13 validated findings on the power of technology in performance management

The power of technology in performance management

It won’t come as a surprise to you that I’m a big advocate for the power of technology in performance management. At Cognology, we see the business impact of great performance management technology almost every day.

But in this article, I wanted to go a step further and understand if there’s broader scientific support for the power of performance management technology. As you’ll see, there’s a range of strong research demonstrating how technology continues to fundamentally change performance management.

In preparation for this article our team spent many hours trawling academic journals on performance management. The aim was to find well-cited academic papers that specifically looked at technology in the performance management space.

I’ve arranged the research findings under four headings:

  • How technology impacts the performance management approach
  • How technology impacts the overall effectiveness of performance management
  • How technology impacts performance management for remote workforces
  • How performance management technology impacts business-critical strategy

Without further introduction, let’s jump into the research:

How technology impacts the performance management approach: Validated findings

1. Technology drives more positive attitudes about performance reviews.
Gueutal, H., & Stone, D. L. (2003). The brave new world of e-HR.
Advances in human Performance and Cognitive Engineering Research, 3, 13-36.

2. Technology-enabled performance management tools encourage managers to develop better ongoing performance management behaviours.
Hunt, S. T. (2011). Technology is transforming the nature of performance management.
Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 4(02), 188-189.

How technology impacts the overall effectiveness of performance management: Validated findings

3. Technology increases the effectiveness of performance feedback.
Gueutal, H., & Stone, D. L. (2003). The brave new world of e-HR.
Advances in human Performance and Cognitive Engineering Research, 3, 13-36.

4. Basing performance management around projects rather than time of year highlights the optimal time for reviewing performance.
Gueutal, H., & Stone, D. L. (2003). The brave new world of e-HR.
Advances in human Performance and Cognitive Engineering Research, 3, 13-36.

5. Data from performance management technology is critical in identifying and tracking high-potential employees.
Stone, D. L., & Stone-Romero, E. F. (2003). and Kimberly Lukaszewski.
Advances in human performance and cognitive engineering research, 3, 37-68.

6. Developmental opportunities and potential mentoring relationships are more easily discovered through performance management data.
Stone, D. L., & Stone-Romero, E. F. (2003). and Kimberly Lukaszewski.
Advances in human performance and cognitive engineering research, 3, 37-68.

7. To effectively manage performance employees must be involved in goal setting, using technology.
Kagaari, J. R., Munene, J. C., & Mpeera Ntayi, J. (2010). Performance management practices, information and communication technology (ICT) adoption and managed performance.
Quality Assurance in Education, 18(2), 106-125.

How technology impacts performance management for remote workforces: Validated findings

8. Technological tools can be particularly helpful to complete the performance planning process when manager and employee do not work out of the same location.
MCI World Com, 2001, as cited in Joshi, S. K. (2014). Role of Technology in Performance Management System: A Literature Review.
Available at SSRN 2515225.

9. The essential components of defining, facilitating, and encouraging performance are even more critical in a virtual work environment than in a traditional one.
Cascio, W. F. (2003). How technology facilitates virtual work arrangements. In E. Salas & D. Stone (Eds.),
Advances in human performance and cognitiveengineering research (Vol. 3, pp. 1–12). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science.

10. The importance of developing clear, objective goals is promoted in the absence of frequent face-to-face communication between the subordinate and supervisor.

  • Manoochehri, G., & Pinkerton, T. (2003). Managing telecommuters: Opportunities and challenges. American Business Review, 21, 9–16.
  • Ellison, N. B. (1999). Social impacts: New perspectives on telework. Social Science Computer Review, 17, 338–356.
  • Illegems, V., & Verbeke, A. (2004). Telework: what does it mean for management?. Long Range Planning, 37(4), 319-334.

How technology impacts business-critical strategy: Validated findings

11. Instead of spending time asking people to “please fill out their talent forms”, HR uses data generated from cloud technology to gain insights that drive strategic discussions.
Hunt, S. T. (2011). Technology is transforming the nature of performance management. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 4(02), 188-189.

