When the Region of Peel, Ont.’s intake screening unit for social services assistance lost a few employees last year, management could tell the remaining staff were feeling the strain.
Unlike most organizations, however, the agency had more to go on than just hunches gathered from a low rumble
of discontent – it had a tech tool to measure key performance indicators that showed the call centre staff were taking longer to answer and process calls and taking more sick days than usual, says Janet Menard, director of Ontario Works at the region.
“”We could start to see the length of calls were getting longer because workers were finding their own breaks within calls, since there were no breaks between calls,”” explains Menard. “”The key performance indicators gave us the data, so we could respond pretty quickly.””
The key performance indicators, or KPIs, are a scorecarding technology that allows the agency to measure how it is doing in five areas – performance, quality, client satisfaction, employee satisfaction and cost. The unit is given a score out of 10 each month in 14 categories.
For example, says Menard, “”We look at the percentage of calls answered within 60 seconds. If we answer 80 or greater of our calls within 60 seconds, we score 10 out of 10. If we’re down at 60 per cent we get zero.””
The tool was implemented to help the agency get a better grip on how well it is serving its clientele, as well as how well its employees are performing.
Not only can it demonstrate the overall performance of the unit, but it can also drill down to reveal each individual employee’s performance.
“”When they meet with their supervisor they can go over how they’ve contributed to the KPIs for their business unit. We compare them to the average for their unit so they can see if they’ve had more incidental sick days than average or have fewer days of professional development,”” she says. “”It’s not viewed as punitive; it’s really addressing their personal development.””
The matrix has been used for the past 16 months in one business unit at the region, which serves a population of one million and which receives 400 to 600 calls a day. Plans are to roll it out to two more business units over the next few months
“”It’s a lot of time and effort to agree on the KPIs to establish the information sources, but now it takes us about 20 minutes to run the report at the end of every month,”” says Menard.
This kind of human performance measurement is exactly what’s lacking in most organizations, public or private, says Alden Cuddihey, a partner with Accenture in Ottawa.
Accenture, which recently released its fourth High-Performance Workforce Study, found that while many organizations have invested more in human resource and training programs designed to improve workplace performance, they have no clear idea of how well those programs are — or are not — working. The study looked at both employee training, such as skills updating, and human resource programs designed to make employees better aware of their role in driving the success of the workplace.
Only 13 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the results of their HR initiatives.
At the same time, at least 40 per cent were not measuring the effects of their HR training against employee turnover/retention, satisfaction, innovation, productivity and quality, and 35 per cent were not measuring them against customer or client satisfaction.
“”A lot of respondents to this study said they were very concerned about workforce issues, that they’re actually spending more on these types of issues and that they’re generally satisfied with the outputs of this investment,”” says Cuddihey.
“”But what I find striking is they’re also a bit frustrated because they’re saying they can’t really measure directly the investment on these initiatives and on the outcomes of the enterprise.””
Because they are not measuring the effect of their HR initiatives, adds Cuddihey, it’s impossible to say whether some organizations are spending money on HR programs and initiatives that contribute little to creating a high-performance workplace.
“”I think that’s the source of the frustration,”” he says. “”I think what the C-level people were saying is ‘I’m committing more budgets to things like training and development and creating better HR processes for my employees, but I’m not sure which ones are giving me my best returns and where I should be focusing my dollars.'””
But not all HR initatives are so easily measured as the Region of Peel’s.
Ken Cochrane, CIO of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, says his department has implemented a number of programs aimed at modernizing the workplace.
It has undergone a reorganization of IT staff and created a client relationship management function that communicates between the large IT workforce (about 3,000 in Ottawa and another 1,000 across the country) and the organizations within the agency.
To make the CCRA a better place to work for IT people, it has also implemented a program called Renewal, which aims to create a better work/life balance and generally improve the climate of the workplace through a variety of wellness type programs.
Cochrane says IT is more productive, judging from its higher level of reuse of components, improved communication and use of best practices, but adds that belief is based on subjective perception.
“”When you try to measure impacts you have to look at number of things,”” he says.
“”We survey our workforce regularly to see how they feel changes are affecting us … But a lot of this is not easily measurable. At this stage it’s subjective.””