Sun-Rype's talent management solution yields fruitful results

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Sun-Rype Products Ltd. is a 64 year old Canadian juice and fruit snack company based in Kelowna, British Columbia. It grew out of the fresh fruit business in the lush Okanagan Valley. In 1946, the BC Fruit Growers Association created BC Fruit Processing Ltd. to produce and sell pure 100 percent apple juice. This fresh offering was branded "Sun-Rype." Today this publicly traded company generates some $150M in sales annually.

HR veteran Michelle Reid joined the organization in early fall 2003. Passionate about engaging people and implementing creative solutions that support best-practices, Reid looked forward to tapping into the discretional efforts of the organization’s nearly 400 employees to help increase productivity. It’s been a long and winding journey.

Seedling solution buds into healthy growth: executive summary

A crop of measurable and anecdotal benefits have resulted since the organization moved to an automated performance management system:

  • Managers and employees complete reviews on time without HR badgering
  • A complete turnaround in on-time completion, from 35% in 2007 to 93% in 2009 to 100% in 2010
  • Accountability is prevalent and sense of urgency is high
  • Overall improvement in corporate culture and employee engagement
  • Turnover rate decrease from 20% to 4%
  • 64% of leadership positions are now filled by promotions from within
  • $85 000 estimated first year savings

Accountability and performance: forbidden fruits

Turning the clock back, Reid remembers how Sun-Rype operated without a pay-for-performance system. Shortly after joining the company she realized there was no formal performance management, merit or incentive program. “I knew we had a lot of work ahead of us to support our growing organization.”

The company decided to hire consultants to improve the way they managed employee performance and rewards. However, the end result was a complicated, costly, and heavily administrative, paper-driven process that never took off. A year later, with new leadership at the helm who endorsed pay-for-performance and held themselves and their teams accountable, the company's annual performance review process was refined. HR simplified the system, aligned corporate strategy with department and individual goals, set up a shared directory of Word folders and introduced electronic sign off. “With these changes we were heading in the right direction,” Reid reflects.

Despite improvements in performance management, the company’s system was far from proactive. Any given business faces predictable situations and a myriad of unexpected twists that derail the best laid strategic plans. Sun-Rype's current President and CEO, Dave McAnerney, wants a nimble organization where employee performance is a key business priority.

Planting kernels of knowledge

“In the food manufacturing sector we’re seeing flat industry growth,” McAnerney shares during a mid-afternoon phone conversation, “and at Sun-Rype we see this as an opportunity for innovation. In such a competitive environment we need a performance management tool that helps us make sure people are focused on priorities and allows us to re-establish and change goals and priorities on a dime.”

Reid consulted with her network of HR practitioners and issued an RFP. She set out to find a performance management system that addressed a number of considerations. “Our IT resources were already maxed and unable to support HR. We had a limited budget with big expectations; where customization didn’t equate to dollars, and HR could independently manage and modify the system. That was really important. We wanted ownership to be with the employee and manager so they could actually go in, set goals, and manage meetings and conversations and coaching, rather than have HR wield a big stick and badger people to complete evaluations.”

Ideally the solution had to be a positive development tool that leveraged an individual's strengths and provided stretch goals. It wasn’t about capturing job descriptions and activity done within those parameters, it was about focusing on business needs and the employee’s ability to meet targeted goals. Above all else, it was to be quick and user-friendly with the ability to grow with the organization over time.

Halogen Performance™ proved to be just that tool. It was purchased and up and running within a matter of weeks.

Cross-pollination of Information cultivates change

Once Halogen Performance was rolled out, change came quickly. Within a few months employees had a sense of urgency, managers became accountable, and everyone saw the power and value of using the system. Reid goaded groups on by using the dashboard to announce that department X had a higher completion rate than department Y. It was competitive camaraderie at its best. Completion rates soared to record levels.

A few years into the process, Cindy Wilker describes the impact from her perspective as Sun-Rype's VP, Supply Chain: “With Halogen Performance there was a quantum leap in a universal acceptance of performance management. Now managers across the organization are proactive and diligent. They regularly use the tool to record and make notes about achievements or roadblocks. They look at making sure the right things get done throughout the year. We all focus on the meat of a meeting, whether it’s constructive criticism or glowing accolades. It's about goal alignment over several sessions rather than one formal annual process. And it’s become ingrained in our culture.”

CEO McAnerney elaborates: “Everyone plays a role in delivering against our strategic plan and this is achieved through our rigorous approach to talent management.”

“We are a results-oriented culture and we get that through tracking not only what gets done but how it gets done, and that's been built into our competency definitions. This results emphasis is also built into the way our managers work to help employees improve performance. The Halogen solution not only helps us track individual deliverables but also ensures they’re aligned to our strategic plans.”

“One of the most useful benefits is that every year that we use this tool it gets better. We appreciate the flexibility and simplicity of Halogen. We’ve had 100% completion and I believe that's because the tool is easy to use.”

Reid concurs pointing out that not only did managers and employees complete their reviews on time, without HR nagging, the company also realized a first-year cost savings of $85 000. Time is money and Sun-Rype has saved a lot of time by creating efficiencies in the process and ensuring tighter tracking of the compensation budget.

An additional win for the organization has been higher levels of employee engagement, with turnover rates decreasing from 20 per cent to 4 per cent since initiating the performance management program five years ago.

Reid also talks about a dynamic synergy; the healthy conversations, interesting debates and hallway conversations. “People feel really good about what they do and what they contribute, knowing there are a lot of different promotions and leadership roles that have evolved through our leadership development program, which is part of our performance management and career development approach.” Some 64 per cent of the company's leadership positions are now held by individuals promoted from within; a big achievement according to Reid.

Basket of options ahead

As Sun-Rype pursues new talent management initiatives, Halogen Software will continue to serve as a trusted and resourceful partner.

“I really like how Halogen listens to their customers and takes action wherever they possibly can to enhance and improve their systems,” says Reid. “It really is a simple tool to implement quickly, with lots of support from the Halogen team. It's easy and affordable with many additional strategic options to continue to help us build on business results in the future.”