King’s College Hospital NHS FT – Performance Appraisal and Compliance Using Totara.

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the background.

At Think Learning, our core client base is in highly regulated sectors, so a bedrock of our Totara implementation is the ability to directly demonstrate that training, learning and performance appraisal is keeping staff and the general public safe.

For our healthcare clients this rings particularly true. With the focus on demonstration of effective performance, it’s no longer good enough to track attendance at courses; our clients need to show that learning interventions have a positive effect on performance.

This is not necessarily a new idea, of course. Kirkpatrick’s seminal model of training evaluation has been used by L&D teams for decades to link training to organisational performance. But the advent of powerful appraisal tools in Totara means we can now link reaction, learning and behaviour change in one low cost, flexible platform.

Staff see clear benefits in a robust appraisal process too. Having clear objectives, and transparent recognition of high performance, is positively correlated with engagement and reduced turnover rates. Both high engagement and low turnover contribute directly to bottom line savings for organisations.

A landmark study by Borrill and West based on 200,000 data points from 300 UK healthcare organisations showed a positive correlation between effective appraisal and high quality training, and quality of care/patient mortality. Put simply, train and appraise healthcare workers, and fewer patients die.

the challenge.

To inform this case study, we ran an in-depth analysis of six of our largest clients who collectively use Totara to manage the performance of over 75,000 staff. We then expanded this analysis through interviews with another 8 clients. First, the headlines:

Increase in compliance.

All clients reported that their Appraisal compliance rates have significantly improved since implementing Totara.

Appraisal solution.

Every client surveyed rated Totara as Good or Excellent as an appraisal solution.

Accurate reporting.

Compared to their previous systems, all clients agreed that Totara enables more accurate reporting of appraisal quantity and quality.

increasing compliance.

One of our largest clients increased their appraisal compliance rate from 44% in January 2018, to a huge 89% in November 2018. That’s over 4000 extra staff who are now assured as compliant and performing in their healthcare workplace, which will have a profound effect on staff engagement, retention and ultimately patient care.

This dramatic improvement was of course down to significant internal communications, training, stakeholder engagement and monitoring but our Totara implementation played a strong part here too. This client has a unique Think Learning approach to appraisal on Totara, allowing them to run “light touch” and “full fat” appraisal process concurrently, which means staff can move seamlessly between the two approaches depending on whether they just want a summary or the full power of linked objectives, development and review records online. We also build appraisal reminders into our compliance dashboards, to reinforce to all staff that performance is at least as important as training.

It’s not all about the numbers, of course. We asked our clients about the specific benefits of using Totara to manage appraisal in their organisations. This is what they said:

It’s very positive to see that the benefits here range from administrative efficiency (which frees up HR and L&D teams to do things which add more value to the business) to quality improvements for staff and their managers, for example in a more transparent, partnership approach to appraisals which increases the quality of the performance conversation as well as just the quantity of appraisal.

the solution.

How did we achieve these results? In a word: flexibility. We recognise that appraisal is rooted in an organisational culture and context, and that therefore every client will need something different.

We’ve been using Totara to support appraisal processes for as long as the functionality existed in the platform (and actually, even earlier, as our first projects focused on co-opting the Totara learning plan objectives pages to track performance goals). Through the course of over twenty appraisal implementations we’ve found that:

    Manager / appraiser / staff relationships are fluid and generally not known centrally.
    Appraisal forms need to be flexible for different staff groups, and dynamically responsive to questions answered.
    A lot of the work of HR teams is in checking up and policing the process; work which can be automated.
    It’s critical that the technology is transparent, and that the focus is on the quality conversation between manager and team member.

unique enhancements.

To respond to some of these challenges, we’ve built some unique enhancements to the platform which are currently only available to Think Learning’s clients, including:

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Enhancements to the Appraisal workflow to allow custom roles such as calibration team, and dynamic presentation of questions and pages based on previous answers to give flexible paths through appraisal forms. With custom messages based on trigger answers in the appraisal process.

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Links between appraisal and course/certification, so that appraisal compliance can be shown alongside other training/learning compliance in reports.

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easy management.

New blocks to allow managers to select their staff, and/or staff to select their managers and appraisers (with admin approval and notifications).

User- and manager-friendly Red/Amber/Green dashboards to show due and overdue appraisals at a glance.

the results.

Our clients say it best:

The Totara system has not only supported me in completing a thorough appraisal for each member of my team, but also assists me within my monthly 121’s and bi-yearly appraisals. The information stored can generate great conversations about progression throughout the year and help to track productivity in objectives/behaviours etc. I also find Totara very useful for searching for courses for my colleagues to attend to build on their career by gaining and improving their skills and knowledge in an area of interest to them.

- Clinical Project Manager, King’s College Hospital NHS FT

next steps.

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In 2017 and 2018, we have found that over two thirds of our clients are moving from appraisal quantity (tracking the numbers) to appraisal quality (tracking the quality of the conversation and the organisational outcomes). The next steps for these clients are to further de-emphasise formal catalogues of training and help staff and their managers become mature owners of their own performance, and learning in the flow of work. Which will be a topic for our first case study of next year!

For more information about Think Learning’s approach to appraisal in Totara, and our unique approach to performance management workflows, please contact us on or call 0117 407 0237

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