This content is part of the Essential Guide: Making the shift to continuous performance management

Using continuous performance appraisal software a growing trend

More organizations are adopting frequent coaching and evaluation of employees to augment traditional reviews, but employees might be leery of being monitored too much.

With new performance appraisal software on his laptop, Harry Ross is expanding performance management by rating employees each week on whether they achieve their goals.

Ross, HR director at Brenthaven in Seattle, is retaining formal performance management reviews for mid- and end-of year, but he is augmenting them during a test of Perform from TINYpulse.

Ross said he and his employees like the immediacy of the application and the "bite-sized" feedback on goals. "There is constant back and forth between us, usually on a goal, whether they hit it or not," he said.

Ross is among a growing number of supervisors at small and large organizations who are using performance appraisal software for weekly coaching, discussions and goal setting with employees.

Holger Mueller, a vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif., said continuous performance management is a hot trend in human capital management. He said that to improve performance, continuous coaching and evaluation of employees are needed in combination with annual or biannual reviews.

Accenture, Adobe, Juniper Networks and General Electric are some big firms using tools for continuous performance management. General Electric, for example, deployed a mobile app to help enable a new in-house performance development system that emphasizes coaching and continuous exchanges between a manager and an employee, Laura Paredes, a spokeswoman for General Electric, said in an email.

Weaknesses in annual reviews

Ross said the annual review often is completed too late, and there is a lack of follow up. An annual review also tends to focus on an employee's performance, either good or bad, during the most recent weeks or months, and not on how they performed throughout the year, he said.

From a Dashboard on his laptop, Ross said he will click on a "green arrow" if an employee exceeds a goal, yellow for meets the goal and red for falling short. An employee also clicks on the same arrows and frequently, Ross said, he and the employee agree. There is also room for comments.

He might rate the manager and assistant manager at his company's Seattle store, for example, on whether they met their goals for sales during a weekend special. Brenthaven designs, manufactures and sells protective cases and bags for laptops, smartphones, cameras and other devices.

People might balk at too much monitoring

Mueller, the analyst at Constellation, noted that it is well documented that yearly reviews don't work by themselves, but it is not entirely the fault of the system or software vendors. "There is something inherently inside of humans that we don't want to rate people, we don't like to get rated and we don't like to give negative or critical feedback," he said in a video on YouTube.

Mueller said employees might be leery of being monitored too much with continuous performance management. "It all depends," he said in an interview. "If it is done well, it is appreciated. If it is done badly, it can be intrusive and scary."

Mueller praised SAP for introducing in February a new continuous performance mobile app as part of SuccessFactors. The innovative application provides for "one-to-one" check-ins between employees and managers, an underserved segment of performance management, he said. Cornerstone OnDemand, Halogen, TriNet, Ultimate Software and Workday are among other vendors with continuous performance appraisal software.

Mueller said performance management is an important issue because performance reviews often are the basis for the rest of talent management including onboarding, learning, promotions and compensation. When performance management fails to work, all of talent management is broken.

Company finds happy medium with performance appraisal software

Source1 Purchasing is seeking a balance between the annual performance review and a new fad for frequent coaching and reviews.

The company, headquartered in Boynton Beach, Fla., implemented TriNet Perform last year for quarterly reviews of employees and also uses the TriNet "feedback" app to allow employees to recognize the achievements of a colleague. Supervisors and employees also have a face-to-face "daily huddle."

"The system we have in place is very effective," said Evy Little, former HR director and current executive program director at Source1 Purchasing, a purchasing services organization for the hospitality and lodging industry.

As part of a review, each employee and supervisor agree on five top goals for a quarter, and then each rates the employee at the end of a quarter, Little said.

The quarterly review also involves seven questions on job purpose, competencies and key performance indicators. After the quarter ends, employees have a week to complete the questions.

A bar graph measures headway on answering the questions and can be monitored by employees and supervisors. Employees meet face-to-face with their supervisor at the end of each quarter to discuss the reviews.

When Little started at the company, performance reviews were a time consuming process that involved emailing and scanning documents. "With TriNet Peform, it is very time efficient and user-friendly," she said.

But not everyone is on board with the idea of continuous performance appraisals.

Frank Pasquale, professor of law at the University of Maryland, said the continuous performance appraisal software is potentially divisive and should be tested before possibly being adopted across an organization.

"It entrenches and intensifies the stratification of the workplace because there is a group of people at the top who decide what software to implement," said Pasquale, who specializes in law and technology. "Then you have a group of people at the bottom who get bossed around by the software."

Company to use phones for performance ratings

Limeade, a corporate wellness technology company based in Bellevue, Wash., will be launching TINYpulse Perform to all 170 employees on April 4, following testing with 10 employees that started in November.

Amy Patton, director of culture and wellbeing at Limeade, said she will likely use Perform on her phone, but will also access it on her laptop.

 "The biggest benefit of Perform is the ongoing feedback and coaching," she said. "It will help align managers and employees all year long."

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