change on your performance management enhances peace, unity, and cooperation in your organization. 

The system should be objective, autonomous, should foster feedback in real-time, promote the development of skills, be transparent and enhances the growth of your company and employees.

Implementation

  1. Technology: Do not use a product because other companies are using it. But make sure the technology you choose gives you a competitive advantage. There are many tools you can select from to help you achieve your objective.
  2. Integration: Before launching your new system, it is good to consider how it will integrate with the other administrating systems because it will help you understand if the new system will promote efficiency in the business.
  3. Intuitiveness: Since modern employees like to interact with systems which provide a delightful user experience, an intuitive tool will definitely play a part in winning the votes of your employees.
  4. Communication: Communication plays a vital role in the success of any business. As a business person, you should ensure that the new system improves business communication. 

Continuous Performance Essentials For Startups

A new shift has been underway that most startups are recognizing. Competing in today’s digital business environment demands a new approach to performance management.

Performance management has long been overdue for a revolution, and digital is the way forward. Its future is now rooted in data, in being flexible, continuous, and development focused.

Technology-enabled, continuous performance systems are driving today’s successful HR transformations.

As annual reviews fall out of favor, their replacements are more agile performance review strategies. This allows for frequent communication about performance between supervisors and employees.

And let’s be real, annual reviews have needed an overhaul for a while now. It is difficult to collate and keep track of different feedback. These reviews are not usually reflective of a holistic evaluation of the year. It ends up being bits and pieces of different elements.

How can employees thrive when there is no real-time management and feedback? How do you give them a running start towards professional development, while still addressing key issues at hand?

 

Develop a roadmap for development

 

The first step in developing a continuous performance management system is to start with a baseline. Having a strategy based on objectives and key results (OKR) is beneficial because it gives both employee and employer a level playing field.

Expectations are set and communicated and there is little confusion or misunderstanding. OKR allows employers to put in place coordination in a startup. It also ensures accurate communication and establishes indicators to measure success.

Establishing a culture of goal setting aligns the entire team to work towards the key driver – “growth”.

A 360-degree performance review that integrates OKR into it gives employees a new way to understand their place in organizations. This is especially salient in a start-up context. Roles may be more fluid and there is rapid growth, so employees need to be able to adapt quickly to new settings. The 360-degree model gives them more understanding of how their work is being viewed.

 

What is the role of real-time feedback?

 

Running a startup can be tough – trust me, I know. Tensions run high, management can sometimes be difficult. Especially when you’re promoting more junior members to senior positions.

The transition can be tough, both for employees and employers as these new roles come in. This is why real-time feedback is so important in implementing an OKR strategy. Its main goal is to help a team focus their efforts and move in the same direction to succeed.

Combined with instant feedback, this strategy helps improve efficiency in job roles. This also builds a more focused and engaged workforce. Increase employee engagement and retention by creating a culture of appreciation. I’ve seen firsthand how transformational this can be for startups, and we built Dockabl with this in mind. For example –

  • Dockabl allows easy setup and delegation of goals for seamless week-on-week execution while keeping an eye on your long and short term strategy. Because when people are open to feedback, communication flows improve.
  • Dockabl’s review module keeps you connected to the process in real-time. Whether it is the status or communication with other stakeholders. It also allows mid-review changes in the simplest way.

Today’s technology wires us for instant feedback. Millennials always want to match their cadence by setting aggressive, short-term goals. This is why the feedback module works great for collecting and soliciting feedback anytime, anywhere. You don’t have to wait to launch and receive feedback. This works great during project catch-ups and presentations.

The role of peer to peer recognition is also important to recognize here. We know that employees feel much better when they get recognized by their peers. But how do you do that in a meaningful and tangible way?

Dockabl allows calling out value badges with a simple #hashtag along with the points, images and more while recognizing peers. You can also customize the experience to match your organization’s style.

