There is a lot involved in successfully embedding a new online performance system, this article covers the pitfalls and looks at the most important factors to ensure the project is successful and delivers a return on investment.

7 things to avoid when implementing an Online Performance Management system

1. Assuming that a new system will solve all existing problems. Having a streamlined administrative process is only one element of successful performance management. A new system alone will not deliver a high performance culture.

2. Not involving end users in the design stage. New appraisal processes frequently fail when they are designed by HR behind closed doors, with little or no discussion with line managers. It is employees and line managers who will be using the process so it is vital to get their input.

3. Getting carried away with the possibilities. Online systems offer so many options that you can easily end up with a process that is overly complex and time consuming to complete. It is easy to forget that managers will only be able to devote a limited amount of time to performance reviews. A balance therefore needs to be struck between your performance data requirements and the time taken to complete the process. I always advise clients that it is better to get 100% of employees providing 60% of what you would ideally want to capture, than only 20% of employees giving you 100% of what you want.

4. Believing that every element of the performance discussion needs to be captured on the appraisal form. Good performance management is about regular, high quality conversations between managers and employees, and not about the form. If the form is too long, it will put off employees from completing it properly and will distract from the conversation. You will obviously want the form to contain a list of items or questions that you want discussed during the appraisal, but you do not necessarily need the participants to provide a written answer or comments for every single question. Consider only asking participants to provide answers to things that you are genuinely going to analyse, such as objective achievements or competency ratings.

5. Focusing training on the system rather than performance management skills. One sign that your online system is too complicated is if you realise that you need to provide training on the how to use the system. A good online system should be simple and intuitive to use and should not require training (a simple ‘quick start’ guide should suffice). Instead, training should focus on how to write high quality objectives linked to business goals, and for managers to learn how to have effective performance conversations.

6. Changing the process too much from the paper version. When implementing an online performance system, it is tempting to use it as an opportunity to completely change the appraisal process, structure and forms. However, if you do this, you risk employees and managers thinking – rightly or wrongly – that ‘everything has changed’ and that they will have to spend time re-learning a whole new process. This can have a significant impact on your completion rates. If your existing paper based forms are satisfactory, don’t change them, simply replicate them online. This will be much easier to sell internally.

7. Not leveraging the benefits. I have come across numerous examples of organisations who have implemented an online performance solution with detailed analytical and reporting capabilities, and who only ever look at the completion rate report! A good performance system provides an opportunity to analyse and compare performance across different parts of the organisation, enabling you to spot issues, trends and plan appropriate interventions. Make sure you take advantage of these benefits and use the data to feed into other processes such as reward, talent management and learning and development.

5 ‘must do’ steps to ensure success

1. Ensure your system is simple and intuitive
2. Maintain the emphasis on the conversation and not the system
3. Involve end users in the process and system design
4. Focus training on having high quality objectives and conversations, rather than the system
5. Make use of the performance data from the system to identify interventions that will improve overall business performance

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