Zoological Society of San Diego performance appraisal case study


With the changing technology day in day out, organizations need to invest more in it in order to produce good quality products and services. Changing technologies abruptly in organization can disorient an organization; decrease the level of good human relationships and can also cause disloyalty not forgetting dissatisfaction amongst the employees resulting to poor performance. In the recent past many organizations have budged their organizational model from the conventional way of running things to more contemporary ways to enhance their organizations and to craft them into better working places. Today, more and more organizations are becoming conscious that a conventional way of running a business is not so effective in the changing technologies. Different ways can be adopted by organizations in order to integrate the innovative ideas of human resource managements.

Zoological Society of San Diego, ZSSD, has not been left behind either. Since ZSSD adopted the new online employee performance management system, the process has become simpler and faster. The new system has also enabled the organization to reduce the cost of the employee performance appraisal, enhance the consistency, content and timeliness performance reviews and last but not least to increase the ongoing participation of employees and managers in the process, (C-G Intellectual Property, L.L.C, 2008). Apart from that, employees have expressed their liking of the system because they are rated fairly on a consistent basis. But it has not always been like this, according to the executive Director of ZSSD, Douglas Myers, he argues that the performance management systems were time consuming and complicated in the past. Completing the performance management process was almost made a goal by itself which was a waste of a goal. Tim Mulligan, the Director of Human Resource appreciates the fact that the process was spotty since there were managers within the organization who had not received reviews in ten years. There were no ways to monitor the reviews and both the employees and the managers did not understand the need for them. However in 2006, ZSSD, a non- profit organization changed to a more contemporary way of solving the problem of appraisal, online employee performance management system. This improved employee job performance in different ways; employee behavior towards organizational goals and monitoring of that behavior to make sure that the goals are met. An online or web based employee performance management systems is an effective tool in the HR Department; it keeps the employees at bay and also helps the company grow further. With the employees happier with the review system, they are motivated to work harder. All the statements of the employees are made available in the records as well as their own specific agendas in the different departments in the organization and work ethos.

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ZSSD opted for an online employee performance management system in 2005 as part of the new strategic plan. Led by the HR Director, Mulligan, the organization decided to make a shift to pay- for - performance system that was tied to goals. That created a loop hole for change since they had no appropriate tool to help them review the performance of the employees. They set objectives for introducing the new system into their organization; establish unbiased employee goals that were directly linked to the organizational goals and include a midyear review to ensure that there was continuous communication with the employees. They came to a conclusion that the end of year review would be used to determine merit based salaries for the employees. The ZSSD realized the need to identify the relevant metrics to measure performance and to ensure that the software was user friendly in order to cater for the diversity of the workforce. This particular web based system would effectively track down the review process and to include a journal feature that employees could record their achievements on a year- round basis.

In order to come up with a good system that was acceptable to everyone, the HR Director came up with two groups; one was to research and evaluate the number of vendors who were to provide the system, the Halogen's Software was picked upon, while the other one was to deal with surveying the 220 managers in the organization to identify and rank ZSSD's key leadership competencies. Six competencies were settled upon with five sub-factors. 'Professionalism' was identified as one of the competencies and the sub-factors falling into this group were interpersonal relations, communication, teamwork, ZSSD's mission and customer factors. Managers were used in the whole process so that the employees would not perceive it as an HR attempt to force new solutions on them. The leader actions determine the level of adaptability of a new organizational performance, (Blazey, 2008) if leaders fail to take the following actions; role model effective practices, favor actions based on fact rather intuitions, learn constantly and share knowledge among others, the transformation to high performing organization would be seriously delayed and most likely not take place at all. At ZSSD however, the transformation was a success as not only did the completion rate of performance appraisals went up to 100 percent, but the system also helped the organization transform its culture and increase employee accountability. Since the organization had never used performance management technology before, Mulligan decided to follow a rather slow and deliberate implementation of the new system following a two -year roll-out plan. "I felt it very important to get them buy into this, that we did it strategically and not too quickly. So we eased ourselves into it" Said Mulligan. Implementing the new management process and setting of goals helped the employees get a clear understanding of their responsibilities and what they were accountable for. On November 7, 2007 their hard work paid off, Zoological Society of San Diego was awarded the 'Crystal Award for Workplace Excellence' and Mulligan honored as the 'Human Resources professional of the year' in the nonprofit category by the San Diego Business journal while the Halogen software received "The Brilliant Cooperate Culture. It was only within three year of operation and already they had managed to become a pay-performance organization.

