Six critical design features for a successful online performance management system in SMEs

Brian Shaw
 1.  Simplicity 

The purpose of your system should be to make it easy for employees and managers to have an ongoing, coaching conversation which they can add to as often as they want.  It should continue throughout the year to help them deliver their goals and grow their capability.  It should remove the administrative load on both their manager and them self and remove almost all the time cost of paper-based systems.  The benefits to them should become apparent as soon as they start using it and this should create its own momentum from the outset.   Getting conversations going is the key.  Do not complicate the process, keep it simple and acknowledge progress as it happens.

 2.  Flexibility to set up and operate the way you want your process to work

Don’t be tied into a process that is dictated to you by the system!  You should be able to change everything to suit you – language, colours, layout of screens, rating scales, frequency, timing and type of reviews – everything!  You should specify how you want the system to work and it must be able to do it from options within its set up, not by bespoke development.

This is a key part of Mariner7’s design philosophy and a major point of difference.  You can customise it to your requirements and change it as your needs change.


3.  Intuitive and easy to use

The system must look great, be intuitive, be easy to learn and use and even ‘gamify’ the performance management process to make it more productive and useful.  People must not only “get” the navigation and how to use the system but using it must engage them and capture their imagination. Its value to them must be obvious from the time they start using it.

This is something Mariner7 gets regular feedback on and it goes without saying that our design approach uses this as a benchmark against which we judge everything we build.


4.  An inbuilt process to encourage people to use it and make it come alive

Arnold H Glasow, the American humourist said: “Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire "

Research by CEB Corporate Leadership Council and others has shown that simply providing a cloud based system does not guarantee that everyone will use it. Managers must lead the process, but some are naturally better at doing this than others.  There is a need for a storytelling mechanism in the system that gives people information about what others in your organisation are doing, what is working and the benefits they are getting. 

Mariner7 has used its experience in working with people who have unchallengeable authority over their decisions (such as commercial airline captains and medical specialists) to prompt them to try things that have worked for others. By using an appropriate storytelling format to give them information about what others in their organisation are doing and the success they are having causes people to try new things themselves.  


5.  The right support options you need throughout your lifetime use of the system

To deliver real benefits to people and organisations, performance management systems must not only be set up correctly at the beginning but they need to be adapted over time as these needs change.  As experience with the system increases people use it differently to get maximum benefit from it. This requires a commitment from the supplier to work with you on an ongoing basis to provide ideas, training, system enhancements and support throughout your time with the system. 

Another consideration is your capacity to administer and run the system. We work with you to ensure that you can handle as much of the administration of the system as you are comfortable with and we do the rest.  This extends to an option where we will run the whole thing for you for a service fee, freeing you to initiate changes to the way you work within your organisation that make a real difference to your people and your business results.  You are always in control and you decide how you want the system to work.  We just make it happen for you.


6.  Able to be interfaced with other best of breed HR systems at your own pace

Mariner7 can be integrated with other HR technologies to create your own customised suite of high performing HR tools at a pace that suits your organisation.  This way the tools can support your processes and work for you in an integrated way as your needs grow.  You can pick and mix the modules you want and add them over time in a way that allows each to be assimilated into your organisation at a manageable pace.

The "module for everything" integrated systems do not provide the best of breed for each module, they lack flexibility to customise easily to local requirements and can overwhelm people as they try to come to grips with too much too soon.


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