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Objective Appraisals

April 22, 2001
Related Topics: Performance Appraisals, Featured Article
The old-fashioned, paper- and-pencil performance review didn't workwell for us," says Steve Nadeau, vice president of human resources forGwinnett Health System. "Evaluations were late, employees said it was toosubjective, and managers didn't like the system," he says. The problemscarried over into other areas also, potentially affecting the hospital system'saccreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of HealthcareOrganizations, which evaluates more than 19,500 health-care organizations in theU.S.

Name:GwinnettHealth System
Type ofCompany:hospital
Numberof Employees:3,300
System:KnowledgePoint'sPerformance Impact

    Nadeau saw KnowledgePoint's Performance Impact solution at an HR conferenceand decided to do a demonstration project with some of the hospital system'smanagers. About nine months later, the system was installed. At the time, Nadeausays, it was simpler to integrate new hires and departing employees into thesystem using their own mainframe than it was to use KnowledgePoint's server as ahost. "This allows automatic updates using our mainframe," he says.

    The hard part came at the very beginning. A development team was formed,consisting of managers and employees, to sort each staff member into one of ninebroad job categories, and to develop evaluation criteria for those specificcategories. Performance Impact has eight industry-specific competency modules,including one for health care. Many of the competencies were already built intothe program, including patient care, diagnostic testing, safety and infectioncontrol, food service, and housekeeping. These were combined with criteriadeveloped by the hospital, as well as with standard competencies built into theprogram. As a result, evaluation criteria are based on the actual jobs atGwinnett Health System.

    As part of the changeover, Nadeau says, the Performance Impact rating systemwas incorporated into the hospital system's appraisal program. It uses a 1-5rating, based on standards set by managers, "and ties pay to performance.Employees have liked it from the start, because it's less subjective than theold system," Nadeau says. Gwinnett Health System uses the evaluationsoftware for employee self-evaluation, too.

    The writer's block that often accompanies performance reviews is virtuallyeliminated by the Intelli-Text Designer. That module prompts managers to provideobservations about their employees' performance using a high-low scale and turnsthose observations into evaluation text. Managers have the options of generatingtheir own supporting text or customizing the existing text to ensure that"cookie-cutter" evaluations are avoided.

    Although Performance Impact is designed to include 360 degree reviews,Gwinnett's version focuses on the formal, manager-to-employee annual reviews.For 360 reviews, a paper-and-pencil check-off system is used. "Commentsaren't needed, so it's easier for employees to do," Nadeau says, notingthat only about one third of the hospital workforce has routine access to PCs.

    Version 2 of this system, released last November, moves the software into theperformance-management category by supporting multi-level, cascading goals forstrategic integration through the organization, as well as individualdevelopment plans, goal setting, and tracking. It also has a log to documentperformance year-round, helping the entire staff to focus on the organization'skey goals. That version features an optional integration module for automaticdata synchronization with the HR information services system, more than 2,000competency-specific coaching ideas, and automatic notification of tasks that aredue.

   Additionally, says Ian Alexander, KnowledgePoint vice president ofmarketing, "the new Performance Impact empowers employees to manage theirown performance and see how their actions support the entire organization,"which has "a powerful effect on employee retention."

    At Gwinnett, classes to train employees and managers to use the softwarelasted about two months. "For ongoing training -- especially for new hires-- we have a 'train the trainer' situation with an expert in eachdepartment."

    For the physical implementation, Gwinnett Health System formed a team ofmanagers and employees from throughout the hospital, to work with the HR andinformation services departments. "The biggest issue was getting all thepieces in place, planning the information services side," Nadeau says.

    Nadeau hasn't measured the differences in outcome between Performance Impactand the old paper-based method. That will come once the system has been in usefor a full year. Early indications, however, look promising.

Workforce, April 2001, pp. 79-81SubscribeNow!

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