 

Measurable progress

 

One of the larger issues with the current performance management is that there are no real ways to measure goals and objectives. Sitting down every once in a while isn’t that helpful, whether it’s a large team or small. Goal progress is important because it gives employees a signpost for how they can progress and develop. It helps you and your team keep the momentum and intensity high. Dockabl allows you to update progress on objectives & key result areas via the on-going check-in feature.

Why is this important? Because performance management can no longer stick to its one-size-fits-all roots. Customizing a review process for employees ensures that it is in line with company culture, and it is you. Plus Dockabl’s review wizard helps recreate a variety of your best review practices online. With our Reviews module, translate any philosophy, which means you can meld best practices and your own unique culture to build a process that is reflective of these two worlds.

Dockabl allows feedback to be provided in a free-flowing or via pre-defined questionnaires. Translate complex frameworks into comprehensive forms accessible to all. You can create a performance management system that is positive, collaborative, and accessible from anywhere.

 

True transparency

 

Another major flaw of performance management is the secrecy that goes around it. Reviews are shrouded in secrecy. No one knows how the other is doing, and it can often lead to a stressful work environment. By bringing in transparency, you can show that the system is fair, and so that everyone feels like an equal.

Every OKR at any level in the startup must be public. It is necessary to help you know what matters and what everyone else is working on.

Dockabl helps manage people & resources in real-time by keeping the lines of communication always open. This way you build an environment where you foster discussions.

You can create a performance management system that works for your people – not against them.

 

We’ve created a simple system that allows co-workers to receive and provide timely help by sharing development insights. By linking it to a project, skillset or behaviour, feedback can have a real tangible impact on professional development and start meaningful conversations between employee and employer. Learn more here.

Effective Tips On Leveraging Cross Functional Collaboration To Grow Your Startup

Some startups believe that business is operating in silos. Their marketing departments are constantly entering new dimensions, while sales try to expand the existing accounts. The customer service departments are scattered to different ventures and have a hard time offering customized experiences to clients.

All these groups may serve different functions, but the ultimate goal needs to be consistent and focused on the growth of the startup. You can achieve this by implementing cross-functional synergies.

In this five-minute read, we offer all the tips you need to put in place a strategy and speed up your newly established business.

 

What does cross-functional collaboration entail?

 

By cross-functional teams, we refer to groups of staff members within an organization with different expertise working towards common goals and objectives. Workers from all levels in the business can collaborate to achieve results that speed up business growth. Such a team could put in place crucial improvements within the business. Thus, it is an effective tool for implementing a culture of continuous growth and improvement.

Studies state that businesses with strong governance support either through a higher-level cross-collaboration or a high-level executive champion achieved a 76 percent success rate. This shows how much you need to keep your staff working together. But we have more reasons why you should have the strategy in place already.

 

Benefits of cross-functional collaboration

 

The entire process of nurturing a cross-functional team may seem daunting, but trust us, it is a worthy decision.

One of the crucial benefits is that it encourages a collaborative culture as the business grows. Different areas of expertise and backgrounds create a team with a collective knowledge base, and they also work towards shared goals. So if you have not harnessed this form of energy in your new business, then you are missing out.

The culture also encourages experimentation and continuing education, which are also crucial drivers of business growth. When the IT and sales department tackle a project together, no doubt a lot of learning will take place. And what if the sales agent wanted to learn how things worked in the back-end? What if that lady in IT has some cool sales ideas that she picked up in her evening classes?

Worker satisfaction and autonomy are based on allowing your staff to grow and learn, and we recommend cross-functional teams for this.

This business growth strategy also sparks innovation. With departments working together, you will soon have your best marketers also thinking like IT specialists, while the coding expert will be creating incredible marketing flyers. You will also strengthen staff alignment to the vision and mission of the company. Understandably, you want to make the overall vision happen. Luckily, this will get closer to your face if you have different departments and skillsets working for a similar goal.

