Barco is an international, award winning company in display technology, that promotes investing a lot of time and effort in its talent. Sam De Potter is the Director of HR Processes and Projects there, thus we wanted to pick his brain about his vision on Performance Management and the future HR landscape.

The engagement quandary

The business world is bursting with engagement numbers. Employees are no longer engaged, and everyone is looking at HR to blame. Yet this perspective is outdated according to Sam. “Employee engagement is too easily seen as HR material. Of course HR can support certain initiatives to monitor the engagement levels of the company, yet it all starts and ends with the business itself.”

And we believe Sam has a valid point. It’s the team leader himself that works closest with its team members on a daily basis. If someone has a clear view on the wellbeing and engagement of the employees it’s him, and not the HR department. Then why is everyone still looking at HR when someone leaves the company abruptly? The engagement levels should in fact be included in the role of the team leaders in the organization.

Performance Enablement

“There is a lot of confusion about the term Performance Management” he starts. “People wrongly tend to limit Performance Management to setting goals and evaluating those goals at the end of the year, with an additional possible link to bonuses or a salary raise”.

At Barco, they take it a few steps further. They don’t just talk about “Performance Management”, they prefer the term “Performance Enablement”. “The employee is motivated to ask certain things from the business to perform at his best, and will then in his turn make an effort to perform at his very best to help the business to advance successfully”. It is thus not so much a one-way, but more a two-way process. Because objectives are only the beginning at Barco. Setting goals is one thing, enabling the employee to achieve them, is the ultimate goal. Together with the employee they define development actionables to make sure the person stays growing, together with the business, so that this person is even better equipped for future challenges.

Three main HR challenges

Yet Sam does see a few challenges ahead for Performance Management as it is positioned today. “A first challenge is the uncertainty about the process you have in place. How will one ever know if the Performance Management process supports and facilitates the strategy of the business?”. A PM process should not be there “just because HR wants intel on certain data”. It should actively contribute to the selling process or the efficiency of the organization.

“A second challenge in the HR space, is the search for a tool to support all your processes, in a way that’s simple and understable, without taking up too much time”. The purpose of an HR tool is that it reduces the amount of time spent on administration and all kinds of paperwork. It should thus not be more time consuming to insert or retrieve data into/from the tool, than it is to do it offline yourself. Otherwise, you’re just implementing another tool. And this is an underestimated problem. You shouldn’t just buy a tool, just for the sake of buying a tool when it doesn’t alleviate any pain or doesn’t make your processes more efficient.

Sam also poses a final challenge: ”Organizations don’t have a strong integrated HR policy”. Companies collect data from several domains, but do they use all of the information gathered or does it end in a big black digital dungeon where nobody ever goes back to look for something? It’s a tendency that almost every business has and is of no benefit to any party. Bits and pieces of information are scattered everywhere and ends up nowhere.

What’s next?

In conclusion, we asked Sam how he believes the future of work has an impact on the responsibility of the HR departments. “In the future, more and more people will start working on an independent basis, doing projects for companies, instead of actually being on the payroll. This is a phenomenon that is only gonna pop up more frequently. As a consequence, people who work within your company for only a few months, don’t exactly fit anymore in the annual performance management cycle.” These employees receive feedback and have (or haven’t) obtained certain objectives or skills. When they move on to the next employee, what happens to that information? “Right now, it all stays at the company in question, which is bizarre. The philosophy of many organizations is to offer continuous learning to all employees, which stands for enabling people to improve in their current job, but also preparing them for future jobs, even if that means a job outside the organization”.

There should be something similar to a patient file in the medical industry. Different doctors usually have access to relevant information about the patient, like previous surgery or allergies. The same principle would go for the business world; some kind of digital backpack that people bring with them that goes beyond the few lines on people’s resume.

Thanks Sam for the insights!