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Micah Fairchild Performance Management Software: Building a Buy-in Strategy

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 By Micah Fairchild

Driving Performance Management Software Adoption via Management Buy-in

Has your organization finally decided that it can simply not afford to put off the pressing decision of what to do about your performance management process any longer? Maybe the time has come to shift from an antiquated, paper-based performance management process to an automated performance management system? Or, maybe you’re simply looking to upgrade your current, decentralized performance management software to a more sophisticated and feature-rich offering? Well, irrespective of whatever the particulars of your company’s situation, chances are you’re basing your decision off the fact that you’re not getting what you need out of your current solution.

While we have previously outlined performance management software best practices, there is no way that we can unequivocally tell you exactly what your specific business’s needs are—the range of requirements and organizational factors is simply too great. What we can tell you though is that research supports the fact that you’re not alone. In fact, according to DDI (Development Dimensions International) studies, firms typically want their performance management software to help them “improve company performance; stay focused on strategic priorities; shift focus when needed during times of rapid change; develop employees and raise the bar; and create a learning culture that will attract and develop employees”—tall orders to fill indeed, but all viable options if the right solution is selected and implemented effectively.

Effectively “Selling” a Performance Management System to Managers

Aside from selecting a performance management system (PMS) that meets your organizations needs though, the fact of the matter is that the system has to be adopted in order to be successful; and managers represent one of the prime constituencies that need to be sold on exactly how shifting processes will be beneficial to them. In the Organizational Development world, we often refer to this as the WIIFM (or What’s-In-It-For-Me) principle, but the concept is just as home during the buy-in stages of HR software implementation. Specifically, to get buy-in from your managers, you have to demonstrate exactly how the PMS functionality will meet their needs as well as the overarching organizational objectives of your business. For instance, some of the standard benefits that could be communicated to managers include:

  • Performance Management Systems help to eliminate paper work and significantly reduce the amount of time that managers spend administering appraisals by automating the updating, flow, distribution, routing, storage, filing, and retrieval of appraisal information—key factors in the argument for how performance management software affects productivity.
  • Today’s performance management software solutions often feature the ability to incorporate a balanced score card and track and cascade organizational goals down to every employee. As such, the PMS can enable managers to quickly align their team member's goals with business strategy—an element which can lead to productivity increases of up to 35%.
  • Automated performance management solutions can make it easier for managers to develop staff due to integrated reporting systems that can allow managers to swiftly generate personal development plans (PDPs)—ensuring targeted training and subsequent performance improvement are on point. In fact, the Corporate Leadership Council suggests that the existence of PDPs is the second most influential employee development action that a business can deploy.
  • Finally, the majority of performance management solutions on the market currently also contain a range of functionality that makes it much easier for managers to deal with the “soft” side of conducting performance appraisals. This functionality includes electronic writing assistants (which can help managers to actually prepare the appraisals); coaching support tools (which can help managers to provide effective performance feedback); and even legal wizards (to help managers avoid using illegal or inappropriate words or phrases).

Performance Management Software Buy-in Requires Change Management

Still, for many organizations (and their respective managers), the above-listed benefits are little more than generic platitudes; aimed at appeasing supervisors who would otherwise want nothing to do with adopting a new performance management system. As such, it’s imperative to adopt a formal change management process to ensure initial acceptance and ongoing adoption of the new process; rather than simply resting on the laurels of what the proposed system could do. Hence, the new PMS should be introduced via an associated (and appropriate) pre-launch, launch, and post-launch communication plan; including e-mails, newsletters, brochures, FAQs, etc.—elements that are designed to enthuse stakeholders and continually explain the benefits of the PMS to staff, managers, and the business overall. Further, organizations should identify a senior executive sponsor who owns the performance management system; because it is vital that the senior executive team is seen to be passionate about the new system and clearly advocate its use. In fact, research from the Change Management Best Practice report shows that “active and visible executive sponsorship is the number one contributor to change management success”.

Final Thoughts on Achieving Buy-in for Your Performance Management Technology Goals

In an interview conducted with organizational change thought leader Dr. John Kotter, the most surprising thing about buy-in was how often company’s underestimate its importance. As Dr. Kotter framed it, “Our research has shown that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail, and one reason for this is executives simply don’t get enough buy-in, from enough people, for their initiatives and ideas” which is one of the critical issues when it comes to getting a performance management software initiative off the ground.

Aside from the continuous improvement efforts that every effective HR software implementation should go through, research has shown that users and adoption rates immediately decline following the introduction of a new interface—a fact which means that the aforementioned communication elements must be maintained post-launch until the PMS is fully adopted. As well, due consideration should be given to those interventions that can help further embed your new PMS into regular work patterns; such as training all new leaders in using the PMS within the first month of hire or linking bonuses to the quality and timeliness of performance appraisals. If your business can take the time to adopt this change management based approach to introducing a PMS, you will be able to achieve greater manager buy-in and maximize the adoption, usability and effectiveness of your selected performance management solution. It may undoubtedly take time and effort, but (at least in this case) the ends justify the means. After all, an effective system for managing performance can fuel productivity—helping your business to reach its desired goals and objectives. End

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“It’s imperative to adopt a formal change management process to ensure initial acceptance and ongoing adoption of the new process; rather than simply resting on the laurels of what the proposed system could do.”


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