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It was not easy all through. Ideally performance appraisal software helps in streamlining the evaluation process by reducing paper work, and encouraging objectivity. But the gains aren't givens, (Dutton, 2001). Managers have to go an extra mile tailoring the systems to their own workforce to fit the kind of environment and organization they are in. If this is not done, it can be an efficient way doing a bad process. Many systems have a generic set of questions that are most of the time not customized to the job being evaluated. Despite the charges on 'cookie- cutter' evaluations, the managers have an option to redesign most programmes so they precisely replicate the organization's values and goals and more so, to fairly evaluate the jobs being appraised. Although the performance appraisal software ease and less paper work is done making the process even faster, many employees do not like the outcomes but are happy with the system itself. To counter this problem, ZSSD should be able to negotiate with the system providers of the software to make one that will be able to meet their needs without the managers having to first customizing the system. This would save time spent by managers in doing the same on their own when sometimes they have no prior experience in the system.

Another issue is that of feedback. Experts say that though the web based employee performance management systems is an efficient process they feel that it cannot and should not substitute the feedback given personally in a face- to- face session. "I do not think the online appraisal system is good proxy for delivering feedback…..The whole social context is gone. It takes the entire human element out of the mix", says Anthony Chelte, Dean of Dillard college of Business Administration, Midwestern State University. Whereas conventional ways of operating organizations is being left behind for more innovative ideas, new innovations should be used to compliment the old ones rather than scraping out completely. ZSSD should be able to incorporate the two; the old system of employee performance management system to cater for giving feedbacks which are more social friendly while using the new online system to cater for the reviews and other issues that require individual or personal touch.

ZSSD should also be ready to invest in other tools that can help them in solving the feedback problem. The 360 degree (multirater) is important to invest in. It can be used as part of management system to provide employees with feedback on their performance from their supervisors, peers, co-workers, customers and reporting staff. This particular tool allows an individual to understand how coworkers or staff members view their effectiveness as an employee. The feedback provides imminent about behaviors and skills desired to meet the mission - vision and goals of the organization. This helps the employees to know their weaknesses and strengths as the people chosen as raters routinely interact with the person receiving feedback. Well integrated 360-degree feedback processes manifest the features below; improved feedback from more sources- since feedback is from colleagues, supervisors, and reporting staff, the person gets an overview of how people in the organization view their work. Team development- this helps team members to work together effectively. The feedback will help the team to be more accountable to each other as they will be able to share ideas and knowledge. It also helps in improving communication lines among the team members. Responsibility for career Development can also be experienced in the 360- degree feedback system. For those organizations that are responsible for developing the careers of their employees, the multirater would provide excellent information to an individual on what they need to enhance their careers. While personal and organizational performance development needs can be enhanced by the system, training needs assessment is also supported in this system as it gives information about training needs and thus allows planning for classes, cross training as well as cross-functional responsibilities. The Multirater can be used to give feedback that involve both internal and external customer highlighting the quality of the products or services offered thus enhancing improved customer service. Last but not least is the fact that the system reduces discrimination risk. With feedback coming from a number of individuals in the various functions, race, age, gender, discrimination is reduced. The effect in which the supervisor rates the employee based on the recent interactions is also reduced.

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Even with all these recommendations the most important key is to look for the appropriate software that will suit the needs of the organization with the least cost but with the most benefits. Traditional ways should be integrated with the new methods to get the best results. While the HR's should be on the forefront looking for better ways to improve workforce in an organization, employees should not be left behind. They should be given opportunities and chances to give their views on the new ideas and goals. When goals are agreed upon by the employees and the manager it is much easier to implement them because the employees are more likely to support and accept the standards, after all they had some input in it and they view it as their own idea. The most important thing is making employees own something and implementation would not be hard to do. As for attracting a better working force, ZSSD should be able to change the way the company operates from the inside and the effects it has to the outside community. Better marketing strategies and competitive workforce will attract better employees to ZSSD, causing it to be more efficient and productive.