Engagement-based appraisal system brings firm consistency and accountability

Hear why Angelica Vacquera calls Halogen "a blessing"!

Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas, P.C. (PKF Texas), a CPA firm and part of PKF International and Leading Edge Alliance, was challenged by a highly complex reporting structure and a history of inconsistent appraisal processes.  Because their leadership has their internal clients' satisfaction at heart, they continually look for ways to improve and continue to be viewed as a Best Place to Work. With the move to web-based employee performance and talent management software from Halogen, the firm was looking to:

  • Bring consistency and reliability to the area of employee appraisals
  • Effectively manage their complex reporting structure built around engagements
  • Support the retention of professional services staff through stronger employee engagement

Corporate profile

Located in Houston’s Galleria area, PKF Texas is a CPA firm that focuses on solutions for every stage of business. With leaders who are forward-thinking entrepreneurs and business advisors with Big 4 backgrounds, PKF Texas serves emerging and middle market companies across many industries. Service areas include profit enhancement, internal audit, international/domestic tax, accounting, auditing, litigation services, business systems consulting and IT. PKF Texas is a member of PKF International and The Leading Edge Alliance. PKF International is an association of 265 legally independent accounting and consulting practices located in 120 countries. The Leading Edge Alliance is a group of major independently-owned accounting and consulting firms from around the globe that share an entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to be the premier provider of professional services in their chosen markets.

Challenge

PKF Texas was using a system for managing employee goals and performance that was based on separate Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. It did not provide those conducting and/or completing appraisals any historical information, reporting capabilities, accountability, or consistency. The system also lacked a competency breakdown that could be used to identify gaps and potential priorities for training resources.  As a professional services firm, they conducted engagement reviews in addition to yearly appraisals, and the firm struggled to effectively perform engagement reviews and appraisals in a timely way. These engagement reviews are vital to the firm’s ability to manage their highly-skilled talent.

“Our old evaluation process was labor-intensive, time-consuming, and difficult to track, not to mention frustrating,” said Angelica Vaquera, HR Coordinator with PKF Texas. “I cannot stress enough the man-hours the process used to take.”

In a professional services organization like PKF Texas, the challenge of recruiting and retaining the best, highly-skilled workforce, is a primary concern. At PKF Texas, and at accounting firms nationwide, employees are letting employers know they expect ongoing feedback and a career development plan. With the paper-based system, the HR team found it difficult to gather and analyze performance data from multiple evaluators and engagements.

Solution

After researching options to replace the paper-based system with an on-line module, Vaquera sent a research survey to their network of accounting organizations. The information received indicated that Halogen Software met the industry’s specific needs and could support the firm’s engagement-based processes.  For PKF Texas, the ability to complete engagement reviews is vital to making the appraisal process relevant to 75 percent of the firm’s employees whose time is spent primarily working within engagements.

“Once I began to request demonstrations of the various systems, I was surprised that some vendors did not respond back to me; they were unwilling to even set up a demo,” said Vaquera. “Halogen responded quickly and several CPA firms recommended Halogen because of their quality customer service and product. We were confident the Halogen system, with its focus on professional services, would enable us to gather and analyze the data from engagement reviews throughout the year.”

As the selection process progressed, the firm’s president, department heads and the director of human capital support became actively involved. Following three demos with this group, they selected the Halogen product based on its ability to deliver on all of the firm’s requirements, particularly engagement appraisals. 

As new users, PKF Texas attended the Halogen User Conference and found it very beneficial. The firm was able to network with others their industry.

“I had spoken to a number of accounting firms who were at the conference through our network. The conference was very informative and I was able to get additional one-on-one technical help, said Vaquera. “We got exactly what we were looking for and a lot of unexpected benefits as well. We found that Halogen not only fits our needs, it is very customizable, if we ever decide to change our process. “

Benefits

The new Halogen solution began showing an ROI for the firm and its team members almost at once.  With the new system in place, the firm was able to bring consistency and reliability to employee performance management across all departments, effectively manage its complex reporting structure, and successfully incorporate engagement reviews into the process. The new solution has also provided PKF Texas with an additional edge for recruiting and retaining top talent by improving employee engagement.

Once the solution was implemented, HR worked hand-in-hand with the firm’s president to roll it out organization-wide.  “The process went so well, with no resistance.  I was even pleasantly surprised to learn that some managers began to use other functions and tools in Halogen.” said Vaquera.

“The evaluation process now is more time-efficient,” said Vaquera. “No longer do we experience the drain of time to get through the evaluation process.”

All of the firm’s employees are now involved in the appraisal process. Though the firm is located in Houston, Texas, its audit department travels to various client sites around the country. The employee can access the online system from anywhere with an internet connection. “I am also happy to state that our evaluation process is now paperless, easily accessible via the internet and has a stable home.” said Vaquera.

The new generation of PKF Texas employees highly values Halogen Performance™. The firm’s new hires and interns ask specifically about the kind of feedback they will be given, as this enables them to understand their place in the firm and the meaning of their role. PKF Texas’ highly-skilled professionals know that with the new employee performance and talent management system the firm now has a clear method of measuring employee performance and a clear path for development. Moving to a web-based employee performance and talent management system ensures that the PKF Texas’ HR team, managers and executives are able to deliver this information to employees. This assists greatly with both retention and recruitment.

Based on PKF Texas’ experience with the new employee talent management system, they find themselves recommending this resource to others in the close-knit professional services community.