12. Digitalisation of performance management not only provides better data, but also “positively influences management processes and strategic development”.
Tambo, T., & Gabel, O. D. Discussing performance management architecture in public service broadcasting. In PMA (Performance Management Association) conference 2014.

13. Performance management technology is critical not just as a business intelligence system, but also as an analytical online process, a data warehouse and a simulation tool.

  • Ballard, C., White, C., McDonald, S., Mylymaki, J., McDowell, S., Goerlich, O., & Neroda, A. (2005). Business Performance Management: Meets Business Intelligence. IBM.
  • Tambo, T., Gabel, O. D., Olsen, M., & Bækgård, L. (2012). Organisational Dynamics and Ambiguity of Business Intelligence in Context of Enterprise Information Systems–a case study. CONFENIS, 1-16.
  • Smith, M. A., & Kavanagh, S. C. (2008). The Potholes of Performance Management Technology: A New Road and Its Obstacles. Government Finance Review, 24(3), 63-66.

In conclusion

This research clearly shows that better technology is making performance management a part of everyday work life. As I’ve spoken about previously, this is a huge step in the right direction towards more natural, agile performance management.

It’s evident that the widely known benefits of performance management technology (such as the efficiency, accessibility and relevancy of performance management) are only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s also great that the impact of performance management data on high-level strategy is becoming more defined (and attracting a lot of attention). This is good news in making sure all businesses recognise the significant benefits of best practice performance management technology at the highest levels of leadership.

I’m planning to keep this ultimate guide up-to-date over time. So if you see any more well-cited research on the power of technology in performance management, please let me know via twitter @Cognology.

Jon Windust

Jon Windust is the CEO at Cognology – Talent management software for the future of work. Over 250 Australian businesses use Cognology to power cutting-edge talent strategy. You can follow Jon on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Is technology reshaping the way we work?

Part 3 of our data driven investigation into 2014’s real talent trends

Recap: We’re continuing our data driven look into the real talent trends of 2014

Today we’re continuing our data driven look into the talent trends of 2014.

To recap on how we’re doing this, each week Indeed collects millions of job ads from sites across the web. And the team is kind enough to make all of this data publicly available and searchable. This means we can look at how frequently certain terms are occurring in millions of job ads, all the way back to 2005. It’s fascinating, and you should have a play with the tool at

Sitting in a workplace today, it’s easy to feel how technology is reshaping the way work gets done. So today we wanted to have a look at some of the big tech trends, to see if the impact on the workplace is as significant as the press and blogosphere makes out.

How is technology reshaping the way we work?

Again, there’s been a lot written on this topic recently. Here’s just a couple of pieces that you might have read over 2014:

Out of these, we’ve picked the four trends we were seeing again and again. In no particular order, we’re diving into:

  • Social media
  • Social (collaborative tech)
  • Cloud
  • Mobile

Social media

Clearly social media is no passing fad. It’s seen huge growth in hiring over the past ten years. But this is still less than 1% of all jobs, and at present these numbers are unlikely to represent much other than people hired into marketing roles. It will be interesting to see how “Social Media” in hiring evolves over the coming 5-10 years – will we see a stage where social media capability is a broader job requirement?

Social media


Social (capturing collaborative tech) is potentially the bigger trend here, which continues to grow. It’s interesting how Social has seen a sustained pick up across 2014, whilst Social Media has plateaued.



Again, “Cloud” is a trend that’s seen major growth over the past five years. “Cloud” has come from nowhere to feature in nearly 1% of all job adverts across 2012 – 2014. The scale of growth shows the level of investment that businesses have made in getting the workforce cloud enabled.

HR Cloud


Mobile is another big trend that’s really reshaping the way that we work. But similar to the “Cloud” it hasn’t been a growth area for 2014 (doing major growth at an earlier stage). If anything mobile is now starting to drop off as a hiring trend, as companies are reaching full capability.


