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New Social Media Tool Adds Effectiveness to an Old HR Process

Employee Performance Reviews Done Facebook Style

For as long as human resource departments have existed, corporate human resource (HR) staff have been keeping track of employee benefits, employment records, performance reviews, staff seniority, hiring and firing and a myriad of other people-focused tasks related to a company's workers.

HR became more important as local, state and federal governments created new regulations, requirements and mandates for HR departments to adhere, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Continued compliance requirements, corporate mandates and staff requests make HR much more complex, often cumbersome and potentially overwhelming, but the job has to be done.

To aid both efficiency and effectiveness, it's critical that your company use the payroll software and HR applications that you can deploy and run to automate and ensure regulatory compliance, accurate and private record-keeping and human performance goals.

While automation is a key benefit of HR applications, exceptions are common place in HR departments. Employees often need different things at different times, and that means that your HR applications have to be able to serve the masses while still meeting individual needs.

One start-up company, Rypple, is working to bring that kind of individualized, but automated approach into one of the oldest HR business practices-the annual employee performance review. Rypple took a fresh look at how staff reviews are done and decided to upgrade the process, according to a story in the Edmonton Journal.

"The new generation coming to work look at feedback as an opportunity to learn, while the older generation, the boomers, equate feedback with judgment," said David Stein, the co-founder of the employee evaluation software company.

Rypple responds by giving staff reviews a new structure. "It functions like Facebook for feedback and allows managers and staff to comment on the performance of their peers in both public and private forums on a continuous basis," reported the Journal.

The idea is simple, according to Rypple's, "Great teamwork is more than having great people on your team. Regular feedback helps your team succeed, feel great about their work and grow more effective each and every day."

So what does Rypple do and how does it deliver something that's improved from today's typical, one-size-fits-all corporate performance reviews? First, it turned the whole concept of the annual review inside out, said Jay Goldman, Rypple's Director of Marketing.

The company's co-founders learned through their previous start-up, human capital management vendor Work-Brain Corporation, that as more employees came on board to the company, they had different performance review expectations and needs based on their ages and backgrounds, Goldman said. "The Gen-Xers and baby boomers look at things from very different perspectives," he added.

"The typical employee review process is a giant waste of time for everybody involved," Goldman said. "Managers have to go back and look at their notes from the whole year, if they ever took them, and then try to factor in pieces of conversations to determine bonuses. From the manager's perspective, it's just a big burden and does not necessarily help them create a good review. As an employee, it can be scary and it affects your compensation."

And since annual performance reviews are only done once a year, staff don't have the ability to make mid-year course corrections if needed in order to improve their performance, reviews and pay potential.

Then there is the HR department's perspective on the annual performance review process, Goldman said. For HR, it's something they need to get done, but the status quo is the only process they've ever used. Also, those reviews help make the HR team unpopular because staff often don't like the process or the results. "It's really a loss for everybody involved," Goldman admits.

That's why Rypple's Web-based service brings in a process of continuous feedback. For annual performance reviews, staff get continual updates of their performance throughout the review period from their supervisors using the Rypple system. The company refers to the process as coaching, where managers and workers can communicate on a real time basis over an extended period. More frequent iterations better set expectations, reduce miscommunications and provide up-to-date feedback that staff can leverage to improve their performance and contribution. "You're not doing a full review every two weeks," Goldman said. "It's just a continuous coaching conversation."

Later, when it's time for the actual annual coaching review, the manager can reference all the records from the year's coaching sessions in one place for easy access, understanding and evaluation. Workers can even get feedback from fellow staff using the Rypple system. Managers and other employees can post messages called 'thanks' for a job well done, touting a great well earned accomplishment. Everyone can see and share those notes and comments.

A second type of feedback communication is done anonymously, Goldman explained. A manager might ask the team if there's something they can do to make workers more effective in their roles or if there is something they can begin to do to be a more effective manager or coach. An employee might ask a question of others in the organization, perhaps about a project, and get anonymous feedback from a group of respondents. By getting anonymous replies, staff can learn about things that they might not know they are doing. If you ask your peers or colleagues about something and get several similar responses, it's really hard for you to not listen to that feedback. Blind responses get rid of the personal bias, and people can feel that they can trust the feedback they are receiving.

All of this made me realize that great HR applications are HR applications that respond to the very people whose information is stored in their databases. "HR software should be about the people, not about the process, and most HR software is about processes," Goldman lamented.

Personally, I think this is a great lesson to remember for new HR applications and processes as businesses continue to transform their operations. Imagine, HR systems and services that are better focused on the people who advance your company, allowing them to get more out of the HR systems your company maintains, so they may contribute to that company.

Goldman said that some clients have mentioned that Rypple has brought big changes to their operations and inspired new and more effective communications between teams of workers in separate departments, such as engineering and sales. "Some did not even know they had communications challenges inside their companies," he said. "This exposes that."

Some companies are using the HR service to replace their old annual performance review processes, while others are using it to supplement their existing performance reviews.

The most promising development, I think, is that the approach offers promising evidence that there are new ways of looking at old processes for significant improvements. There are plenty of other HR processes, systems and technologies that could benefit from this kind of innovation.

 

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