It’s a known fact that regular employee feedback and appraisals can drive agent motivation, reducing attrition rates and adding value to the team. Even so, the process takes time and effort, so how do you balance the potential payoff with that investment, especially when you’re a global company with 35,000 employees? This is exactly what Infosys BPO is doing right now, having recently shifted to a new internal appraisal system company wide.
In April 2017, the company went global with its iCount system, changing the way all employees have to work and track their progress. This evaluation platform was designed completely in house, built by the company’s information systems function.
“The global challenge has been adaption,” said Shereen Abraham, Organization Development Practice Lead at Infosys BPO, who is based in Bangalore, India. “No one wants to move out of a system that they are accustomed to into something new. It will take people time to trust this tool and understand that it helps them.”
Infosys Limited, the parent company, actually implemented iCount in October 2015, but Infosys BPO held out for 18 months due to the nuances between the needs and requirements of BPO workers and IT workers.
“This varied from an accessibility and work relevance standpoint, so we customized certain aspects of the tool to make it work for the BPO function before rolling it out,” said Abraham. “There were some bottlenecks in the earlier system that were removed, such as redundant approvals and sign off stages. Some of the glaring things that the erstwhile system did not address were year-long performance conversations, and the ability to give feedback to employees, company wide.”
The biggest change, according to Abraham, is that employees no longer need to keep track of their performance offline. The new tool allows them to document their progress in real time – there are no restrictions to how many times they can log in or what data they are adding. Employees can also speed things along by attaching documents and emailing notes directly to the system.
Global Training Initiatives
Abraham and her teams have been rolling out a change management process across the board to prepare Infosys BPO employees for the migration. During this period of grooming before the switch, written content was released to explain the benefits that would come with more feedback and evaluations.
“We were already on a global performance management system, so the concept of capturing this information was not alien to any geography,” said Abraham.
Even so, Infosys BPO is still working on this from the ground up, splitting the tool into small modules and training a large pool of “ambassadors” in each module, who would then spread this knowledge to employees in each geo.
“There is a lot of leadership support and we are speaking to employees at the agent level, taking the change to them,” said Abraham. “There’s a lot of disconnect with BPO agents as it’s not that easy for them to read an email during their shift or step outside to talk to a leader, so we have to approach them differently with this. We will continue our change management exercises until April next year, giving people time to adapt.”
Infosys BPO uses a centralized version of the system for the entire global company – each function of the organization uses iCount in their own particular way. The interface has been designed to reduce the time for employees and managers to settle goals.
Employee goals are pre-determined based on the focus of the organization, giving line managers the targets that need to be carried. They now give a basket of goals that the managers or agents can pick from, as well as future development goals and individual goals for each employee.
“Agents will typically carry transactional metrics on SLAs and governance, for example, but the tool also allows them to carry individual goals and development plans that are focused on what they need to develop competencies and what training or on-the-job support they require,” said Abraham. “This makes it easy for a manager to track progress on any timeline that they choose, giving them a monthly, weekly, or bi-annual view of each agent.”
If a large global company like Infosys BPO already has a system in place, why expend the effort and time to establish something completely new?
“The company wanted to move to a more simplified process with an easier and more unified user interface that enabled year-long performance evaluations,” said Abraham. “Historically, performance evaluation conversations were either annual or bi-annual, based on which group the employee belonged to. There was very little emphasis on keeping the conversation going throughout the year. This move to iCount has changed the game.”
Abraham stressed that it’s still too early to determine how the system has changed things for clients on the BPO side, or to see the real benefits from an agent level, but the commitment to change something so integral to the company’s operations shows confidence that the effort will eventually pay off.