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Headquartered in Walnut Creek, California, Basic American Foods (BAF) is an innovator and leader in convenience and refrigerated foods. With several patents to its credit, BAF is an acknowledged leader in research and development, earning universal respect for innovation, quality, and customer service.  BAF knows the key ingredient to its success, both now and in the future, is the company’s highly skilled employees and their continued development. To ensure that the organization is doing all it can to effectively develop its employees, BAF implemented a talent management solution from Halogen Software.

Overcoming Low Employee Engagement

It was common knowledge throughout the organization that trying to manage performance on paper was not helping the company achieve its business objectives. This was especially apparent to the HR department and to Sr. HR Manager, Melanie Rydalch, SPHR.

BAF employees did not want to participate in performance appraisals using the old approach. Since the process was a burden, it hindered managers in effectively coaching and promoting the ongoing development of their employees. To make the whole process more palatable and get the staff engaged in performance management, the HR team had to find and implement a new system that was as simple and as user friendly as possible.

The HR professionals at BAF are passionate about organizational and leadership development, and found the old process frustrating because it did not help them get the results they knew were possible.

"We were dealing with a paper-based process that was not very simple or productive," said Rydalch. "It was universally frustrating. It became very apparent that there had to be a better way. We knew we had to automate the process, and were looking to find a best-in-class, web-based talent management solution."

They understood that the easier the process could be made the more likely their employees would be to engage with it. It would also mean that managers could spend their limited time providing feedback and coaching rather than wasting it on administration. "Having an online system helps us design and roll out a much simpler process," said Rydalch. "The new system is extremely user friendly and encourages employees to become invested in their performance. Now everything around performance management is simple but effective."

Preparing for Change

BAF executives understand the importance of talent management as a key tool for developing future leaders. This consensus at the top of the organization helped drive the implementation. When the organization initially announced plans to implement the new system, there was some hesitance among the employees, as a result of bad experiences rolling out other IT solutions.

To ensure company-wide acceptance Rydalch and the HR team focused on consistent communication. They made sure that employees knew where things stood at every step of the process, and once it was time for hands-on training, it was done thoroughly and thoughtfully. To further emphasize the importance of the solution to BAF, the company’s CEO made this training mandatory for all employees. As a result, everyone was well prepared for the new system and excited about the new approach to talent management.

The leadership at BAF had also wanted to implement Lean Manufacturing Principles for several years, but they were challenged by the inability to maintain accountability in this area. It didn't take long for the BAF leadership to realize it needed to create a culture that supported Lean processes.

The performance management system, Halogen eAppraisal provided access to the Lean competencies BAF needed. "The online performance management system was simple to use and instrumental in establishing Lean principles in our organization," said Rydalch. "We have made a great deal of progress since the implementation largely because everyone in our organization is held accountable to the Lean principles and the reporting provides a simple visual to determine our opportunities for improvement."

Creating a Feedback Rich, Development-Focused Culture

By streamlining the process and providing tools that made appraisals easier, the organization has transformed employee performance management from a once-a-year chore to an ongoing, year-round process. Now managers have tools to help them with providing feedback to employees and engage in coaching activities. This has been instrumental in transforming the entire culture of the organization into one that focuses on development.

The organization is also making use of a 360 multirater process where feedback is gathered from other managers and co-workers, helping to provide better insight into each employee’s strengths and weaknesses and gain a well-rounded picture of employee performance. The tool gives BAF’s employees the broad, balanced perspective they need to develop and improve. It expands the organization’s ability to build leadership and collect broader, fairer feedback for employees.

Measuring Success

To objectively measure the success of the new approach to talent management BAF has conducted an online user survey. In the survey, nearly 90 percent of employees expressed overall satisfaction in with the process. The HR team was very enthusiastic about the results and is certain that the results of the satisfaction survey will continue to improve as more processes are conducted.  Furthermore, 95 percent of employees indicate that they know what is expected of them to successfully perform their jobs, and 82 percent indicate they have someone at BAF who actively encourages their development.

Since the implementation of the online appraisal system has been so successful, BAF is now utilizing Halogen’s eSuccession to expand their talent management programs to further drive employee engagement, reduce turnover and improve organizational performance.

JP Guay is a regional manager with Halogen Software. He focuses on helping HR leaders and senior management in manufacturing organizations optimize their talent management practices. He can be reached at jguay@halogensoftware.com.

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