Improving employee performance management at web speed

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As the leading provider of web-related services in North America and a pioneer in the Internet industry, Network Solutions knows a lot about getting things done at web speed.

Headquartered in Herndon, VA, with offices in Pennsylvania, Network Solutions employs about 650 dedicated and web-savvy employees. It's a company founded on the belief that the Web has the power to enrich and enhance people's lives.

In addition to offering the domain name registration services, for which it is best known, Network Solutions provides a full suite of web-related services, including web site design, online marketing, email and web site hosting for more than 4 million customers.

Challenge

After it was divested from its parent company and sold to a private equity firm, Network Solutions set out to build its own organizational infrastructure. High on the priority list was an automated system to formalize the process that it used to review employee performance.

The company experimented with manual staff evaluations for its 2003 performance review period. The results were less than favorable — managers couldn't track usage or generate reports of any sort. This was followed by a second approach, building a suitable solution in-house, that consisted of a very simple web form for managers to complete before routing to the next level manager. Managers entered and rated employees using up to three objectives, with all data being captured in a database. However, the system did not allow managers to start a review, save it and complete it at a later date, which caused some data loss. In addition, no reporting was available, which meant HR could not determine how many reviews had been started and/or completed. Ultimately, the system caused frustration for managers as well as the HR staff and didn't come close to meeting Network Solutions' needs.

It became clear that sourcing an off-the-shelf solution was the best way for Network Solutions to meet its needs quickly and efficiently.

The company's main goal was simply to ensure all employees received formal feedback from their managers on their performance in order to support their development. Ideally, the new performance appraisal system would also make it easy to link merit and bonus pay to performance, and run reports that show utilization and rating distributions by department.

The HR team recognized that Network Solutions' managers, like most, see the value in employee reviews. However, the challenges of the in-house system, coupled with the busy schedules their managers maintain, signaled a clear need to find an employee performance and talent management solution that was quick and easy to use. After all, Network Solutions is a company accustomed to moving at web speed.

Solution

To maintain the company's established performance review schedule, Network Solutions needed to find a system that could be up and running within one month. So the Network Solutions team quickly and thoroughly reviewed four employee performance and talent management vendors. Evaluation criteria included ease of use, technical support, comprehensive reporting capabilities, and cost.

"The system we used with our old parent company had a nice user interface and functionality, but we experienced all kinds of technical issues and their support was horrible," said Nonie Strike, MIS Manager/Business Analyst for Network Solutions. "Another vendor also offered a nice system, but it was way more than what we needed, much more expensive, and seemed a bit more complicated for our users."

Their Vice President of Human Resources had similar comments on the vendor and selection: "We selected Halogen Performance™ because we felt it met our needs without a lot of extra bells and whistles that we were not interested in. We felt comfortable that Halogen's technical support would assist us with our set-up and roll-out," said Ed Daniels. "Halogen's cost was another big plus for us. We are a relatively small company with approximately 650 employees and cost was a factor. We felt Halogen offered the best product at the best price."

Network Solutions purchased licenses for Halogen Performance in Q4 2004, opting to install the software in-house instead of using a hosted solution. Halogen's implementation and support teams had the system functioning in just a few days. Hiccups in the rollout were resolved at web speed, and company-wide employee performance evaluations were completed on the new system less than one month after purchase.

The HR team and an IT representative from Network Solutions attended a two-day, on-site product training session. Time restraints prevented any formal training for the company's 100 managers, who simply followed a user-friendly user guide developed by Network Solutions' IT representative. Almost all managers reported no trouble with the system and loved the simplicity of the new review process.

The best feature of Halogen Performance is its reporting capabilities, the HR team says. "It allows me to have up-to-the-minute access to information concerning the entire process," added Daniels.

From the IT side, Strike said the product's best features are its simple design and robust functioning. The system is designed to handle heavy loads so there's little risk of technical issues arising during a review process. Configuring employee evaluation forms is easy and flexible.

Results

Halogen Performance's fast and easy implementation allowed Network Solutions' HR department to quickly and easily automate its company-wide employee performance appraisal process without interrupting its regular year-end appraisal cycle.

The company wanted every employee to receive a comprehensive, consistent review. Halogen Performance gives managers a comprehensive tool to accomplish just that. It also gives the HR team a simple way to track and monitor the performance appraisal process. "We know exactly who has started the process and where each manager stands in regards to completion," said Daniels. "We can run reports for the overall company, by department, or by specific manager."

Objectives were met: managers were able to give employees constructive and timely feedback, and the employees appreciated having formal reviews completed on time.

With full executive support and with the help of Halogen Software, the first set of staff evaluations using the new system was very successful. The Network Solutions HR team achieved a 98 percent completion rate for both corporate locations, the highest completion rate in the company's history.

Was the investment in an employee performance and talent management solution worth it? "Absolutely," Strike said. "You cannot put a dollar value on the importance of employees receiving regular performance feedback from their managers. Halogen Performance provided the tool to make that happen. And Halogen's cost was very reasonable, especially in comparison to the other systems we looked at."

"I would recommend Halogen Performance as an easy to implement and use solution at an affordable price," Strike said. In fact, the Halogen product achieves all of the goals that Network Solutions sets for its own web business: top-notch design, responsive technical support, robust functionality, stability, and ease of use. "We feel very confident that we are in good hands," concluded Strike. "Based on other performance management systems and companies we have worked with, Halogen and its solutions are the perfect fit for our company."