 

Tips on building successful cross-functional teams

 

Collaboration across departments is crucial to business performance and innovation. So it is in your best interest to have in place a united approach to business growth. We recommend the following strategies:

 

  1. Encourage random interactions

A spontaneous chat in the break room could bring about an innovation breakthrough. Businesses with effective strategies in place design the operation schedule and workday to allow for these random interactions.

 

  1. Promote diversity

Grabbing an individual from every department to create a team may be easy. But to maximize the team’s effectiveness, your group must cut across different areas beyond their working sections. Factors to consider when developing your team include experience, ability, seniority, skills, tenure, gender, and location.

 

  1. Work with influencers

Most organizations have employees who are born leaders regardless of their position in the company. Such people are adored and respected and tend to work well with their colleagues. It is easier for such an individual to influence other team members to take part in the activities. These are the perfect influencers to help enhance your efforts by getting others engaged.

 

  1. Involve experts in the subject matter

You can also grow your business through cross-departmental collaboration by leveraging on people within the organization knowledgeable on particular products, processes, or disciplines. These important team members could share their knowledge and skills with the rest of the staff. This helps educate employees with less experience, while the experts simultaneously end up with a new point of view.

 

  1. Assess the true impact

You must enable your teams to measure the impact they are having as this creates momentum while ensuring the sustainability of the respective teams. Of course, your staff want to see how much difference their efforts have created. So showing them the actual results could urge them to maintain the continuous cross-developmental engagement.

 

  1. Align Incentives

Without recognizing and rewarding performing employees in all departments, all the strategies we have highlighted above can be undermined. Financial incentives based on the goals of a particular department have poor results and would lead to paycheck conflicts. So to achieve an effective collaboration system, your goals and incentives must acknowledge and reward performing individuals across all departments.

 

User-friendly tools such as Dockabl can help review performance, and manage feedback and recognition to all your teams. Get docked and make it simple to appreciate the efforts of the team members who deserve it.

The current startup environment needs innovation, and this can be easily achieved if a diverse group of employees with different interests, skills, and expertise works together. Furthermore, dialogue between staff with varying industry backgrounds has become a fundamental part of boosting creativity and sparking innovation.

This communication can be achieved faster in startups through cross-functional synergies. It may not be easy, but once in place, the strategy could facilitate innovation and collaborative culture. Both of these are crucial tools for the improvement of your bottom line and facilitate business growth.

 

Millennials will not play ‘Emperor’s clothes’ with archaic talent management systems

It is both appalling and intriguing. On one hand we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution where man and machine will work side by side. Yet, we have managed to stay in the Flintstone age when it comes to talent management systems, used by organizations. Worse, we are resisting doing something about it.

Sometime in February 2017, I was talking to our friend (now also investor and client), Aditya Berlia. I was moving out of my last entrepreneurial venture, looking to solve a problem in my core domain. I still remember what he said.

If you want to solve any problem Samarth, solve the problem of these horrifyingly expensive, inflexible, bulky talent management systems with such poor user experience.

That statement pretty much started Dockabl.

The problem exists at multiple levels.

Firstly, it is the question of, who do these archaic talent management tools serve – the ‘talent’ or the ‘management’? Most employees will recall (painfully) the experience of filling year-end appraisals on these difficult-to-use, boring tools. The experience is like typing an SMS on those single-line display push-phones of early 2000s. I am not even talking about the difficulty, a field staff faces while accessing these systems remotely. Even, HR folks themselves have a night-marish experience, often resorting to manual excel-based follow-ups, to complete the process.

Secondly, the problem is at the level of the very talent philosophy these tools support. We are still appraising employees once a year – despite all the talk about continuous dialogues. The entire process of performance rating is a black box for most parts. Even recognition waits for the occasional townhall and most people are not sure of the criteria applied to select those who are awarded. There is no transparency or consistency in the process.

Few key questions here are:

  • Is this the kind of talent philosophy organizations believe in?
  • If not, why is there a gap between the philosophy we propagate, and the one we practice?
  • Whether a tool does or doesn’t enable the talent philosophy; should this not be a key decision-making criterion for CHROs to sign-off on tools?

