Using technology to help staff pull in the same direction

Reducing costs and improving productivity of employees is top of the agenda in many companies. Persuading or helping staff pull in the same direction and improve quality of service is part of the productivity mix and can be achieved via online metrics and objective setting.

Individual behaviour, attitude, motivation and development, team working and alignment to objectives and values – and compliance – may all need to be addressed and managed.

Traditional approaches to handling these issues have been paper and computer-based appraisals, organisational cultural measures and subsequent solutions, 360-degree measures and simply the MD sitting down and telling staff members what to do or collaborating with them over a change programme.

Large organisations have typically called in external consultants, who use a variety of tools to map the organisational culture and roll out a change programme. Some consultants use time and motion studies to highlight where individual improvement is required, followed by training.

With the advent of application web enablement, it’s getting easier – and cheaper – to skip the paper-based and human-action options and manage staff’s attitudes, behaviour and performance online.

Case study – Medex Research

The company is a full service global market research agency, operating in the medical devices and diagnostics market. The lessons learned there from its use of online employee performance management can be scaled up or down.

Medex traditionally used paper-based appraisals to track staff performance to ensure that its people were permanently focused on the essential business objectives and values. Managing Director Sarina Masson recognised the drawbacks of paper and decided to switch to a new generation of employee performance management.

The system gives her a complete picture of what is going on in the business from the employee performance and behaviour perspective.

She says, “Many people are now more familiar with web-based applications than paper ones, which makes the switch to web-based appraisals an increasingly painless one. There is the added advantage that they can be rolled out very easily at any time locally or globally. All that is needed is web access and computers.”

Medex’s appraisals are carried out with two objectives in mind, which are set against the business goal of always producing the highest quality research, in order to secure solid long-term client relationships (i) staff development, including meeting training needs and how best to improve performance, if it needs improving.

“The system will tell us if it does,” says Masson (ii) using the system to build and maintain quality across the business.

Focus on staff development and re-direction

“We’re different to a lot of other companies, but similar to market research companies, in that sales output can’t be objectively measured,” she adds. “So we focus on staff development in areas like analysis and report writing – generally, how to perfect the different stages of market research.

“Now in its second year here, the system is key to optimising our employees’ market research skills, as well as their knowledge of the medical industry, through highlighting any gaps in it, which we then address.”

Masson says the system “has helped us formalise and systemise employee appraisal and career progression. Paper-based systems can be run very informally and will take more time. A computerised, web-based system enforces good discipline by the managing director, or the head of HR or whoever manages its use.”

The introduction of a new approach to performance management “also gives the opportunity for staff ‘re-direction’ in their personal development. It’s not just useful for showing where training is required; it can pinpoint where change is required in attitudes, attention to detail and overall quality of work, in line with company goals.

“And it helps with fostering a better ‘connection’ with the company, in terms of individuals helping other staff; for example in generating more sales, being pleasant to work with, having ideas for the business and the workplace, being proactive in company support – including the way clients are serviced – and working better as a team.

“Where a company’s positioning is ‘quality’, the system supports the drive for excellence in every area that contributes to it,” adds Masson.

Conclusion

Through addressing attitudes and behaviour and other “soft” but highly influential factors in a business – such as ensuring everyone meets or can meet business goals in a set time, and are pulling in the same direction – the business can make great strides [and quickly, thanks to the online approach] in improving individual’s productivity and the quality of service they provide internally and externally.

Shirley Barnes is Client Relationship Director at Dinamiks.