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'Round the Clock Performance Management

April 22, 2001
Related Topics: Performance Appraisals, Featured Article
Moving from paper to Web-based performance appraisals was a natural decisionfor Red Hat, the fast-growing company that took on Microsoft with its Linux opensource operating system. "Everybody at Red Hat has Internet access,"says Karen Clark, director of corporate human relations. Given the company'sbusiness interests throughout the world, it was important to provide real timeaccess to a performance management system to every employee from any computer atany time, she says.

Name:RedHat, Inc.
Location:Durham,North Carolina
Type of Company:Linuxoperating system developer
Numberof Employees:575
System:PerformaworksPerformance eWorkbench

    Ensuring around-the-clock access meant putting the system on the Internet.The data actually resides on Performaworks' server, Clark says, which allowsemployee access from any computer -- not just those issued by Red Hat. Since thesystem can handle a million users simultaneously, continued growth won't becomea problem. Red Hat has no limit on the number of hits to the Performaworkssystem, says Sandra Gault, vice president of marketing and business developmentfor Performaworks.

    The Internet-based system also has the advantage of openness. Employees cansee their performance evaluations and track progress toward goals. This allowsthem to make strategic changes to improve their progress, question comments, andcorrect mistakes in the documentation. Ultimately, a more accurate appraisal isachieved.

    The Performance eWorkbench system provides a cascade of company goals, fromtop management on down, so employees enter their own goals to support thecorporate objectives. That input increases their commitment to those goals.Additionally, Clark says, they have a view of how their goals align with theirmanager's goals and how they all fit into the corporation's goals. The softwarealso lists the competencies that apply to each job.

    As a result, employees and managers can design development plans to helpemployees achieve those goals and can document their progress, thus helpingemployees maintain a more consistent focus on what's really important to thecompany. That information is then used for performance reviews, providingaccurate, objective data over a 12-month period. In contrast, performanceappraisals using the old paper-based method tended to focus on events of thepast 6 to 12 weeks, Clark says.

    Red Hat tries to avoid ranking employees against each other. It does rankthem as high-, middle-, and low-end performers within their groups. Unlike someprograms, the Performaworks' eWorkbench ranks employees only against the goalsthey set for themselves. "It's very specific," Clark says. There areno generic questions, so the rating criteria are guaranteed to match the actualjob. Performance-appraisal software is just a tool to streamline an existingprocess. It doesn't replace face-to-face communications.

    For managers, eWorkbench can generate reports on demand, in real time, toprovide an instant snapshot of progress. That feature is expected to be helpfulduring Red Hat's quarterly "mini-reviews." It can track performancetrends, analyze progress toward corporate goals, and provide data to helpcritique the execution of strategic initiatives. Its usefulnessextends beyond performance appraisal to performance management.

    After about seven months of planning, Red Hat implemented the system inJanuary 2001. "You can't just throw software to the masses and expect themto use it effectively," Clark says. Training classes -- five hours formanagers and three hours for other employees -- are focusing on identifying goodgoals, writing good goals, how to input and track goals, and how to actually usethe software for performance reviews.

    If Clark were to do this again, she says, she would try to anticipate more ofthe questions the Red Hat staff would ask during training. The staff is highlytechnical, and so are their questions. Most of them relate to security issues."We have best-of-breed security, that includes encryption, hardware andsoftware firewalls, passwords, and user ID," Gault says. "Security ischecked and verified continuously."

    Performaworks restricts access to the databases on its server, requiringuser-level ID and passwords.

Workforce, April 2001, pp. 76-78SubscribeNow!

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