In many of our discussion, we still find CHROs stuck in the past of end-to-end type of tools – which may provide convenience to the decision-maker and some cost savings, but seriously compromise on the impact they create on employees. HR is finding it difficult to shake-off its identity of a ‘cost saver’ and think like a ‘value-creator’. As a member of the HR fraternity, this worries me!

Thirdly, the generation of millennials is not one that conforms. They are not those who will do something, just because they are told – unless they see sense in it. They need to know how they are performing, here and now. They are not okay with waiting for a full year to hear a year-end prophesy about their future in the organization. They are not afraid to ask questions and express their disagreement.

We are watching this story unfold in every organization. Take two of our clients. One of them is among India’s largest e-commerce platform. They are an organization who are as millennial as it gets. The other client is a Big 4 audit firm at the cutting edge of talent practices. Yet, both found themselves struggling with tools that are status quo in the market, which neither support their talent philosophy nor are well accepted by employees.

I really like this story of the Emperor’s clothes. How all of the King’s subject saw everything, but said nothing. For far too long, we have been like those subjects. We have struggled with these tools and never challenged the status quo. But the millennials are like that child at the end of story, who gave the Emperor a reality check.

Times have changed. The technology has changed. The users have changed.

If organizations fail to change their act, they will be much like the Emperor, parading in the past, to be called out in the open, by their very own employees.

The HR ‘split personality’ simply isn’t working

Sometime during the year

Dear Employees,

For the development of budding managers, we are launching a 360 degree feedback program.

Thank You, Talent Management Team

…………………………………………..

Later in the year

Dear Employees,

We are thrilled to announce a tie-up with a so-famous-university for continued education of our top talent.

Thank You, Learning & Development Team

…………………………………………..

In the same year

Dear Employees,

To keep our teams motivated to do good work, we are launching a peer-recognition program.

Thank You, Employee Engagement Team

…………………………………………..

Sounds familiar?

HR was meant to be a single entity; the arm of business that engages with people. However, somewhere down the line, HR developed this split personality – a composite of recruitment, compensation, talent management, business partners, OD, learnings, engagement, etc. What makes it a split personality (and not a multi-faceted personality) is that:

All facets of HR operate disjointedly, having very little connection to each other.

Take for instance a very common phenomenon in organizations, i.e. attrition. When more people start leaving, the employee engagement team swings into action, rolling out interventions to “make employees happy”. Or, the compensation team rolls out “retention bonuses” for “key talent”. In parallel, the recruitment team naturally has more numbers to rehire. However, almost never does it happen, that the recruitment team is involved in conversations on why people are leaving.

Pause for a while, to marvel at the manner we operate in.

I will say it again. The part of HR which is responsible for bringing people into the organization, has no involvement or in-depth understanding of, why people are leaving the organization! This is what I mean by HR having dis-integrated into multiple sub-functions operating in silos. The biggest tell-tale sign of this dis-integration is that:

HR has become, a function of “interventions” and “check-boxes”, instead of a function that creates impact.

If you have attended any town-hall presentation of HR, the slides are mostly around a list of “HR initiatives”; something like this:

  • Learning team conducted 300 trainings
  • Business partners facilitated 50 team building activities
  • Engagement team organized “employee coffee conversations”
  • Talent management launched “leader connect”

However, the key questions remain unanswered:

  • Why did you take these “initiatives”?
  • What problem were you solving?
  • Why were these the best solutions?
  • How are the initiatives connected to each other, and to an overall goal?
  • What’s happening to the “initiatives” taken last year?
  • What is the impact – how does it affect the employee’s life?

No wonder employees and managers feel awkward, when you have to go in for the “annual ceremony” of performance conversations. If you never had a discussion in the entire year, good luck with having any meaningful conversation about what happened 12 or 6 months ago! Further, it is not surprising that the “learning goals” you chose a year ago, make no sense during the appraisal discussion.