So, how is technology reshaping the workforce?

Cloud, mobile and social media have all been huge growth trends in reshaping the workplace. But as this hiring data makes clear, they haven’t been the tech trends of 2014. All three terms have plateaued or fallen away slightly over the course of the year.

What does this mean? As these charts make clear, these technologies have seen explosive growth over the past five years. And there’s still significant hiring happening – especially when you compare the current numbers to 10 years ago. But explosive and ongoing growth in the field may have slowed. So it’s possible that businesses are bedding down current efforts and making sure they have the right strategies in place to go forward (now that they’re through initial deployment).

The only place we’ve really seen ongoing growth over 2014 is social technology. As I wrote about here, there’s really good reasons to invest and integrate social and collaborative tech. It’s great to see that businesses are starting to recognise this return and invest appropriately.

Interested in the real talent management trends of 2014? Don’t miss the other parts of this series…

If you loved these talent insights, there’s plenty more in this series:

  1. Millennials are changing the way we work (part 1)
  2. HR is about to be taken over by data/finance (part 2)
  3. Technology is reshaping the way we work (part 3)
  4. Holacracy is set to make managers obsolete (part 4, coming tomorrow!)

If you’ve got interesting thoughts about what this article means for the future of work, I’d love to continue the conversation on Twitter. Tweet and follow @cognology.

My experience using enterprise social technology

We have been using our own enterprise social technology internally now for some time.  I’d like to share just one of the many experiences.  In part I’m doing this to help illustrate the benefit of enterprise social technology.  It helps answer the question of why someone would want to use it.  I’m also sharing the experience to shed some light on the technology for those who are wondering what it’s all about.

Cognology Wall screenshot

There are a myriad of uses for social tech in the organisation … this is just one.

A wall or news feed makes so much sense.  We are social beings, we operate under social constructs.  It helps to be able to see things that are happening across a group or wider group.  Having used our wall quite a bit I couldn’t go back to pre-wall.  For example, one of the uses of the Wall is to recognise others.  As a manager I find this one of the most powerful and positive tools in my kit bag.  When someone does something that deserves recognition, it’s wonderful to be able to put a thank you note on a wall so others can see.  And it’s such a buzz when you see team members giving each other recognition.

There’s some legitimate concerns that people may have about this though.  They are reasonable concerns and need to be addressed.  The three key ones are:

  1. The potential to waste time.
  2. Inappropriate comments.
  3. Replacing face to face interactions.
The potential to waste time

You may wonder whether a wall creates a social love fest.  A frenzy of recognition and other posts.  It doesn’t.  It’s rare to see the same person giving recognition more than once a fortnight.  My experience is that recognition has been given sparingly, where it deserved to be.  If it were given for even the slightest thing, for the sake of it, I believe it would quickly lose its benefit.

The wall hasn’t magically created a perfect working world.  Not every situation and person that truly deserved some recognition, received it.  I think the truth is that people are just busy working and don’t always think to do it.  But there is more recognition, a lot more.  And it’s much more visible.

Inappropriate comments

When many HR people think of social tech, they are probably thinking of sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Let’s face it, we’ve all read news stories about their inappropriate use.

The question is whether we should sacrifice the benefits of enterprise social technology to protect our organisations against potential misuse.  My experience is that I haven’t seen any misuse at all.  But I’ve read the news stories like everyone else and I know it can and will happen.  So do we avoid social tech?  I believe that would be crazy.  That would be like saying no to the introduction of computers into the organisation in the 80s and 90s because of their potential for misuse.

The real question should be how can we minimise the possibility of misuse and protect people from it.  The answer is that people, managers and HR should be given control over information sharing and visibility.  And of course, appropriate policies are needed.  But those policies are needed now regardless of whether you have enterprise social technology.

