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How performance management led the HR way for Santa Fe (2/2)

Janine Milne Profile picture for user jmilne January 16, 2017
In the second part of this use case, Janine Milne looks at how performance management investment has led to wider HR changes at Santa Fe.


Santa Fe Chief HR Officer Dr Barbara Zesik thinks it’s important to look at employees through a different lens and to get an external viewpoint on top talent.

Santa Fe started this by employing an occupational psychologist to assess about 15 senior strategic leaders. It produced some surprising results with a few people coming out low in external assessments compared to internally and a couple who were rated more highly by the external assessors and could be people to watch. 

Obviously, that level of intervention could not be sustained for every employee, but Zesik believes that it is important to have some profiling or structured team exercise would help provide insight into people’s performance and illustrate what they may be capable of.

This of course starts with recruitment and the company employed a recruitment partner last year to help with selecting the best people for the company.

Santa Fe is the first company to go live with Cornerstone HR and there are few components on the roadmap that are yet to launch. But even if every component were available, Santa Fe would still not have launched everything at once, says Zesik:

I think if we had succession and on-boarding out there now, we would be in chaos, because people need a little bit of time to adjust to new products, new thinking and to new ways of working. These things are part of a culture change and they take time.

Although it did have the Fuse Universal platform and some learning videos from key people in the company, when it came to downloading that into Cornerstone a lot of that content was binned because it was out of date.

It’s concentrating on getting to provide more structure round the type of learning content available with the long-term aim of having more self-managed learning, as people take responsibility for their learning needs. It is also delighted that the ability to record your own videos is one of the future features on Cornerstone functionality roadmap.

Zesik is in no doubt that the Cornerstone system has helped Santa Fe along its path to culture change:

It’s given us a holistic, global view of our people – how many people we have, the different organizational functions they work in. Being able to cut and slice the data from different perspectives is making a difference.

It is beginning to enable us to have different levels of conversation. It gives people fewer places to hide (in the nicest possible way) and longer term  the more we can drive people onto the system and encourage them to give honest  feedback, I think that can help us avoid a lot of employee relations issues. We just want to drive a more people-focused culture.

Next up

One of the things that Santa Fe is hoping to tackle now, according to Zesik, is its approach to payroll:

At the moment, my guess is we have 25 to 30 different payroll solutions and what we would like to do is to work out how to narrow that down to vendors with a more global outlook and to look eventually at offshoring the payroll  to our new shared service center.

Giving staff mobile access is also an area that Zesik hopes to look at soon:

We haven’t really been using it because we just wanted to get people used to the system, but now I think that may actually be limiting us and we would like people to be able to learn on the go.

Ultimately, Zesik would like Cornerstone HR to become the “mother system”, so that when a new recruit joins the company, those details are entered first into Cornerstone, which then automatically feeds information to payroll. 

Currently, information in local payroll is not always being updated into the HR system regularly enough. They are working hard in this area and others to keep employee data accurate and ensuring that data is inputted correctly in each location. Zesik adds:

Maintaining the data is probably the single biggest headache we have at the moment. If anybody has cracked the process of how to maintain data accurately in their system come and talk to me! I do believe that that is a real challenge for most organizations.

While it may be a challenge, it is absolutely vital for any HR department to get right, notes Zesik:

I think there is still very much the sense that if you can’t tell me how many people who work here, why would I want to discuss strategy with you? But we are relying on other people to maintain the data because we can’t do it centrally. You’re centralizing the recording of it but you’re still relying on people in the markets to feed you the data and you’ve got that human link.

One of the things we have been doing with Cornerstone is set up Cornerstone HR to change reporting fields so that they mirror the way it is done in finance and the way finance records the data is mirrored in Cornerstone HR.

Santa Fe has made a great start with its Cornerstone implementation and with its wider HR plans to become a great place to work. But Zesik emphasizes that it takes time to change attitudes:

I believe that culture takes somewhere between five and seven years. Year one, it’s all new and you’ve got the cynics winning the conversation. Year two, people think OK, so this is happening. Year three, they realise this is going to stay they’re going to have to start doing things differently and then by year four people adapting more and more.

One way Zesik is confident that the company is moving in the right direction is the engagement survey. The first survey in October 2015 generated a 77% participation rate. This grew to an 86.7% participation rate the following year. Regardless of what people actually say in the survey (and the company had made sure to act on any points highlighted in the year earlier survey), Zesik says:

Having that participation rate shows us we have engaged employees: they are engaged and they are telling us about it.

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