Effective employee reviews with SharePoint and Nintex
Office 365 and SharePoint make a great platform to solve common business needs, and we’ve helped many organisations implement applications ranging from travel expenses to annual leave requests and so on. Typically, there are several ways of solving the problem with Office 365 – from small apps using out-of-the-box tools, through to more enterprise-scale applications with tailored workflow and integration with existing back-end systems.
Another common need we see is employee reviews – most organisations have a process to support employees in their personal development, where objectives and progress are tracked and periodically reviewed. In this post, we’ll explain how we recently helped a customer using Office 365/SharePoint Online and Nintex products to replace a paper-based process for reviews.
Nintex wasn’t mandatory for this solution, but our client was making an investment there to support multiple requirements around forms and workflow, and we certainly found that some aspects of development were easier with those building blocks.
Some of the benefits of the solution include:
Reduced costs – partly through reduced travel (more on this later), but also through lower printing costs and time efficiencies in completing the form
Better agility – teams often change their structure and people, and line manager changes were problematic in the paper-based process. The same applied to changes in training courses that are available to employees. Both are much easier to manage in SharePoint
Improved reporting – now that the data is in digital form, line managers can quickly see how their team is progressing through the review process and what actions need to be performed. At the organisational level, it’s now possible to report on overall training/qualification status of employees, which helps the company bid for new work
Increased employee satisfaction – the new process is less onerous for employees and managers to work with
Employee reviews – the old way
Previously, employees and managers often needed to complete the paper review form together, and this would sometimes require several meetings to arrive at the final set of agreed objectives and ways of measuring success. Since most employees are based in the field, this resulted in travel costs so that both parties could be in the same location.
The process mainly revolved around printing a PDF form and then completing it in ink. The printed form was long since lots of details are captured (important in an industry where safety and regulations are paramount). Any detail related to the previous review, such as previous objectives, would need to be re-written by hand into the form.
After several iterations, the employee and manager would arrive at the final version of the form. This would then be sent to the Learning and Development department within HR, who would scan the form and store it on the network drive as a record.
A review process supported by Office 365, SharePoint metadata, with Nintex Forms and Workflow
We started by building an understanding of the key steps and interactions between the employee and manager, to derive a lightweight workflow process to support this. Sometimes it’s important to not go too crazy with workflow design – we established that some aspects could be “offline” to the workflow, being handled instead with a simple conversation between the employee and manager.
For other steps however, we knew we needed the formality of workflow stages and tasks. We also analysed the existing review form, and did some prototyping with the client so they could see what a digital version would look like. We identified fields which could be pre-populated with data that we already knew about the user from their Office 365 user profile, such as their job title and organisational unit.
Moving to an electronic form was also an opportunity for us to hook into data and scoring logic – so we designed the new form to bring in lists of training courses dynamically, and present the employee’s current performance score (which is calculated from the achievement of objectives).
The new form and workflow have made the review process much more efficient. Although we don’t get pixel-perfect control of layout with Nintex Forms, overall it was helpful, especially around repeating sections and the different form controls available to us. The result is a nice evolution of the paper-based form which employees were familiar with:
The form is easier to use in several ways:
Employees can access the form whenever and wherever they can sign-in to Office 365. They no longer need to travel from their location (which might be a construction site) to an office to use a company PC
There is less need for the manager and employee to physically complete the form together – both can work with the form when it suits them. The form presents a different view depending on who is accessing it (manager or employee), and certain fields are unlocked or locked as appropriate
Key data is pre-filled from Office 365 profile data to increase efficiency. This includes job title, line manager, employee start date and more
Objectives are also pre-filled when appropriate (more on this in a second)
Behind the scenes, Nintex workflow is used to track the review through the process – this prompts the employee or manager with an e-mail notification when they have a task to complete. One big win was how we get to deal with the half-year “interim” review. This is a checkpoint to see how the employee is progressing against objectives, and we have a special version of the form which is triggered at this point.
Since the system knows each person’s objectives and criteria, we can simply pull these from the previous full-year review data and pre-load into the form, so no re-keying or summarising is required – much slicker than the paper-based experience.
The data is stored in SharePoint lists in Office 365. This means that administrators can easily sort and filter the review data, but also means we can use SharePoint security to ensure appropriate access controls are used. When the form is saved for the first time, we apply permissions so that only the employee and manager can see review data, thus keeping sensitive data under control.
Administrators also find it easy to manage updates to related data such as training courses, that an employee might attend. These are now stored in SharePoint lists, so the data is dynamic and can be kept much more up-to-date than with the paper-based approach.
A clear view across the organisation
So, the overall process is easier to work with for all parties involved. But there are also many benefits that come on the reporting side. This starts with the “line manager dashboard”, which helps managers understand things like:
1) Who in my team hasn’t yet completed their review?
2) What stage are all my reviews up to?
3) Who might miss a deadline?
4) What do objectives look like across my team?
The last point is particularly important since objectives are tied to financial rewards, and so it’s important to have good data and reporting. From the perspective of HR, the system presents a clearer view on the demand for different forms of training (e.g. courses) across different teams and roles.
Lastly, management can now see the overall training/qualification status of employees across the company. This is used for winning new clients and projects, and provides an insight into a key performance indicator for the company.
Employee reviews are common to most organisations, and Office 365 and SharePoint provide a great platform for such processes. In this case Nintex provided additional value, by giving us an enhanced set of building blocks for the workflow and forms elements of our solution. We managed to reduce costs, and provide much better insights to management and HR through the new reporting tools we implemented. Employees report greater satisfaction when interacting with the process, and the solution has driven usage of the client’s new SharePoint Online intranet, putting Office 365 at the centre of a new digital workplace for the organisation.
For further information on how Content and Code could help your organisation with employee or digital workplace solutions, talk to us today.
Chris O'Brian, MVP
Head of Development | Content and Code
Chris is a 9-time recipient of the MVP (Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional) award from Microsoft, regularly speaks at Microsoft conferences and writes one of the most-referenced technical blogs. Chris leads the development team with responsibility for best practice, development standards and team readiness around SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure. Chris has led a huge number of projects and is keen to share his knowledge with you.
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