Recognise This! – Strategic employee recognition is a powerful complement to traditional performance management tools.

In an encouraging sign in these economic times, John Hollon of TLNT recently highlighted Towers Watson research showing 34% of companies surveyed plan to spend more on HR technology in 2011 with talent and performance systems as a top HR service delivery issue.

This doesn’t surprise me, considering the growing backlash against annual performance reviews and the traditional programmes that enable them. Yet, there is a gap between what HR say they need and what managers want.

Recent Ventana research showed:

    “Only 12 per cent of companies are innovative in how they aggregate, track and manage analytics to improve their workforce and business performance – even though 77 per cent of executives and managers who participated in the research said that the performance of the workforce is the most important metric.”

The phrasing of that first statistic most interested me – “innovative in how they aggregate, track and manage analytics.” That says to me, leadership is seeking more than just “how many employees are a 5 and how many are a 1” on the differentiation scale at review time.

No, executives and managers are seeking a much more comprehensive look at employee performance. Getting that information requires two things:

   1. More frequent feedback – Though obvious and oft-discussed, praise and constructive criticism must be provided on a far more regular basis than annually or even quarterly. To have the most impact on employee performance, feedback needs to be in-the-moment and real to the employees daily efforts.

   2. A broader pool providing feedback – Not the dreaded 360° review as many think of it now where participants are hand selected and given a set of rules by which they must abide when giving their feedback. Rather, for greatest effect, all employees should be encouraged to offer detailed messages of praise and recognition for colleagues who have demonstrated the company values in achievement of strategic objectives.

Accumulating more feedback is only useful if there is a consistent way to parse and analyse the information across all employees, globally. This is why demonstration of company values is a useful metric for employee-based recognition that can be incorporated into performance management systems. Such information also begins to reveal corporate-wide trends on values understanding and possible areas for focussed attention for improvements.

What other critical areas are there for HR technology in 2011?. What would you put above talent and performance system improvements?