It’s counterintuitive, but I believe enterprise social technology helps protect organisations and their people.  This is better explained by pointing out what happens if an organisation doesn’t implement social tech.  People will eventually find their own social solutions which organisations won’t have any control over.

Replacing face to face interactions

From a leadership perspective face to face conversations are the shiznit.  Great progress has been made in recent years getting leaders to have one-on-one conversations.  Anything that threatens to undo all this progress is going to be received with some caution.

2 people in a discussion

So does a wall replace face to face interactions?  No it doesn’t.  It enhances them and makes new things possible.  Here’s three ways it does this.

If you’re a manager, ask yourself how often you see team members recognising other team members in front of others.  It happens, but infrequently.  To make things worse, you most likely won’t be there in the moment it happens.  You probably won’t hear about it.  The wall improves both of these problems.  For reasons explained below, recognition is more frequent.  Everyone doesn’t have to be there in the moment either.  If you aren’t there, you’ll still see it, you won’t miss out.

How does a wall increase the frequency of recognition?  The answer is something called the gift economy.  In short it means this.  Joe gives recognition to Sally.  This makes Sally more likely to recognise Joe some time down the track when he deserves it.  In my experience it also makes it more likely that Sally will think to recognise someone else.

The wall also gives people a greater reach.  Visibility is not just restricted to one or two people.  Recognition is not just heard by those in the verbal vicinity.  People across a wider group get to see things they previously couldn’t.

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the new world of work and the need for HR to be part of the change.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on enterprise social technology.

Is HR resisting social technology?

I believe social and HR technology is helping to bring about a new world of work.  But is HR itself getting in the way of this happening?

Sometimes it doesn’t take that long for big change to occur.  When personal computers started to arrive in corporate life during the late 80s and early 90s secretaries and typists were commonplace.  It wasn’t uncommon for a manager to draft a communication, send it to a secretary, who would then type it up and send it back for review before sending.  Amongst other benefits, inexpensive and usable personal computers provided a great opportunity for organisations to save time and money by getting managers to type their own communications.  PCs were implemented at a rapid pace along with organisational edicts for managers to do their own typing.

Vintage typist

Despite the obvious advantage of using computers to draft, edit and produce communications, many managers were highly resistant to the change.  Computers were things they didn’t understand.  What you don’t understand, you fear.  But by the end of the 90s you would be hard pressed to find secretaries typing communications anywhere.  Today it only survives in limited areas like law firms who seem to love dictation as a form of creating a communication.

I believe the vast majority of managers who were resistant to the change that occurred in the late 80s and early 90s would not want to go back to the way things were.  They wouldn’t want to wait for a secretary to type something.  Nor would they want to be without the easy way to get their ideas into a document, then edit and perfect them before communicating.

Social technology is changing the world today.  And talent management technology is becoming increasingly more important in organisations.  Now we are starting to see the two combined.  It makes great sense, we are social beings.  We operate in a social way, even at work.  We aren’t automatons.

So is HR resistant to social technology in the workplace?  Undoubtedly many are.  This is understandable though.  Social technology is relatively young.  Many people still believe that Twitter is used by people who want to tell everyone inane things about their cat and what it does all day.  Add to that the potential legal issues of using social technology.  For example, bullying via social technology.  It’s understandable that HR would be resistant.

The change is happening though and won’t be stopped.  Not for any other reason that the new world of work is just too compelling.

Combining social and talent management technology makes a lot of sense.  HR can elevate its importance in the organisation by embracing it and driving its adoption in the workplace. If HR doesn’t do this, someone else in the organisation will.

Just like the managers of the late 80s and early 90s, I don’t believe HR will want to go back to the old world in ten years time.  People talk about removing organisational silos meaning departments and teams that don’t communicate.  I think we have something more problematic.  We have individual personal silos.  The new world doesn’t have those silos.  People, their work, needs and achievements are more visible to others.  Once you’ve reached this new world, would you want to go back?  I don’t think HR will want to go back.

To be human is to be social.