Or, even the training programs you get nominated to, just because you and your manager need something to fill in the “developmental goals” section.

We at Dockabl, follow a simple practice for the development of our team. We don’t have the typical blanket workshops for everyone. We practice micro-dosed, on-demand learning. While on-job, any team member who feels the need to quickly learn a skill (say something to do with programming on Coursera), they ask for it, and we enable it. It has a direct impact on business outcomes. It helps the employee perform better, get rewarded better. They feel nice getting better at their job. Everything gets connected to each other – learning, performance, reward, motivation and engagement.

It’s not that organizations need to crack some Da Vinci code of HR, to get this right. Organizations simply need to crack common sense.

Common-sense that reminds us, that an employee is one human being. Also, that each employee is unique. So, a set of silos, blanket interventions driven by silos sub-functions, will simply not work.

The key handy-man enabling the HR split personality, are the legacy systems and tools.

Any HR professional in the industry using some of the most popular systems will know that they hardly provide any insights or analytical capabilities to answer questions such as:

  • Why is the employee unable to perform – what can be done to change that (currently these are gut-based solutions, dependent on the managers’ individual wisdom)?
  • Where exactly are hot-spots of problems, addressing which should be our top priority?
  • Are we demonstrating any kind of bias while appraising or rewarding employees (as diversity gains priority, these questions will become critical)?
  • What kind of developmental opportunities do we need to invest in (Currently, this is one of the most unscientific, whim and trend-based decision in organizations)?
  • Can I build a 360-degree employee-view far ahead of the 9 box – can we factor in performance journey (not just ratings), data on key values demonstrated, potential, demographics (helps understand diversity), etc?

One of the top challenges for businesses today is engaging the millennial and Gen Z workforce, amidst making sense of the technology onslaught. Days of interventions like joining bonus, retention bonus, fun and games are over. Unless HR is willing to acknowledge this problem and fix it, it cannot survive the next wave of change in the industry. As they said in the movie, Split:

“The beast is real”.

Employees Don’t Need to Become Better at their Jobs. Managers do.

Everyoneand we do mean everyone, wants employees to become more productive (in fact, that’s one of the key selling points of our own performance management system, so we’re guilty here too.) So we keep talking about training & motivating them to be better at their job.

Unfortunately, we’re looking at the problem  at a symptomatic level. We’ve focused so much on the employee & his/her performance, that we’ve mostly ignored the real underbelly of the situation – What’s up with our manager? Many of our large companies are stuck in a feudal, hierarchical system where the manager decides what the employee does, based on a ‘set in stone’ job description. Moreover, the manager controls the levers when it comes to the employee’s career progression, which gives the manager too much power and can endanger the employee’s career growth if the manager isn’t actually good at his job.

Finally, we have to consider that no one is actually teaching managers how to manage. The average 2-year MBA program will have maybe one course on how to effectively manage, train and build your team. And once people graduate, companies assume that these graduates will be great managers, because they’re coming from the top B-schools. So within a year or so, a fresher with an MBA degree is put in charge of a team – with little or no study into whether he has the capability, the empathy or the team skills to lead that team.

This is going to change fast, as startups and even larger companies become agile, nimble and data-driven – and we need to train managers to quickly adapt to the coming reality, where the employee, and not the company, is in the driver’s seat. So the question is how to get better at managing teams – without having to go through 18 leadership seminars (“For only Rs. 75,000, you can attend a full-day workshop with eight bored speakers in a swanky hotel basement! You might not learn much, but hey, at least there’s gulab jamun and vanilla ice cream for dessert. And you get to keep the ball pen.”) and 34 self-help books.

So How do we Manage Teams Better?

1.    Get a good Performance Management System, right now! (And we’re not just saying that because we’ve made a really good system, honest) Without a good PMS, you’re running blind when it comes to understanding your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, focus areas, skills & interests. It’s incredibly easy these days to gather relevant data and use it to improve decision-making.

