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The promise of automation to make work simpler is reaching new heights every day. 

One area that many human resource professionals will be relieved to see automation taking hold is performance management.

At a time when 98% of HR professionals say they’re burnt out, automation has tremendous value for reducing stress and overall workloads. While it invariably requires human input, the process of performance management involves a variety of repetitive tasks that are ripe for automation.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what those steps are, why you should automate them, and provide a detailed checklist of what you’ll need to consider as you do it.

Benefits Of Automated Performance Management Systems

Automation has a number of benefits for HR professionals such as improving workflows, reducing the demands of time management, and simplifying processes. 

Here are 4 major benefits to automating tasks within your performance management program. 

Enhanced efficiency and accuracy

Tasks such as data entry or report generation can be time-consuming and prone to employee errors. By automating them, HR professionals can remove the administrative burden of such tasks, reduce errors, and increase time to focus on more strategic work. 

Consistency and standardization 

In order to automate traditional performance management tasks, automation technology requires that processes follow consistent rules and criteria. Instilling this into the performance management process can reduce the risk of bias or discrimination, ensuring a more fair and equitable approach is put in place for employee performance evaluations. 

Real-time feedback

Automation can trigger near instant feedback for both employees and managers in real-time, allowing them to track their progress on goals continuously. This will help employees identify when they’ve lost track of their goals or priorities and help managers communicate what needs to be done to correct it in a timely manner. 

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Improved Employee Engagement

Automated performance management tasks offer the ability to tie in features such as goal tracking and learning and development plans for employees. This allows employees to create their own development strategy, thus driving motivation and engagement to a new level. 

“Annual goals don’t work in our current era,” Liz Lockhart Lance, Chief of Staff at Performica said. “Quarterly goals are a better fit, but they must be outcome-focused and connected to what’s most important at the highest level. If people can connect their work to the organization’s high-level desired outcomes, they can see how their efforts contribute and find meaning in their work.”

What To Automate

With the idea of why you want to automate clearly outlined, you can now begin the process of goal setting, establishing what processes and tasks within them you’re going to automate, and incorporating automation into your performance management strategy.

Here are four aspects of performance management that are ripe for automation. 

Performance reviews

Automating the scheduling and distribution and collection of materials involved in the performance appraisal process can save time and make the organization of those materials much simpler. It can also help you fine tune your review cycle to maintain talent management goals.

Resource: How to Conduct a Better Performance Review 

Goal setting and tracking

An automated system for the creation and tracking of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals will help managers and employees remain aligned with objectives of the business. But SMART is just one goal-setting model. 

Others include the OKR (objectives and key results) model or the Cascading Goals Model. You’ll want to figure out which works best for your organization and how you’ll be able to automate processes around it.

Coaching and Feedback

Instilling a culture of continuous feedback can be helped by automated mechanisms that provide regular input to employees to help them stay on target, improve performance, recognize milestones and grow professionally.

But feedback goes both ways. You’ll also want to create a mechanism that prompts employees to provide feedback to you when things aren’t working.

“A practical approach to change means pulling two levers at the same time,” Lauren Scholtz, Learning and Development Manager at intelliHR said. “If we were talking about a boat, it would be about getting rid of the anchors and raising the sails; we need both to be able to go fast. Building a continuous feedback culture is a great example of this in action. These are the anchors that make it seem like things are dragging. There might be big problems, like an employee feeling like they don’t have everything they need for their role or that the annual performance review process is time-consuming and unhelpful. Opening a channel for people to share this with you can help you raise those sails.”    

Data Analytics

Automating data analysis will help identify performance trends as well as areas for improvement. It can help prevent false narratives, provide greater context regarding the influence the employee is having on larger business goals, and aid in the decision-making process for future goal-setting exercises and promotions. 

Steps For Implementing Performance Management Automation

Automating performance management with the employee experience in mind requires understanding all of the touch points and variables that are involved.

This requires a step-by-step process to ensure that automation supports the employee experience you want to provide and aids in your retention and engagement efforts. 

Step 1: Assessment 

To understand how performance management efforts can improve, you must first have a clear picture of the current process.

All of the steps involved must be documented to identify pain points and opportunities to improve efficiency and define what the objective of automation is.

As part of this, you’ll also want to create a list of effective performance management tasks, consider which ones could be automated, and perform a cost-benefit analysis for the automation. 

Step 2: Tool Analysis and Selection 

Understanding tools that can help you automate performance management and conducting an audit of your current infrastructure will help you establish what functionality is currently missing and whether your IT services are capable of supporting automation of the tasks you’ve identified. 

Resource: 30 Best Performance Management Tools

Part of it is understanding what you don’t need new tools to do and what your employees are already engaged with. Sunder Nookala, Co-Founder and CEO of Huminos, discusses this when he talks about frictionless people experiences.

“The one thing that we can practically do to build a better world of work is to re-imagine the hire-to-retire processes and simplify them so that work can meet the worker at his or her favorite place instead of forcing the worker to traverse multiple systems to get his or her work done,” Nookala said. 

“For example, let’s examine goal setting and performance evaluation processes: Modern System of Intelligence like Huminos enable completion of day-to-day tasks like progress check-ins, scheduling 1:1 conversations, giving or receiving appreciative and developmental feedback, etc. can be done within Slack or Microsoft Teams without switching to another software application.”

Step 3: Data Considerations 

Compliance with data security and privacy regulations is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the data considerations that come with automation.

Understanding what types of data can be collected, the key performance indicators (KPIs) it can support, and how it can be used and by whom are all factors that will inform how data collection and analysis will improve the employee performance management process. 

You will also want to map out with your IT team how data migration from existing systems into new technology solutions will create a seamless transition between the processes you have now and the new ones you’ll be creating. 

Step 4: Customization 

Every organization’s workflows, hierarchies, and reporting structures are different. Whatever tools and processes you choose must be customized to fit your organization’s needs and goals while also plugging in to your HRIS to streamline data collection and analysis.

Pilot programs to test the feasibility and effectiveness of automation on a smaller scale can help you fine-tune tools and processes even further and create a change management plan that addresses employee concerns about what automation might mean for their work. 

Step 5: Training

Comprehensive training for HR teams and managers will play an important role in the successful adoption of automation.

Incorporating feedback from stakeholders involved in a training program can help you refine processes and the user experience of your technology solutions before full-scale implementation. 

Measuring The Impact Of Performance Management Automation 

The impact of your efforts to automate can show up in a number of places, from employee feedback to experience surveys and a variety of metrics that will help paint a clearer picture for HR leaders. 

Some notable metrics to track performance include:

  • Time saved
  • Error reduction
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Accuracy and completion rates of each step in the performance management process
  • Overall performance outcomes. 

These are important as you calculate your return on investment (ROI) for automation and evolve your cost-benefit analysis over time.

Want to learn more about improving your approach to performance management? Read our article on How to Choose the Right Performance Management System for You.

You can also join the conversation over in the People Managing People Community, a supportive community of HR and business leaders sharing the latest innovations in talent management.

By David Rice

David Rice is a long time journalist and editor who specializes in covering human resources and leadership topics. His career has seen him focus on a variety of industries for both print and digital publications in the United States and UK.