HRM3183: Network Solutions, Inc. is a worldwide leader in hardware, software, and services essential to computer networking: Performance Management Case Study, UPTM, Malaysia

University Universiti Poly-Tech Malaysia (UPTM)

CASE STUDY : Performance Management at Network Solutions, Inc.

Network Solutions, Inc. is a worldwide leader in hardware, software, and services essential to computer networking. Until recently, Network Solutions, Inc., had over 50 different systems to measure performance within the company; many employees did not receive a review, fewer than 5 percent of all employees received the lowest category of rating, and there was not a recognition program in place to reward high achievers.

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Overall, there was recognition that performance problems were not being addressed, and tough pressure from competitors increased the costs of not managing human performance effectively. In addition, quality initiatives (Six Sigma) were driving change in several areas of the business, and Network Solutions decided that these initiatives should also apply to ‘people quality’. Finally, Network Solutions wanted to improve its ability to meet its organizational goals, and one way of doing this would be to ensure they were linked to each employee’s goals.

Given the situation described above, in 2001, Network Solutions’ CEO announced he wanted to implement a forced distribution performance management system in which a set percentage of employees are classified in each of several categories (e.g., rating of 1 to the top 20 percent performers, rating of 2 to the middle 70 percent performers, and rating of 3 to the bottom 10 percent performers). A global cross-divisional HR team was established to design and implement the new system.

The first task for the design team was to build a business case for the new system by showing that if organizational strategy was carried down to team contributions and team contributions were translated into individual goals, then business goals would be met. Initially, the program was rolled out as a ‘year-round people management system that raises the bar on performance management at Network Solutions by aligning individual performance objectives with organizational goals by focusing on the development of all employees.’

The desired outcomes of the new system included raising the performance level of all employees, identifying and retaining top talent, and identifying low performers and improving their performance. Network Solutions also wanted the performance expectations  for all employees to be clear.

Before rolling out the program, the design team received the support of senior leadership. They did this by communicating that the performance management system is the future of Network Solutions and by encouraging all senior leaders to ensure that their direct reports 12understood the process and also bought into it. In addition, they encouraged senior leaders to use the system with all of their direct reports and demand and utilize output from the new system.

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Next, the design team encouraged the senior leaders to stop developing and using any other performance management systems and pushed for standardization of performance management across all divisions. Finally, they had senior leaders call attention to the new program by involving employees in training about talent management and assessing any needs in their divisions that the new system would not address.

The Network Solutions global performance management cycle consists of the following process:
• Goal cascading and team building
• Performance planning
• Development planning
• Ongoing discussions and updates between managers and employees
• Annual performance summary

Training resources are available on Network Solutions’ intranet for managers and individual contributors, including access to all necessary forms. In addition to the training available on the intranet, 1 or 2-hour conference calls took place before each program phase was rolled out. Part of the training associated with the performance management system revolves around the idea that the development planning phase of the system is the joint year-round responsibility of managers and employees. Managers are responsible for scheduling meetings, guiding employees on preparing for meetings, and finalizing all development plans.

Individual contributors are responsible for documenting the developmental plans. Both managers and employees are responsible for preparing for the meeting, filling out the development planning preparation forms, and attending the meeting. With forced distribution systems, many employees must fall into set rating classifications. As noted above, in the Network Solutions system, employees are given a rating of 1 (given to the top 20 percent of employees in the performance distribution), 2 (given to the middle 70 percent of employees in the performance distribution), or 3 (given to the bottom 10 percent of employees in the performance distribution). Individual ratings are determined by the execution of annual objectives and job requirements and a comparison rating of others at a similar level at Network Solutions. Employees receiving a 3, the lowest rating, have a specified time period to improve their performance. If their performance improves, they are released from the plan but not eligible for stock options or salary increases. If performance does not improve, they can take a severance package and leave the company, or they can start on a performance improvement plan with more rigorous expectations and timelines than the original action plan.

If performance does not improve after the second period, their employment is terminated without a severance package. Individuals with a rating of 2 receive average to high salary increases, stock options, and bonuses. Individuals receiving the highest rating, 1, receive the highest salary increases, stock
options, and bonuses. These individuals are also treated as ‘high potential’ employees and given extra development opportunities by their managers. The company also makes significant efforts to retain all individuals receiving this rating. A plan will continue reinforcing the needed cultural change to support forced distribution ratings.

HR centers of expertise continue to educate employees on the system to ensure that they understand that Network Solutions still rewards good performance; they are just measuring it differently. There is also a plan to monitor for and correct any unproductive practices and implement correcting policies and practices. To do this, they plan to continue checking with all stakeholders to ensure that the performance management system serves its intended purpose.

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