Talent Management Solution Yields Fruitful Results

Passionate about engaging people and implementing creative solutions that support best practices, a human resources manager at a fruit snack company looked forward to tapping into the organization’s nearly 400 employees to help increase productivity.

Sun-Rype Products Ltd. is a 64-year old juice and fruit snack company based in Kelowna, British Columbia. The company grew out of the fresh fruit business in the lush Okanagan Valley and generates some $150 million in sales annually.

Human Resources manager, Michelle Reid, joined the organization in early fall 2003. Passionate about engaging people and implementing creative solutions that support best practices, Reid looked forward to tapping into the organization’s nearly 400 employees to help increase productivity.

Accountability & Performance: Forbidden Fruits

Shortly after joining the company Reid realized there was no formal performance management merit or incentive program. “I knew we had a lot of work ahead of us to support our growing organization.”

With new leadership at the helm who endorsed pay-for-performance and focused on accountability, the company's annual review process was refined. HR simplified the system, aligned corporate strategy with department and individual goals, set up a shared directory of Word folders and introduced electronic sign off. “With these changes we were heading in the right direction,” Reid reflects.

Despite improvements in performance management, the company’s system was far from proactive. Any given business faces predictable situations and a myriad of unexpected twists that derail the best laid strategic plans. Sun-Rype's current President and CEO, Dave McAnerney, wants a nimble organization where employee performance is a key business priority.

Planting Kernels of Knowledge

“In the food manufacturing sector we’re seeing flat industry growth and at Sun-Rype we see this as an opportunity for innovation. In such a competitive environment we need a performance management tool that helps us make sure people are focused on priorities and allows us to re-establish and change goals and priorities on a dime,” says McAnerney.

With this in mind, Reid set out to find a performance management system that addressed a number of considerations. “Our IT resources were already maxed and unable to support HR. We had a limited budget with big expectations; where customization didn’t equate to dollars, and HR could independently manage and modify the system. That was really important. We wanted ownership to be with the employee and manager so they could actually go in, set goals, and manage meetings and conversations and coaching, rather than have HR wield a big stick and badger people to complete evaluations.”

The goal for a fresh new approach to talent management was to focus on business needs and the employee’s ability to meet targeted goals. Above all else, it was to be quick and user-friendly with the ability to grow with the organization over time.  After a review of several solutions, the company selected Halogen Software’s online talent management system.

Cross-Pollination of Information Cultivates Change

With the new approach to talent management and new system to support it, change came quickly. Within a few months employees had a sense of urgency, managers became accountable, and everyone saw the power and value of using the system. Reid goaded groups on by using the dashboard to announce that department X had a higher completion rate than department Y. It was competitive camaraderie at its best. Completion rates soared to record levels.

A few years into the process, Cindy Wilker describes the impact from her perspective as Sun-Rype's VP of Supply Chain: “We quickly saw a quantum leap in a universal acceptance of performance management. Now managers across the organization are proactive and diligent. They regularly use the tool to record and make notes about achievements or roadblocks. They look at making sure the right things get done throughout the year. We all focus on the meat of a meeting, whether it’s constructive criticism or glowing accolades. It's about goal alignment over several sessions rather than one formal annual process. And it’s become ingrained in our culture.”

CEO McAnerney elaborates: “Everyone plays a role in delivering against our strategic plan and this is achieved through our rigorous approach to talent management.

“We are a results-oriented culture and we get that through tracking not only what gets done but how it gets done, and that's been built into our competency definitions. This results emphasis is also built into the way our managers work to help employees improve performance. This approach not only helps us track individual deliverables but also ensures they’re aligned to our strategic plans.”

New Approach to Performance Drives Results

Reid concurs, pointing out that not only did managers and employees complete their reviews on time, without HR nagging, but the company also realized a first-year cost savings of $85,000. Time is money and Sun-Rype has saved a lot of time by creating efficiencies in the process and ensuring tighter tracking of the compensation budget.

An additional win for the organization has been higher levels of employee engagement, with turnover rates decreasing from 20 percent to 4 percent since initiating the performance management program five years ago.

Reid also talks about a dynamic synergy — the healthy conversations, interesting debates and hallway conversations. “People feel really good about what they do and what they contribute knowing there are a lot of different promotions and leadership roles that have evolved through our leadership development program, which is part of our performance management and career development approach.” Some 64 percent of the company's leadership positions are now held by individuals promoted from within; a big achievement according to Reid.

JP Guay is a regional manager with Halogen Software. An accredited Human Capital Strategist, he focuses on helping HR leaders and senior management in manufacturing organizations optimize their talent management practices. He can be reached at jguay@halogensoftware.com.

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