PULSE: A brief background
HCL Infosystems was facing certain challenges in the earlier part of this decade because of transition in its business model coupled with issues like rupee depreciation, high-interest costs and the exit from its computing business. During these difficult times, in September 2014, Premkumar Seshadri joined the company as Executive Vice Chairman to initiate a turnaround in the company’s performance. With this objective in mind, Prem introduced a business transformation program in December 2014 called Gold Standards to create a springboard for catalyzing and accelerating the company’s growth. Under this program, seven critical business drivers to achieve business excellence were identified. These seven drivers are - People, Partners, Tools and Technologies, Processes, Products, Services, and Customers. PULSE (Personalized Unit Level Self-Assessment) is the primary driver of the business transformation journey in the company that enables each employee to contribute via higher Ownership, delivering to Full Potential and Demanding the best from others.
The transformation journey of the company has been gaining momentum over the last year or so. Some businesses have achieved robust traction while others are firmly on the path of recovery. Our trajectory for business growth has been firmly set through improved business alignments, alliances and operational efficiencies that we have driven. PULSE gives every employee in the organization a tool to evaluate oneself so that each individual can contribute significantly to ensure a collective transformation.
Weekly self-evaluation as a means to achieve business excellence
Each of the seven identified drivers has defined quantifiable and measurable goals which each business and a functional team is expected to achieve. To enable each individual within a business gauge his/her contribution and performance towards the organization’s goals across these seven drivers, the company instituted PULSE in October 2015. PULSE, launched on a platform developed by the company, is a weekly self-evaluation tool, enabling each employee to gauge his/her level of Ownership, Potential, and Ability to Demand.
PULSE aims at behavioral and cultural changes in employees by enabling them to take charge of their own performance. Under the 52-week PULSE self-evaluation process, employees are required to assess their performance at the end of each week to the set of questions related to the goals of the respective business and the functional team as per the seven critical business drivers. The individual weekly goals are aligned with the larger goals of the teams and ultimately of the company. PULSE is mobile-enabled and user-friendly and does not take more than 5 minutes to fill up.
It provides an opportunity for better communication and feedback between managers and employees and an opportunity for the business leadership to drive behavioral change.
The responses generated through PULSE are aggregated and analyzed by a dedicated in-house project management team for extracting actionable insights.
Design framework of the Weekly PULSE-Check
In the first phase of PULSE (October 2015 to March 31, 2017), the Weekly PULSE Check consisted of 22 questions every week (A set of 3 questions for each of the seven drivers + 1 question on adherence to the Code of Conduct.)
The 3 questions for each of the Driver related to the following parameters:
- Question 1 to Performance and ownership
- Question 2 to full potential
- Question 3 to demanding excellence
Weekly PULSE Check required Employees to respond to each of the questions in a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ supported by their comments
- A ‘Yes’ response qualifies for a Badge
- A ‘No’ response leads to No Badge
Based on the responses, an employee can earn badges between 0 – 22
Challenges in implementation
Today’s dynamic IT scenario demands a disruptive approach to employee evaluation. We wanted to bring in a mechanism to drive ownership and full potential performance by each employee resulting in business excellence. The challenge was to get HCLites adapted to a weekly PULSE-check that helped them self-evaluate and self-correct on a weekly basis. Driving regular and meaningful conversations between employees and their managers was another concern, given their busy schedules and time constraints.
Also, as leadership buy-in was crucial to the success of the program, the compliance rates varied initially among business units depending on how convinced the leader was about the effectiveness of the program.
PULSE Impact: Bringing in a positive cultural change
The first phase of PULSE (PULSE 1.0 as it’s called now) aimed at bringing in a behavioral change in people, making them strive for personal and business excellence. During PULSE 1.0, we realized that sensitizing employees to internalize the process was more important. Hence it was consciously not linked directly to the performance appraisal system. However, gradually we became more assured of the shifts in employee behavior as demonstrated by the consistently increasing compliance rates.
The first phase of PULSE helped the company identify and correct many gaps within the organization. Almost on all drivers, we were able to make progress in terms of streamlining processes, the creation of enhanced systems and procedures and seamless flow of information. For example – Automation of Vendor Management and Business Reimbursement claims for employees; and the introduction of an innovative internal collaboration platform. We also introduced an Online Ticketing System that empowers employees to demand action from their colleagues. The ticket can be closed only when the requestor is satisfied with the response.
Moving to a more structured, specific PULSE-Check
Over the last one-and-a-half years, PULSE 1.0, has enabled the creation of a culture of weekly reflection by each employee, assessing what went right and what did not and accordingly taking course corrections. This also encouraged ongoing dialogues between managers and their team members on differences in their evaluations rather than an annual end of the year conversation.
But this is not enough for an organization on a business transformation journey. The eventual objective of a performance evaluation mechanism is to enable alignment of individual performance to overall business impact. Thus, as a natural course, we traversed to the next phase of PULSE, where evaluation is task based, specific to annual business goals and behavioral competencies.
While PULSE 1.0 comprised of generic questions aimed at cultural and behavioral change, now the next phase of PULSE has more personalized goals with questions that are individual role based and are tightly aligned to business goals. The highlights of the next phase of PULSE are -
The process is initiated by auto-populated role based annual goals uploaded on the internal portal. The employee has to set respective weight age to each goal and break down the overall goals into measurable and specific tasks.
- The annual goals are then further broken down into Monthly goal setting by the employee which is signed off by the Manager.
- The employee evaluates himself weekly on the applicable goals and tasks decided in the month.
- The manager, in turn, evaluates his team members on a monthly basis.
- A quarterly evaluation happens between employee and manager on behavioral competencies as well as progress on goals.
- The final system generated 9-grid rating based on the manager's scores is moderated subject to LOB/BU/Function performance and compliance adherence percentage.
The changes brought about by PULSE in no small measure is contributing to creating an environment in which the transformation journey of the company can further move on.