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Cisco’s Performance Review Makeover Stands Out at HR Tech

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on Unified Communications & Collaboration


Cisco’s Performance Review Makeover Stands Out at HR Tech

By: -
14 Oct 2016

Editor’s note: At Wainhouse Research, we have been watching the embedding and integration of communications and collaboration technologies into human resources workflows for some time now.  This started with the likes of Saba, Blackboard, Workday, and others over the past few years. Our focus is on productivity improvements and how the technologies in our sandbox improve workflows.  As a result, we are expanding our coverage of the intersection of collaboration and learning to include talent management, and it’s our pleasure to add Sarasota, FL-based Charles DeNault as a Senior Analyst.  Charles comes to us from past gigs with Saba, SuccessFactors, and WebEx, so obviously he knows our corner of the industry.  Here is his first item for the WR Blog.

Most organizations are facing unprecedented change, and many believe that they will be more agile and competitive with a more engaged and productive workforce.   With this in mind, last week I attended HR Tech, the premier technology trade show for HR professionals, held in Chicago this year. 

One of the big questions that the HR tech industry faces is how to help its customers elevate employee engagement. According to Gallup’s monthly employee engagement poll, approximately 33% of employees are engaged, which means 67% are just showing up … or worse! Whether an employee engages at work is affected by a variety factors, including does he have a good relationship with his boss and peers,  does she find her work interesting and of value, is he allowed to work in a manner that suites his personal style, and many others.  The solutions vendors are proposing are varied as well, and I’ll take this space to highlight a few of the innovative products I saw at the show that emphasize communications and collaboration, and do a deep dive into something that may appeal to those interested in Cisco’s HR processes.

Charles keeping things civil at HR Tech. Thanks to Jobvite for a little fun on the show floor.

  • No e-mail? No problem. It’s hard to engage employees if you can’t communicate with them. This is a real problem for hotels, restaurants, retail stores, medical services – any company where employees do not sit at a desk and do not have email.  But just about everyone has a smart phone, so you can keep in touch with the Beekeeper app, which supports activity streams, chat, slide shows, file sharing and polling. On the admin side, Beekeeper allows for scheduling communications, moderating discussions, and grouping employees along with analytics around usage and the polls.
  • Improving Engagement and Talent Programs. Adobe’s benefits team needed help communicating the advantages of their new health care savings plans to their employees, so they turned to GuideSpark. Using GuideSpark’s communications platform, Adobe was able to deliver information via web page, video and mobile about the new plans, and with a multi-touch campaign approach, they had three times the expected number of employees sign on to the savings plan. While I suspect most of GuideSpark’s engagements are related to open enrollment for benefits, talent programs across the employee lifecycle would benefit from the vastly improved communications GuideSpark provides.
  • Poll, Analyze and Act. Saba launched Pulse 360 which can push a three-question engagement survey on to the Saba Cloud homepage.  Additionally, employees can also give feedback on their peers by answering a single question – giving HR a quick, crowd-sourced performance metric.  The easy-to-interpret dashboards along with data from the other talent modules let HR diagnose the engagement problem. Of course, if the solution involves corporate learning, onboarding, or another talent program, HR can take corrective action in Saba Cloud.

While these products rely largely on one-to-many communications, Cisco, in its implementation of StandOut from The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC), is strongly encouraging more team leader-member conversations. After an extensive internal review, Cisco did away with its annual performance reviews. The usefulness of the annual performance review was also a hot topic at HR Tech, and while that’s a subject for another blog (or two), the performance review has been found to hurt engagement in that many managers avoid conversations and hold back feedback for that annual performance discussion. Of course, with the pace of business today, any once a year process seems to have little chance of being effective.

Cisco calls its implementation Team Space, which is indicative of its focus on the performance of teams and not individuals, as just about everything gets done through teamwork.  Team Space currently supports one third of Cisco’s 70,000 employees and the thousands of teams they comprise.  

Team Space provides leaders with strengths, commitments and aspirations of each employee. It also enforces a weekly check-in, which is a short message that takes about five minutes to write. Here are some of the questions in the check-in:

  • “What did you love doing last week?”
  • “What are your priorities for this week?”
  • “What do you need from me this week?”

With the check-in as a starting point, the team leaders are strongly encouraged to have a weekly or at least a bi-weekly conversation with those on their team. These conversations are in addition to any team meetings that may occur, although some might use the conversation to also discuss project tasks and related items.

Team Space has been up and running for several months and the data is very encouraging. Cisco reports that teams with a high percentage of completed check-ins are outperforming the average team, and those with leaders who are reading the check-ins and holding conversations are doing even better.

What I think is most interesting about Team Space is that Cisco has the opportunity to map usage of its collaboration and communication tools -- video conferencing, WebEx, and Spark, down to individual teams and determine what effect on engagement and team performance these tools provide. Years ago when I worked at WebEx, we had a fairly easy time finding use cases such as sales presentations, virtual classrooms, and support calls where the virtual meeting enabled a quantum leap in terms of productivity, but we had a much harder time quantifying its impact on more general collaborative workgroups. Cisco has the foundation in place to see what really helps not only in terms of productivity, but also engagement. Hopefully we’ll hear from the company before next year’s conference.

It’s this intersection of communication and collaboration with talent and learning management that I find fascinating and will be reporting on regularly here. I would love to hear from you about how your organization uses communications and collaboration tools with learning and talent programs. I can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @mathchuck.