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It’s no surprise performance management is a hot topic. When I talk to HR executives and other line of business leaders, it is a top of mind issue. Add to that the expectations we all have today stemming from the use of technology in our personal lives where the apps in which we live allow us to connect, share and comment instantaneously.

As I’ve talked about regularly, those expectations have changed the way we look at technology at work as well. And they guide how we approach our application design at SAP SuccessFactors.

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Re-Inventing Performance Management

In our 2014 study with Oxford Economics, we found that younger workers – particularly those considered “millenials” – want more regular feedback from managers and peers – up to 50% more than their older colleagues.

And HR and line of business managers are taking notice. Witness the tempest set off by Accenture’s recent announcement that prompted headlines like “Accenture if freeing 300,000 plus employees from performance reviews,” “Accenture To Nix Performance Reviews And Rankings For All 330,000 Employees,” or “Accenture Dumped Performance Reviews, Here is Why.” It’s hardly just Accenture though they are certainly a huge employer globally, so not surprising so many headlines were dedicated to them – as The New Yorker recently pointed out, Gap, Microsoft, Deloitte and others have also changed what is starting to be viewed as an outdated process around annual reviews, stack ranks and rating systems.

We get it. And that’s why we’re letting our technology help you re-imagine your company’s performance management processes. We continue to introduce easier ways to recognize and reward people for performance more often, with employee-manager interactions and feedback, peer recognition, activities, and accomplishments all instantly available and completely mobile. Because it’s no longer just about your manager collecting feedback and then spending months consolidating, synthesizing and then subjectively and sometimes arbitrarily rating your performance.

Still, we know our customers and not everyone is making this move – some are weaving it in with more traditional annual cycles, others want to stick with processes they feel are working for them. So we’ll support both. As Steve Hunt, head of customer value at SAP SuccessFactors, recently blogged, it’s not a story of getting rid of performance management, or nixing, dumping or freeing from it, it’s a matter of finding what works best for your company and your employees.

The Not so Good, and the Good – Technology Won’t Change Your Culture

The story just got a lot more interesting for me, and I think for many of you too. The New York Times just published a story on Amazon, based on employee and former employee interviews, which painted a picture of an organization using instant feedback tools as tools to bully or force out employees who took leave or gave opinions not liked by colleagues, etc. I don’t personally know what it’s like to work at Amazon, and I expect this is a somewhat inaccurate view for many of their employees, but it points out something important in this conversation – it is not the technology but the culture that determines how tools support or hinder in the workplace. Like I say regularly, with cloud in particular making the implementation and adoption of modern, user-friendly technology happen quickly, the devil is now in the detail of change management. And HR has a huge role to play in that.

I have a personal favorite example of how instant feedback can be used in a productive, positive and engaging way. Thomas Otter, product manager for SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central, blogged about an experience he had recently when visiting a Brooks Brothers store. A few days after his visit, he was speaking at our annual user conference in Las Vegas SuccessConnect. One of his fellow speakers was from our customer Brooks Brothers. Thomas relayed the story of having recently visited their Philadelphia, PA area store and having had a great salesperson and a great experience. The executive from Brooks Brothers asked Thomas if he knew the name of the salesperson. As the story has been covered a few times now, I’ll let Thomas’ own words tell it,

Justin from Brooks Brothers opened the “SuccessFactors app on his phone, opened the org chart and drilled down to the photo and found the store employee. He gave him kudos immediately, almost before I finished my sentence.

With 2 or 3 clicks, probably without realising it, Justin had proven, in action, precisely what we are trying to achieve with our products. This wasn’t just about EC, it was about mobile, EC, platform and talent all working together. Without our software that feedback would have been lost. Without the mobile org chart, Justin wouldn’t have been able to get to the info. Without EC, he wouldn’t have known precisely who was working the store. Without Talent he wouldn’t have been able to do the kudos, and quickly let the store manager and regional manager know.”

I love this story for illustrating the positive side of technology, the value of instant feedback and the power of the suite, along with the value HR brings to the business today in implementing these systems. And that may be the key difference in what The New York Times reported, where the feedback is secret and anonymous. I think we need to be transparent, and constructive. What’s your view?

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