The Employee Development Honor Roll: Hitachi Data Systems - HighGround

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The Employee Development Honor Roll: Hitachi Data Systems

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(In this blog series, we share the stories of companies that have taken the first steps toward their employee development transformation. You can read about our previously featured companies here: Patagonia’s transition to real-time employee development; Adobe’s check-in culture; Goldman Sachs’ decision to remove rankings and Gap’s new GPS system.


For the last installment of the series, we are taking a different approach. The other companies we profiled already have new approaches in place so we wanted to hear from a company that’s earlier in their journey to ongoing performance development. We asked Hitachi Data Systems’ Rupa Amin, Sr. Lead Performance and Talent Management Specialist, and Petter Andersson, VP Global Talent Management, a few questions about their approach to performance management and employee development.

What led you to change your approach to performance management?

Everywhere you go, every industry that you look at, people are talking about speed, digital disruption and the need for building organizational capabilities that can both innovate and drive change. Many companies are faced with the brutal choice to either transform or die. As such, we are seeing fundamental changes in the expectations of leadership and changes in defining what leadership represents.

At Hitachi Data Systems, we have a long history of innovation. Data is at the center of all of our customers’ digital transformations and we know that insights from data are critical, but turning those insights into outcomes is equally critical. Our success depends on our ability to harness the full capabilities and potential of our employees as we continuously strive to be a great place to work. More than ever before we need to put ourselves to the test and ask, “Why are we doing this?”, ”What is the value?”, “How can we do this better?”

When we analyzed the results from our employee engagement survey, and listened to feedback from leaders and employees throughout our company, we found that our past performance management process did not provide enough value to the business or the talent decisions made. Armed with data and information, we embarked on a journey to revitalize our approach. We took a step back and we unified around one very clear mission for performance management: to make sure that every employee is fully able to apply their talent and make contributions that take their team and the organization to the next level of success. In our first year of introducing our new approach to performance management, we saw a 15% increase in manager–employee performance conversations, with 700 more performance conversations taking place in 2016 compared to the prior year.

Why do you think so many organizations are undergoing the same self-examination right now?

We live in a time when overall employee engagement is at a record low in many places. With the level of change required inside many companies, there is a definite risk that employees might feel overwhelmed and stressed; employees might get left behind, unclear about the direction, goals, and objectives required for development and growth.

As a response to this, many organizations, including Hitachi Data Systems, are looking for better ways to orchestrate, align and engage talent. We talk about creating a much more adaptable and empowered organization – one that is in frequent sync with the day-to-day realities and capabilities of the organization, focusing on efforts that engage employees and inspire them about the change that is happening. Neglecting these needs is a huge risk to any organization, with the potential for a decline in productivity and decreasing strategic relevance as an organization, which could lead to an inability to retain top talent.

So what has been your priorities and outcome so far?

We believe that the foundation for a high performing organization begins with enabling trust and exercising respect and transparency in everything we do across our entire organization. In addition, we believe we can reach the next level of performance if we excel in the following areas:

  • Goal management
  • Crowd feedback
  • One-on-one employee performance conversations with managers
  • Coaching

Our first step has been to establish simplicity, coherence, confidence and ownership in how we execute in the above areas. While in our first year of practice, though we haven’t had a modernized tool to develop this, we have made strides with stunning results. With the 15% increase in manager-employee performance conversations, we also received feedback that the quality of conversation has improved as well. As a result, we have seen improved clarity around goals and expectations, a more solid understanding of how performance is evaluated, and better management support for employees’ development and growth. And this is just the beginning.

Finally, how do you see your story unfold?

To a large extent we believe the success will be determined by the level of authenticity, trust and respect in the conversations between managers and employees. So our first priority is to continue to shape such behavior in the organization. We believe that the introduction of systems and tools will help with this. For example, we are interested in tools that allow employees to post their goals publicly, introducing transparency and understanding of how colleagues are working—together and individually. As we evolve our tools, we also need to help our employees to master the processes we’ve talked about. Setting and managing great goals takes time to learn but is something that underpins everything from coaching to feedback and great performance conversations. HDS has committed to growing the coaching capability within the organization by developing a Coaching Program and Resource Center for managers.

As technology continues to enable us to monitor engagement, performance, health and other data points, our ability to support our employees to take their performance to the next level will follow suit. By collecting and aggregating data and information and comparing them with other relevant KPIs, we are confident that the data will help us predict success in a way that will improve our talent and overall organizational management. Ultimately, we know that our purpose is to make a difference together.

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