Upgrading talent management processes leads to fully integrated approach, efficiencies

First West Credit Union automates performance management, succession, learning
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/28/2013

In 2010, First West Credit Union was formed through the merger of Valley First Credit Union and Envision Credit Union. That was the catalyst for the organization to look at how it could do performance management better at its 37 branches, according to Nathalie Pasin, senior people and performance consultant at First West in Langley, B.C.

“One of our strategic objectives was to become a higher performing organization so, within that, we had this opportunity to grow or develop the First West performance process and it was very important to us that we have automation or technology to support us in that,” she says.

First West didn’t want to go with just a performance management system, even though that was the module it launched initially — it really wanted a talent management solution, says Pasin.

“From an organizational perspective, we really wanted that consistent performance approach, something that would support our new strategic objectives and something that would be visible and available to our employees in an engaging, consistent and always available kind of way.”

The organization considered four vendors, along with assessing the in-house system developed at Valley First Credit Union. In the end, it settled on Halogen Software, particularly because of the different options it offered in its Halogen eAppraisal Financial Services module for performance management, goal alignment, 360-degree feedback, learning management and succession planning.

First West made the final decision midway through 2011 and the new system launched early in 2012 with the goal-setting process. But first there was considerable training, with Halogen teaching the software to “super users” at First West who then cascaded down the training to managers and employees.

Part of the training had employees accessing the live system and doing some of the tasks they would need to do in the goal-setting process. And, in the end, the launch went very well, considering most of the employees weren’t familiar with the automated system or the technology, says Pasin.

“There was that typical learning curve we needed to get through but we took a very hands-on approach with the training, so we developed elearning tutorials and webinars, and we got the majority of employees through one of those methods,” she says. “The support requirements after we launched were less than we anticipated, so that was good.”

The new performance system involves goals related to core competencies and leadership competencies, and goals tied back to core values and ideas.

Employees are required to identify their performance goals and then discuss these with their managers, while ensuring they tie back to the core strategic objectives of First West, says Pasin.

There is then an electronic sign-off for both parties and these goals are accessible throughout the year, so employees can add journal or feedback notes or upload kudos from colleagues.

Goals and goal alignment are important and First West has many different organizations to tie together, according to Donna Ronayne, vice-president of marketing and business development at Halogen Software in Ottawa.

“They were trying to manage as one entity and they were trying to get alignment, so what the system allows you to do is say, ‘OK: What is your mission, vision, values? What is it you aspire to be as an organization?’” she says.

The Halogen e360 Multirater module allows employees to collect feedback from colleagues and then, during the annual review, managers can look at the notes, kudos and feedback to gain a full assessment, says Ronayne.

“The system makes it really easy for the employee… to put that information in throughout the year, right from the desktop.”

So far, the multirater module has been used in the mid-year and year-end processes to allow performance leaders to reach out to others who may have worked with their direct reports and collect feedback, says Pasin. First West is also looking at doing 360s for development purposes in 2013.

The succession module has also been used for a number of key positions at the credit union, which has taken a targeted approach, says Kathleine Emerson, senior people services systems consultant at First West.

“In some organizations, they do broad, full employee population succession planning, where we’ve chosen to assess our organization, determine potentially where our people risks are and to look at potential future incumbents for those roles, so we are leveraging the functionality within the application for succession — we’re just doing it in a targeted approach.”

The most recent module launched at First West has been for learning management. It is able to manage learning history and learning activities, facilitate registration and historically store the activities, says Pasin.

“That is integrated within the development component of your performance, so that’s where the talent suite really does become powerful, in that we’re collecting all these pieces in how we develop our people within one simple application, and also providing that one single application to our employees and performance leaders so they don’t have to learn multiple, different formats.”

The learning component is fully integrated so it supports not just traditional classroom learning but direct access learning around webinars, books and elearning, she says. And that makes sense considering First West is dispersed across British Columbia.

“That maximizes the efficiency of our employees’ schedules, in that they have the flexibility to do it when they need it, they have the flexibility to do it as they have time, and at their desktop, versus having to take a chunk of time to come to a central location and attend a traditional classroom session,” says Emerson.

In the system, learning and development are attached to performance and development, says Ronayne. A company can start building an understanding about the workforce as a whole, about strengths and weaknesses, about high potentials or people at risk of leaving.

“Everything is linked and everything is done at once and everything is so much more expedient because (a manager is) not trying to do all those things on an individual basis — they’re all really well-connected,” says Ronayne. “It’s now looking at talent management as a bunch of activities linked with performance as the core, more so performance development.”

The system is getting away from performance appraisal as a dreaded thing at the end of the year, she says, and looking at a person as a linked, integral part of the organization.

“It’s more about development and less so about a score.”

And if there is a low competency score or rating, there are tools for managers that include coaching tips or writing tips, says Ronayne.

“It’s more about helping managers, providing them with greater insight into their employees with all that data at their fingerprints. It helps them save a lot of time and helps them give fairer reviews, because now I have all that data, and I’m not just trying to guess the last three things you did — I really, truly know what you did,” she says.

First West also places a big focus on keeping things simple, both for members and employees, says Cheryl Shaw, manager of public relations and communications at First West.

“Previously, people might have had to go to multiple sources to funnel their performance reviews, whether it’s an Excel document or Word document, various, different sites, and having to save on personal computers or common drives,” she says.

“And now, with the system, it’s really a simple process for all employees to access their learning records and to rate themselves and give feedback and also rate their own performance for the year and also get feedback from managers. So that was an important win or positive step for us as well.”

The biggest benefit to the changes has been consistency, says Pasin.

“Through the automation, we have the ability for there to be a consistent process for all leaders and employees. There’s the visibility on the performance side to organizational goals, development plans and personal goals and objectives, as well as that ability to put in feedback all the way through the year, so that the year-end process isn’t such an onerous task,” she says.

“We saw that as a key attraction and retention factor, because employees really do place a high importance on — when they come to an organization — knowing there’s opportunities for development and growth, and we really think that this type of a system helps do more of that, helps us do it in an efficient way.”

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