Performance Management That Puts Staff In The Driver’s Seat

Eastman Credit Union's focus on continuous coaching and development allows employees to take charge of their own career.

Employee development at Eastman Credit Union ($3.5B, Kingsport, TN) has always focused on continuous coaching and development, but its latest cloud-based iteration encourages each employee to take charge of their own career by creating an online profile complete with a resume, key accomplishments, volunteer hours, interests, and goals.

The Philosophy

The Tennessee credit union’s performance management process eschews overall score averages and labels in favor of more meaningful, goal-based discussions. According to Carol Cross, vice president of human resources for Eastman Credit Union, creating an effective system starts with a credit union’s philosophy.


Eastman credit union
Data as of 06.30.16

  • HQ: Kingsport, TN
  • ASSETS: $3.5B
  • MEMBERS: 174,864
  • BRANCHES: 27
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 8.9%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.4%
  • ROA: 1.7%

Performance management has to be a continuous, ongoing process, Cross says. As a management team, it is our responsibility to manage performance and empower employees to perform at their highest level.

As more credit unions look for ways to transition from the traditional annual performance reviews to continuous performance management, research and planning are critical.

Our fundamental process was good but paper intensive, says Mark Millwood, Eastman’s human resources director.

The credit union needed a more efficient way to track the program and run reports. Plus, it wanted enhancements that would make the system more beneficial for employees and managers. After two years of research, Eastman chose a cloud-based performance management software the credit union could customize and automate as well as plug into its existing system.

Eastman Credit Union uses Cornerstone OnDemand to take its employee development system to the next level. Find your next solution in the Callahan & Associates online Buyer’s Guide.

The Implementation

Selecting a vendor was merely the beginning, however, as the credit union spent a full year on implementation.

We signed a contract at the beginning of 2015 and thought we were going to roll out the first version of this in six weeks, says Amy Carter, talent development specialist at Eastman. We did not. It took us a year of configuration meetings because we wanted to improve our existing employee development system and take advantage of all the bells and whistles in the new system. It was a learning process, and we’re still learning how to get the most from it.

Key enhancements include the online employee profile, which provides an up-to-date picture of each employee’s interests, accomplishments, goals, and community volunteerism, plus an evaluation mechanism for the credit union’s four core STAR competencies: Service excellence, Teamwork, Accountability, and Results.

Each of the core competency areas has several sub-components, Millwood says. Managers rate and employees self-rate. However, although employees are rated individually on the core competencies, at the end of the review there isn’t an overall numeric score or label. We don’t want to simply say employees meet or exceed expectations, we want to have a conversation and find ways to enhance performance.

The Process

The employee development system is an annual process that begins in the first quarter of each year with a follow-up six months later. Employees update their career interests and discuss their development objectives with their managers. Compensation discussions typically happen at the end of each year.

The annual merit review process is separated and always has been, Cross says. This gives employees who might have been struggling early in the year a chance to improve.

Employees seem to be taking the process seriously. They are regularly updating their progress within the system without being reminded.

That’s good because Eastman’s compensation matrix takes performance into consideration and includes deeper discussions with managers, especially for those employees on performance improvement plans.

If there are performance issues, we might delay or not pass along the full merit increase, Cross says. Every day is a redeeming day for every employee. We expect managers to address issues as they recognize them. A manager’s primary responsibility is to ensure every member of their team is successful, and an ongoing performance management culture helps do that.

Eastman’s employees quickly adapted to the new system, and the credit union found it needed to provide little training, even at the managerial level.

It has been well-received from employees and management, Carter in talent development says. The managers needed time to adjust to the new process, so we began rolling it out with training to our senior management team to showcase what the new system could do.

For new employees, the credit union is helping them acclimate to the new system through a 120-day review.

Providing new employees with a full development and coaching plan right away was another important improvement, says HR director Millwood.

The Output

The extra time spent planning has paid off. HR now has easy access to standardized reports and the ability to write custom reports on just about anything.

We can easily run reports to find common development needs and address them instead of manually clicking through hundreds or even thousands of individual documents, Cross says.

When posting new positions, the reporting feature also allows HR to pull reports to identify existing employees whose background and interests match. This helps the credit union find potential internal candidates and promote from within, when possible, before looking externally.

Eastman Credit Union’s approach to employee development and performance management enables employees to perform at their highest level and keeps them focused on the four core competencies that serve as a common thread that runs through all of the credit union’s jobs.

If you can find a consistent theme across your culture, you can develop a uniform language and help all employees understand what it takes to be successful, Millwood says.

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August 15, 2016

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