This article features an interview with Steve McMahon (Interim vice president of HR) and David Cain (director of marketing, SMB) of SuccessFactors, world leading provider of Performance & Talent Management solutions to small, mid-sized and large businesses.

This interview highlights how the new solutions on talent and performance management can contribute towards a company’s success. Any organization’s biggest and one of the most valuable assets are its employees; are you doing your best towards efficient employee performance and talent management to retain the best you have?

Q. Why do you think employee performance and talent management is essential for a company’s success?

David: If people, who are a company’s greatest asset – but actually are also their greatest expense – are motivated, aligned, and know what’s expected of them, the company will derive better business results. So, in the same way you care about your expenses and investments on other items, you should also care about optimizing your ROI on people. Another study found that fully optimizing performance through automation has a 2-3% impact on bottom line. Nothing can be more essential to a company, particularly in a rough economy.

Q. I completely agree with you when you say that people are the largest investment for an organization. You also note that your software solutions are fully automated. What are your current software products which empower management to have access to an effective performance management system? Also, on your website you claim that you offer the most secure system on the planet. Could you elaborate on that please?

David: We provide a completely Web-based talent management solution that, at a high level, is comprised of a number of modules and applications to help companies better align and motivate their workforce. This includes everything from performance reviews and goal management, to succession planning and career development.

Q. How are employees empowered to access and manage their records?

Steve: The beauty of the tool is that each individual has the ability to initiate the processes. Employees have access to their own information through a simple username and password to view their goals, report on their progress against goals and objectives, and even participate in 360 degree evaluations. Also there is an ongoing record of the communication with other people. This information is readily available after the fact, so that correspondences and performance reviews from years past are readily available for reference. This is particularly useful when a new manager comes into a group or inherits an employee from another group.

Q. Do you think it’s important for employees to be responsible for their own performance management rather than the pull or push coming solely from the HR department or management team?

Steve: It definitely needs to be a two-way street of communication. While management should provide a forum for employees to participate in their career development and the tools to facilitate growth, at the end of the day an employee is responsible for his or her own career. With SuccessFactors, we aim to bridge this line of communication, teaching managers to engage in constructive conversation with their team, while allowing employees to feel empowered in determining the course of their career path.

Q. Many supervisors are not that well trained on effective approaches for performance appraisal or keeping a good record on employee development & management. Do you suggest any performance management features which provide a checklist for managers and is easy to manage over time? From a bird’s eye view, how would a complete system loop from start to end?

David: There are lots of demands on managers to keep their people aligned, productive and engaged on an on-going basis. This can be a hard thing for managers to deal with while balancing other responsibilities, and often times companies don’t provide managers with the tools to do so. SuccesFactors’ performance management system automates the process to make it easier in two general categories: structure and simplicity.
In terms of simplicity, we provide tools that, outside of the “processes” at hand, make the review and management experience an easier practice to conduct. For example many managers have a “blank page syndrome,” meaning they have the thoughts but when it comes to the performance review time they have a hard time articulating. Our “Writing Assistant” feature helps managers to quickly find the words for any situation, providing a variety suggested comments and competencies which can then be customized. People don’t want it to be too “cookie cutter,” but this provides a great place to start.

Q. How is SuccessFactors improving, evolving or changing its present software to provide the optimal performance review systems to match the needs of both the Millennials and the Baby Boomers working together?

David: This is definitely an area that we are tapped into. We understand that the Millennials have completely embraced social networking trends and don’t want to shut this down when they are at work, so we’re working to bring this to the workplace in a way that is beneficial to both employees and management. Our Employee Profile application is essentially the merging of a resume and a Facebook profile, combining an employee’s career experience with personal interests and hobbies. An employee owns his profile and can connect with colleagues through “tags,” finding others at work with similar interests and hobbies.

Q. Can performance management systems be compliant across different industries?

David: Yes, at the foundation the majority of the processes are the same. That’s the beauty of our product – we have customers in literally every industry because, at the end of the day, it is important regardless of your industry for an employee to feel engaged, rewarded and as though they are being challenged, recognized and developed in their workplace.. There are some nuances to each industry. For example, employees in the healthcare industry are evaluated on competencies that may not apply to the food industry. As we identify these differences we develop methods to help these respective companies do a better job. The tools are there, and we can continue to offer more and more content moving forward.

Q. What makes you the industry leader today?

David: We have more customers, more users and an unparalleled quality of customer success stories compared to any others in our area. This commitment to constant innovation across our entire product suite is evident in our monthly product releases. Since going public earlier this year, we’ve experience fantastic financial performance and are considered to be the fastest growing publicly traded software company.

For more information on the company and the products/services it offers visit their website.

Some companies are sensitive regarding security when it comes to Web-based tools, so we have taken a comprehensive approach to security – at the physical, network and application layers –to address these concerns. We work with industry-leading, best-in-class technologies to provide a secure and highly accessible environment that many corporate “behind the firewall” implementations could not conceive or achieve. Due to the very nature of our business, SuccessFactors and many other SaaS providers, are leading the industry in offering applications that are affordable, configurable and secure.

For structure, this means that the tool is not just a software application, but rather that customers are actually getting a company-wide process that can be internally customized and defined to empower managers to effectively manage performance in line with corporate objectives and culture.

Steve: We also have a Legal Scan which serves as a “red stop light” when you enter a comment or phrase that is considered to be illegal or discriminatory. This real-time audit is another feature that makes the process easier for managers.

It also serves as a tool for employees to receive feedback and manage their career development. By making this personal and career experience information visible, HR and superiors have a better sense of job qualifications and can use this as a tool for promoting employees internally.