SPEED brought supervisors, reviewers, business heads and HR Deployment Partners on one platform vis-à-vis goal setting and self and supervisor evaluation
Developing an HR deployment structure to roll out and sustain the system was another vital aspect
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), as an organization stands for many things: largest Information Technology Company in Asia, among the top five in the world with offerings that span multiple domains and industries, a pioneer in the Indian IT Industry, operations in more than 40 countries and a workforce of 135,000 and still growing. Propelling TCS across this amazing growth trajectory has been the ability of so large a company to be agile, proactively riding trends, and adapting to the changing business and economic conditions quickly.
The growth started way back in early 1990s. But the tremendous shift took place when we adopted the Balanced Scorecard approach for business planning and individual performance assessment model was adapted to that approach. From being an individual oriented performance management system, we moved to business achievement oriented model to recognize individuals. No longer could we isolate individual performance from the larger context. There was a paradigm shift in the way we looked at the employee performance. One of the biggest contributing factors has been the performance management framework and its alignment with business.
For a large unit like TCS, it is important that the organizational strategic vision and long term plans are translated into short term achievable results. This implies a complex and iterative annual exercise of identifying areas of direct intervention and focus and ensuring alignment across the length and breadth of the company. The core of this lies in marrying the larger philosophy with operational metrics and cascading it to the 100,000 plus employees in a year by remotely developing codes or building relationships with clients in locations from Auckland to Iceland.
With this initiative was born an e-dream. It was in 2000-01 that the first version of the digitized system for performance evaluation and employee development (SPEED as it is popularly known) was launched in TCS. It was the translation from paper to e-platform of a dream to have a global performance management system which would be accessible from any place on the globe and would be uniformly accessible and deployable.
When we started in 2001, the initial roll-out had many challenges like changing the people mindset by steering them away from the paper to web, showcasing the product across geographies and branches, integrating softer aspects, the connect which needs to happen between managers and team members and so on.
In pure technical terms, SPEED brought supervisors, appraisees, reviewers, business heads and HR Deployment Partners on one platform vis-à-vis goal setting and self and supervisor evaluation. The final process of arriving at performance band at the business unit and individual level gives new macro view to the business head thus enabling direct linkage between the unit and individual performance.
The main plan of SPEED focused around various parameters. We started by preparing a business case for an e-performance management system and getting a cross-functional team in place to capture the functional requirements of an e-system. Here, involvement of people across the hierarchy through communication sessions was also very important. We showcased products and accepted feedback with an open mind and translated gap areas into solutions. For SPEED to work effectively, a training module which was self-sustaining was developed. A champion network was also created who could talk about the business benefits of SPEED. A formal HR organization structure was formed to carry and sustain this change. Throughout the process, communication played an important role in the success of the program.
Due attention was needed for planning the training and awareness sessions with a focus on not just the immediate roll-out but also on the ongoing challenges of getting new recruits, new supervisors and new role holders on board year on year. Developing an HR deployment structure to roll out and sustain the system was another vital aspect. TCS added the grievance handling aspect as well to the performance management system. This helped to build confidence among the people and helped to manage rater bias that is expected to be present in any large organization.
The next biggest piece was linking the output of the performance evaluation to pay. A truly revolutionary method of pay was developed with the concept of ‘Economic Value Added’. Simply put business performance and individual employee level performance would impact a portion of the individual’s pay. This led to the concept of “fixed pay” and “variable pay,” which is quite common now but was quite revolutionary ten years ago. Imagine having to deal with the anxiety of reducing pay with dip in achievements. Keeping in focus the need to create shareholder value and organizational performance, clear and measurable goals, through Balanced Scorecard methodology, were actively driven by the business units. We tightly tied it to the pay that the individual would get with “demonstrated performance” as the criterion.
A decade, many versions, technology and system enhancements later, the intent still remains to create, enhance and reinforce a performance oriented culture. Global SPEED has been the platform and digitized tool, which evaluates performance transparently and objectively, is standardized yet flexible to accommodate varied business and project complexities and is an online tool available to all.