Today's competitive manufacturing environment demands ever increasing productivity, efficiency and quality. While manufacturers have tended to be quick to look to automation to improve their manufacturing processes, improving yields, reducing waste and shortening production cycles, they've not always thought of the importance of automation to improve their business or human resources processes. Yet automation can yield similar results in these areas.
One HR processes area that has been shown to benefit from the use of automated tools is talent management, which encompasses recruiting, employee performance management, learning management, compensation and succession planning. Employee performance management includes performance reviews, goal setting and alignment, competency/job skills management and employee development planning.
Software that automates these employee performance management processes can save money by reducing the time required to evaluate employees; reduce the length of the employee performance management process cycle by making it more efficient; improve the workflow between supervisors, employees and HR, again increasing efficiency; increase manager and employee participation, and ‘on time’ completion rates; and, make it easier to demonstrate compliance with ISO and OSHA standards.
Automated employee performance management tools also help you to align your workforce by linking employee goals and job accountabilities to organizational objectives; build organizational bench strength by developing key competencies and job skills; deliver higher quality, more accurate and more consistent employee evaluations—including to plant floor workers; and, better identify and address skills development and learning needs.
1. Organizational Alignment
Automated employee performance management software allows you to capture organizational, divisional and/or departmental goals in the tool, and make them easily accessible to employees. Employees tangibly link their individual goals to higher level organizational goals and document their incremental progress on goals. Supervisors can then clearly see how employee goals are contributing to the organization's, and identify issues at a glance. They can also effectively monitor progress on goals, up and down the reporting chain. This allows you to be sure "the right people are working on the right things" and supporting the organization's strategy.
Effectively aligning employee goals with organizational goals also tends to increase employee engagement and drive higher performance. It does this by giving employees a clear context for their work and an understanding of their impact on the organization.
2. Bench Strength and New Leadership
Competencies (also called job skills) describe "how" work should be done by employees, as opposed to "what" work should be done. To be effective, they need to be at the heart of all your talent management programs.
Here again, automated systems can help. By listing job skills and their definitions in a centralized library, you can ensure that all your talent management processes, from creating job requisitions, to writing job descriptions, evaluating employee performance, creating learning and development materials, and grooming employees for advancement and succession, use the same set of competencies and work in concert to cultivate them in your employees.
3. Quality Employee Feedback
To improve and succeed, employees need ongoing feedback on their performance. Young people entering the manufacturing workforce especially crave it. Employees need to know what they are doing well and where they can improve. Automated employee performance management tools make it easier for supervisors to give their employees feedback in a variety of ways.
First, they make performance evaluations faster and easier for managers to complete, so organizations typically see their participation rates rise dramatically. This means more employees are getting the performance feedback they need. Some solutions can even overcome the issue of computer accessibility for production floor workers, by collecting their input and electronic signature during their performance review, right from their supervisor’s workstation.
Second, automated performance management tools usually allow you to provide descriptions of ratings, especially for job skills, and force supervisors to use a prescribed rating scale—helping to improve the consistency of ratings, which results in employees perceiving the process to be fairer and taking the feedback and ratings more seriously.
Finally, automated employee performance management tools usually offer supervisors sample comment suggestions to use when writing feedback for an employee. They may even include coaching and development tips. Receiving feedback on performance is a known contributor to employee engagement.
4. Skills Training
By setting clear goals for employees, communicating required competencies and setting standards for high performance, automated employee performance management tools allow supervisors and employees to better identify performance gaps. Some tools allow managers to then access a catalog of available professional development activities right from within the employee's performance evaluation, so they can assign appropriate development activities while they're reviewing employee performance. Supervisors can even track the completion of assigned development activities and measure the associated improvement in employee performance, so they can easily verify that the skill gap has been closed. This functionality is particularly helpful for addressing ISO 9001:2008 6.2 HR compliance and reporting requirements.
Automating your employee evaluation process also allows you to identify and address critical skill gaps and talent requirements at an organizational level. Reporting capabilities let you easily review competency ratings, performance ratings for goals and overall ratings for an individual, a group or the entire organization. This way, you can proactively identify trends, areas of strength and potential organizational weaknesses, and put the right learning and development programs in place to address them effectively.
These are just four benefits from automating your employee performance management process and evaluation forms. If you want to optimize the productivity, efficiency and quality of your products and manufacturing processes, you need to optimize the productivity, efficiency and quality of your people. Optimizing your employee performance management process and forms by automating them is one great way to achieve this.
JP Guay is a regional manager with Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of employee performance management software. He focuses on helping HR leaders and senior management in manufacturing organizations optimize their talent management practices. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.
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