Why Even a Pandemic Can’t Stop the Successful Launch of a New Continuous Performance Management System

Posted on January 20, 2021 at 09:00 AM


As the world doubled down in response to the global pandemic in March 2020, HR, talent and L&D teams found a host of new priorities to add to their workloads. They needed to manage the ‘overnight’ switch to home-based working, pause recruitment or go virtual with it, deal with the priority focus on employee health and wellbeing – and all while the organisation kept running. In short, such new demands provided the perfect opportunity to push aside any non-critical talent management projects.

For some, the task of introducing and embedding a new continuous performance management approach may have seemed like the ideal project to put ‘on hold’.

But one Head Light client proved that the seemingly impossible feat of doing just that was not only possible in an environment of uncertainty, but it was possible to do it exceptionally well.

We have plenty to learn from their experience.


Making The Seemingly Impossible, Possible

Despite working in an operationally critical sector and with no furlough or home working for the majority of its employees, Northamptonshire Police decided to press on with their 'People Plan' and design and launch a new performance and development review approach and introduce Head Light’s Talent Performance software.

This decision became a perfect opportunity to prove that testing times don’t have to incite further disruption, but can be a springboard for implementing important change.

The Background

Prior to the introduction of Head Light’s system, no standardised force-wide process was in place at Northamptonshire Police Force, making buy-in, collation, analysis and reporting difficult.

And, without a simple-to-use system, it was hard for people to engage with the process and to see its value. There was no clear and consistent message about why the process was valuable which meant that, if anyone needed an excuse not to complete it, the lack of an easy-to-use and standardised system gave them it!

The Challenge Of 2020

Of course, every design, development and process roll-out takes place in the context of the current organisational or business environment. For the Northamptonshire Force, amid the climate of pandemic and with police operations needing to continue, this wasn’t without challenge.

The team was given six months to design, develop and bring a new, streamlined system to fruition. To get started, the team had to secure budget, decide whether to go in-house for bespoke development or buy in an established system, design and configure the system, develop the workflow and processes, and train everyone across the force – and do all of this while the central L&D team was based (thanks to Covid) working from home.

Yet, once the ball was rolling, the team have been able to put in place the strongest engaged-with performance and development review (PDR) system the force has ever seen. There’s a lot that can be learned from their systematic approach to implementation during times of chaos, uncertainty and fear.

How to successfully implement PDR in your organisation, even during the most difficult time in recent history

Consider The Ease Of Use

Ensuring that the new system was easy to use and could be integrated into the daily working practice across the Force was essential.

“It had to be really simple to use, intuitive and encourage engagement,” says Caroline Oppido HR Manager at Northamptonshire Police. “We knew that if we had to write a long user guide for the system, we would have fallen short of our aim.”

Be Realistic About Your Available Resources

Considering the team had to move quickly and with limited resources due to the pandemic in which they were working, choosing an easily-customisable and flexible system such as Talent Performance, that was already in use within other organisations, over a bespoke in-house model, made sense.

It may seem like a great idea to get the in-house IT development team to design and develop a bespoke system, but it is easy to underestimate the resource and skill needed to accurately and in detail specify what is needed in terms of workflow, screen use and data analysis.

Share The Load And Create A Cross Functional Working Group

The task of design, trial and pilot was shared across the working group established with the sole purpose to make the new performance review approach a reality. This meant the whole team felt united in a shared vision for the system from its inception to its eventual day-to-day use.

Caroline explains: “From the outset, we recognised that a cross-functional working group was key. We wanted to have as much input as possible from as many areas as possible that would help to shape and decide on any new system we designed […] Information services, information security, corporate communications, operational officers at different levels, police staff, managers with a keen interest in PDR, project management, HR, professional standards – all were part of the working group.”

Encourage Advocates To Share The Messages…

Likely due to the inclusion felt from being part of a group with a shared vision, advocates and supporters of the system took the initiative to film their own ad hoc, unscripted videos to guide their colleagues through troubleshooting and implementation how-to.

In effect, these ‘homemade’ videos may have carried more weight than the polished comms in the eyes of the regular workforce, as they reflected their own language and were charmingly authentic, and were therefore more readily engaged with.

…But Also Offer A Formal Communications Programme

That said, polished communications were also important to ensure the messaging was ‘on brand’ and focused on positivity, effectively integrating the system, and optimally laying the foundations for the next phase.

Ensure Clarity And Simplicity Of What You Are Trying To Achieve

Being clear – and not allowing themselves to deviate from the initial specification – was key to getting the project delivered on time.

When new ideas were suggested as the working group met or the system was trialed, the team noted these for later consideration rather than trying to squeeze in new functionality.

Work With A Supplier That It Committed To Your Programme

A further success factor was the relationship built up between the internal team, the IT team and Head Light as the supplier. Regular – but remote - communication kept the plan on track and decisions made speedily.

The result for Northamptonshire Police during the uncertain times is a now highly engaged-with performance approach that is used widely.

Caroline concludes: “It seems that, in the past, people were not as disengaged from the process as we had thought. They just needed a really good system in place – and now they have it.”

There are many more tips on how best to design and deploy a new continuous performance management system in our Good Practice Guide.

If you’re ready to implement a new performance management system in your organisation, even in the crux of pandemic uncertainty, we can help you. Request your copy of the Good Practice Guide now.


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