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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Where do I start?

Buyer's Guide to Performance Management Software
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Foreword by Daniel Anticich

If you’re an HR or Tal­ent pro­fes­sion­al, we’re guess­ing that per­for­mance man­age­ment is very much on your agen­da. From arti­cles in the trade press to con­ver­sa­tions with cus­tomers and peers, we know it’s a per­sis­tent and press­ing issue for organ­i­sa­tions in every ver­ti­cal and of almost any size. The fact you’re read­ing a Buyer’s Guide to Per­for­mance Man­age­ment Soft­ware” is also a bit of a giveaway. 

HR pro­fes­sion­als are unique­ly placed to under­stand how peo­ple behave and react to change. You’re the one in the van­guard, defend­ing people’s inter­ests (even if they don’t, per­haps, always under­stand that!). So the more infor­ma­tion you can arm your­self with, the more like­ly you are to gath­er sup­port and ush­er your qui­et rev­o­lu­tion through the gates. 

We’ve spent the last few years devel­op­ing and refin­ing Clear Review’s per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware, and we speak to HR and Tal­ent pro­fes­sion­als every day of the week. Vir­tu­al­ly every­one we speak to is pas­sion­ate about dri­ving pos­i­tive change in their organ­i­sa­tion. And although they all have their own unique chal­lenges, they also know that it’s not enough to just say We’re mak­ing a change”. The com­mu­ni­ca­tions and cul­tur­al change process is all impor­tant. Sim­i­lar­ly, and increas­ing­ly, the tech­nol­o­gy that under­pins it is critical. 

This guide pro­vides a frame­work to sup­port your jour­ney towards the right tech­nol­o­gy part­ner. We’ll address some of the key con­sid­er­a­tions, answer the fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions and give you more con­fi­dence in engag­ing with tech­nol­o­gy vendors. 

As a per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware ven­dor, we have clear and — some­times — pas­sion­ate views on the sub­ject. For the pur­pos­es of this guide, though, we’ve done our best to sub­merge our pas­sion and give you as objec­tive a view as we can. 

Daniel Anti­ci­ch — Head of Sales & Mar­ket­ing: I’ve been buy­ing, sell­ing, and work­ing with tech­nol­o­gy solu­tions for 15 years, most­ly in the tal­ent man­age­ment space. I’m pas­sion­ate about user-first think­ing’ and match­ing the needs of organ­i­sa­tions with the right software.” 

Stu­art Hearn — Founder & CEO: I’m a per­for­mance man­age­ment spe­cial­ist with 20 years’ HR expe­ri­ence, both as an HR Direc­tor and con­sul­tant. I’ve spent the last 10 years work­ing with organ­i­sa­tions to improve their per­for­mance man­age­ment process­es through smart technology.”

Chap­ter 1 - Where do I Start?

You can’t tru­ly to get to grips with what the mar­ket is offer­ing unless you have an idea of what your per­fect world looks like. 

That doesn’t mean you have to have every­thing nailed down in a neat Pow­er­Point and signed off by the chair­man. Before you even start meet­ing with ven­dors, there’s plen­ty you can bor­row and steal from them to inform your strat­e­gy. Every ven­dor out there is cre­at­ing con­tent — some great, some less so — that you can down­load and review. There are online prod­uct demos, videos and webi­na­rs to give you an excel­lent starter for ten. Ven­dors and ana­lysts are the ones at the coal­face, remem­ber: to thrive, they need to under­stand what their cus­tomers’ chal­lenges are, deliv­er the solu­tions to fix them and work hand in hand with those cus­tomers to help them make that cul­tur­al change. 

But you do need some­where to start, if only to prove your­self wrong lat­er. So… how to get started? 

What does good look like? 

There’s a lot of research out there. A daunt­ing amount, in fact. In the last few years, it’s become accept­ed as fact that annu­al appraisals are a bro­ken, clunky mess and that shift­ing to a con­tin­u­ous mod­el with real-time feed­back is far more valu­able. But it doesn’t hurt to under­stand the gen­er­al themes before you get to the specifics. Start with the heavy hit­ters: Bersin by Deloitte , this CEB report, and our very own Stu­art Hearn’s eBook.

Aim for a list of bul­let points cap­tur­ing the proofs and research that seem to match your own sit­u­a­tion. You’ll get a) a hand­ful of killer facts to drop non­cha­lant­ly into the right meet­ing and b) the build­ing blocks of a strat­e­gy. We all know that a bit of sci­ence is a pow­er­ful ally: it will help with key stake­hold­ers and it’ll be a handy resource to have when you do start meet­ing with salespeople. 

Our own take on this, after digest­ing more arti­cles and whitepa­pers than any human should rea­son­ably be asked to get through, boils down to two key points: 

  • Per­for­mance man­age­ment mod­els need to be extreme­ly sim­ple.
  • The most pow­er­ful dri­ver of per­for­mance improve­ment is qual­i­ty con­ver­sa­tion and clear goals sup­ple­ment­ed by real-time feed­back.

What are man­agers and employ­ees telling me they need? 

There’s more detail on this in Chap­ter 2, but it’s worth stat­ing and restat­ing: the most impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion with soft­ware is adop­tion. Will peo­ple actu­al­ly use it? 

Try to spend some time talk­ing to future users about what they need, what they’d like and what they hat­ed about sys­tems in the past. You can do this face-to-face but a quick sur­vey (Sur­vey­Mon­key, for exam­ple, is free to use) will make the whole process much eas­i­er and quick­er. You’ll prob­a­bly end up with a whole messy pile of I wants” and I hates” but you should be able to detect the com­mon themes and mes­sages. These can feed into your strat­e­gy and give a bit of shape to things. 

Can I artic­u­late what we need? 

Time to start writ­ing. Again, bul­let points or a one-pager are enough at this stage, but you need to start shap­ing your mod­el. What vision am I build­ing for per­for­mance man­age­ment at my organ­i­sa­tion? What real­ly came out in my sur­vey? This can real­ly help to crys­tallise your own thoughts. You may find that you’re start­ing to get an idea of a core need and be able to dis­tin­guish between that and the nice to haves. Remem­ber: this isn’t about func­tion­al­i­ty so much as what you want to achieve with this. And yes, of course effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment” is what we ulti­mate­ly want to achieve: that’s the end goal. This is about explor­ing the how” that sits below the what”. This is about find­ing the pil­lars that will prop up the house. 

It’s also a real­ly use­ful way to start build­ing out a deck for key stake­hold­ers. Some of our cus­tomers need­ed absolute­ly no sell-in to senior lead­er­ship. Most did. We do have some resources, includ­ing unbrand­ed slides, that can help with this.

To give you some con­text, the core needs we hear about most often are: 

  • The require­ment for mean­ing­ful per­for­mance conversations’; 
  • Vis­i­bil­i­ty and insight into per­for­mance man­age­ment across the organisation’;
  • A sim­ple, agile way of doing per­for­mance man­age­ment in the flow of work’; 
  • Dri­ving a cul­ture of real-time feedback’. 

Once you have a core need estab­lished, you’ll have a defin­i­tive way to judge the strengths and weak­ness­es of the soft­ware you see.