An Interview with Lead Developer, Yuriy Shikhanovich on the evolution of employee performance management technology.
Once upon a time, in a dark corner cubicle, across from the fax machine and Goliath copier, sat a young bright-eyed intern sorting through stacks of paper and occasionally stopping to peck some data into Excel 3.1. She feverishly worked to enter the 360 degree feedback results into the spreadsheet so that she could begin analyzing the manager’s data.
Though it seems like ancient history, it really was not so long ago that I was this intern performing these painful manual tasks. It’s easy to lose sight of how far we have come in such a relatively short period of time. When I began thinking about how far Employee Performance Management technology has evolved in the past 10 or so years, one of my favorite quotations seemed to apply. Arthur C. Clarke widely cited third law states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
It is certainly exciting to be a part of this ever-changing digital landscape. From one moment to the next, we are given amazing new technologies that may not even be fully appreciated until we take a step back. In this era of exponential change, it sometimes escapes us that all of these shiny new apps are really quite a marvel! It really could be any day now when the next Twitter or YouTube completely changes how we do things. This possibility of course leads me to speculate on all of the new and exciting technology that will exist around Employee Performance Management at the next bend.
To find out more about how viaPeople is experiencing this evolution of Employee Performance Management technology, I sat down with our Lead Developer, Yuriy Shikhanovich to get his perspective on the past, present and future of the software in our industry.
Amanda Seidler (AS): Tell me a bit about the evolution of Employee Performance Management solutions from your technical perspective. How far have we come?
Yuriy Shikhanovich (YS): When Employee Performance Management first became automated, we were working under the limitations of the older web browsers such as IE6. Unfortunately, even at that time the browser was clunky, slow and riddled with bugs. So, we created hidden frames that “magically” reloaded the page so that people didn’t have to. In this way, we were able to create a modern and optimized system that gave our Human Resources customers the advanced functionality they were already asking for in their Employee Performance Management solutions. Fortunately, web standards like AJAX – a way to automatically load pages – were not far down the road.
(AS): I can imagine how excited you were when this browser was phased out. What have some of the newer browsers allowed you to do?
(YS): Our solution has continuously evolved as we apply new frameworks, for example jQuery, to enhance the participant experience. We want to be sure that when they are in the app, they are in the moment of task they are trying to complete. The fact that they are using software to accomplish this should not even enter into the equation. It is our responsibility to make sure everything flows and they are instantly guided to what they need to do.
(AS): Can you give me some examples of how this works for front-line users?
(YS): Absolutely, we employ a task-based menu that displays required actions prominently and minimizes other items so that participants are immediately focused on what work needs to get done. Similarly, we use context sensitive emails so that participants only receive reminders and such containing exactly the tasks they need to complete in the system.
(AS): Now we are getting into the magic. Can you describe some of the other exciting and “magical” elements of Employee Performance Management technology in place today?
(YS): Ultimately, we want to make sure our solutions are most functional for real-world usage. To that end, we focus our development on serving two different audiences in the enterprise space -- employees and managers who will be using the system, and Human Resources professionals who need administrative and reporting tools.
For employees and managers, we automatically bring in their annual or ongoing performance goals and any associated performance notes to avoid re-work. We give them simple form elements to make their lives easier such as auto-expanding text areas, and immediate aggregation of multiple ratings and other calculations of weighted averages, frequencies, etc.
For our Human Resources administrators, we have also created administrative tools to let them manage as much of the process as they would like to – adding participants, changing managers, etc. are all simple modifications even mid-cycle. In terms of slicing and dicing the results, they are given a custom reporting dashboard that allows them to sort and filter data by any variable that we store.
(AS): We consistently hear from our customers that one of the reasons they chose to work with us was due to our ability to accommodate virtually any unique Employee Performance Management process with the flexibility of our software. How do you make this happen?
(YS): Well, it has proven extremely difficult for organizations to use off-the-shelf software achieve their goals. On the other hand, it is time-consuming and costly to develop these solutions from scratch to fit the mold of every specific process that exists out there. When we developed our Employee Performance Management platform, we decided to use a hybrid approach. We wrote our software with flexibility in mind from the outset. Specifically, we worked with our Industrial Organizational Psychologists to forecast what aspects of the system clients may want to customize and then we made those things movable parts. Essentially, we created a core system with the flexibility components built in allowing us to easily customize for all of the varying needs of our clients.
(AS): As a final question, can we get a glimpse of what you and the development team have in store for us in the near future?
(YS): Without giving too much away, I would have to say that Human Resources professionals should be very excited about what is to come in this industry. The development team is actively incorporating new technologies and additional features, especially as the older browsers and web standards are phased out. We are constantly increasing the complexity of what we offer while maintaining and even enhancing our speed and flexibility. Additionally, we are always keeping an eye on broader technology trends in the marketplace and even consumer software so that we can incorporate new elements of user experience to our enterprise software as appropriate. Finally, our developers are taking a close look at mobile tools and optimization as this becomes the new reality for how employees work.
(AS): Thank you so much, Yuriy, for your time today and for sharing your perspective on the evolution of Employee Performance Management solutions.