2.    Restructure Career Progression. Don’t assume that “more work experience = better manager”, and build hierarchies and never-changing departments where everyone does the same role for 2-3 years before getting promoted. Structure your company around strategic goals and objectives rather than traditional departments. There are people who can manage large teams, and there are those who can’t (at least without a lot of training.) Don’t assume that if I can manage 3 people at age 28, this means that I can manage 300 people at age 38.

3.    Make goals specific, clear and actionable – and ensure that all Managers know the goals. A manager who doesn’t understand the company’s priorities will not be able to set goals for his own team-members. We spoke to Avantika Susan Nigam, the Total Rewards Capability Lead for Asia, Middle East and North Africa at Pepsi, about permeating organisational goals through the organisation. She told us, “You are only as good as the information provided to you. It’s the organisational leadership’s responsibility to make sure that the organisation’s goals and priorities are clear, and communicated clearly and often. The more you communicate it, the more employees and managers will internalise those objectives. Managers can display behaviours, but they can’t be held accountable for what information they have or don’t have.” A good goal-setting system will make this task much easier.

4.    Have strong feedback and recognition systems. If you’re saving your feedback for the end-of-the-year appraisal cycle, you’re doing it wrong – your team members might not stick around till then. We spoke about this in detail in our last article – make sure you’re acting quickly, getting feedback from multiple sources, and dealing with your subordinates in a fair, transparent and open manner.

The work ethic has changed rapidly over the last few years – and the work environment needs to catch up fast. People are taking more ownership of their careers, and see employment as a mutually-beneficial transaction rather than a long-term loyalty-over-all-else relationship. If your management style reminds them more of a henhouse than a smartly run operation, they’ll be gone soon.

If you want a game-changing tool that truly empowers your managers, Contact us today!

Employees of the future will finally take control of their careers – Thanks to Continuous Performance Systems

Performance reviews, as they exist in most companies today, are broken. They’re a complete disaster for most employees, and we’re pretty certain most managers hate them too. A lot depends on the employee’s personal relationship with the manager, so there’s massive potential for bias. The review system also gives too much power to the manager. We’ve worked in companies where the review could be summed up as: here’s how you performed, here’s your raise, here’s your promotion (or not), unfortunately, my hands are tied, I fought for you as much as I could, next year will be better, you’ve gotten a better-than-average increment, you should be happy, NEXT EMPLOYEE, PLEASE COME IN.

They’re also prone to ‘recency’ bias – a word that Microsoft Word underlines in red when you type, so it’s not even a real word, but any serious HR professional will tell you it’s a huge problem. No manager can remember everything an employee did through the year (let’s face it, we ourselves can’t remember most things we did through the year), so they judge their employees’ performance based on tasks they did in the last month or so. A lot of managers hate the system for the same reason – they’re also human, and they’re being asked to “rank” or “grade” the people they work most closely with, based on incomplete information.

So the current system leaves employees feeling powerless, like cogs in the wheel with no control over their growth, and voiceless against the management. Sounds great for morale, doesn’t it?

More Power to the People

The single greatest motivator for employees would be to give them more control over their career trajectory and their growth within the company. In the current system, especially in large organizations, this is a tough sell – everything is geared around role descriptions that stay static for years. Employees have to be slotted into specific roles, with predetermined responsibilities, compensation and to-do tasks. No two people are alike, but multiple people are expected to perform the same job in the same way as everyone else.

It’s also understandable. Focusing on individual careers is really, really hard – and HR can’t be expected to keep track of everything that everyone is doing, or what they would rather be doing instead.

So the best way out? Give more power to the person who understands someone’s career plans best – the employee herself. Anindya Shee, VP of Talent Management and HR Tech at Cipla, says, “We need an aspiration-linked, strength-based approach to career and performance management. Organizations will need to do much more to take cognisance of people’s choices, interests and skills, and the sooner they realise and start doing this, the better.”

So how can we do this?

Make the feedback useful for employees. We spoke to Gina Lewis, Group HR Advisor at a large Indian diversified conglomerate, and she says, “Employees want feedback that is accurate, real-time and constructive. Performance systems in most companies however, fall short of these expectations. They have instead become a means to fulfilling one important “to-do” for managers and HR – i.e. helping them determine how to distribute their annual compensation budget. There is very little “management of performance” for the individual in this process.”

Speak to more people. The current system relies too heavily on the opinion of the manager, who is just one critical stakeholder. A robust performance management system should include inputs from departmental colleagues, from sub-ordinates, from senior management, from other people that this person regularly interacts with, from customer surveys. You’re thus reducing the importance of any one person’s view, and improving data reliability.

Allow for Immediate, real-time Feedback. If I’ve done something good in June, don’t make my colleague wait till March to bring it up. Let her log on and note it today itself. A system that allows for immediate recognition will eliminate recency bias, and the additional data points will make the review far more reliable.

Make it transparent to the employee. The employee should be able to see the kind of feedback she’s getting. It’ll help her understand the areas she’s good at and the areas she needs to improve upon, and also help her build a solid case during her performance review discussion. It’ll also give her manager better and more complete information – to have a better discussion on what it’ll take for the employee to progress faster and reach the next level.

A good employee performance system can be extremely empowering for individual employees, and help them plan their career path better. It’ll also help the company plan resourcing better, and over time, build data on the kinds of employees it needs, in terms of skill sets, personality traits and culture fit. Of course, some companies will be slow to embrace such a system, and others will be much faster – and transparency in career development will be a selling point for companies when they try to attract the best talent.

Disclaimer: We make one such really good performance management system, that uses tech to make recognition and feedback seamless, social, easy and accessible. Call us today!

A prelude to Dockabl Insights

Hi! Welcome to Dockabl.

We’re a team that is building a platform that enhances productivity at work, enables continuous performance & development and drives engagement in an effective manner.

We decided to create Dockabl because we saw a clear problem:

  • Organizations are setting goals at highest levels but the work being done by departments, teams and individuals isn’t properly aligned with these goals. So, there is a lot of wasted effort, lost productivity and loss of morale
  • Employees today aren’t getting relevant feedback on their performance, they can use. They need feedback that is accurate, real-time and constructive. Unfortunately, organizations are using performance management as a means to distribute their compensation budget
  • Organizations aren’t able to get their head around the millennials and what it would take to keep them productive, interested and engaged
  • We are still taking critical decisions about our business and talent based on what a few folks think up in the boardroom, most of the organizations aren’t even aware of the power of analytics and insights to fuel decision making

We decided to fix all of the above and more, by creating Dockabl. A tool that makes the process of goal execution, ongoing feedback, career progression and recognition easy & intuitive.

During this process we’ve been speaking to plenty of founders, HR experts and CXOs. We will be sharing some of the best insights we’ve gained from talking to the top brains in the country in a series called Dockabl Insights. It will feature practical advice on things that affect us the most while setting up teams and managing people.

  • Addressing the white elephant in the room: Go Lean or Go Loaded. The debate between niche platforms and enterprise solutions.
  • Do managers of today lack engagement techniques or do they micro manage too much?
  • How to maximise your returns as an employee by using an HR Tech tool.
  • 5 things that say you’ve invested in the right HR platform.
  • Are you leading your data-driven organisation based on your intuition? Maybe, It’s time to change.

At Dockabl we like exploring concepts in the most inclusive and diverse way. Through our posts we invite our readers to join us on this journey of discovering insights from deepest trenches of the corporate jungle. As we see it, this engagement will enrich the Dockabl end-user’s experience as well as yours.

To know more about Dockabl, its team or to sign up for a demo, visit www.dockabl.com

To contribute and engage with Dockabl Insights follow our page