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The Commonwealth of Kentucky digitizes performance management in a pandemic

Known for horse racing, bourbon, and bluegrass, the Commonwealth of Kentucky employs 31,000 workers across various departments. Recently, the government has made employee experience a key priority.

Commonwealth of Kentucky

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"With performance in the same place as recruiting and learning, employees can not only set goals and develop but also apply for other roles."
Robbie Perkins
Director of IT, Kentucky Personnel Cabinet

A customer since 2018, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has long been using Cornerstone Recruiting and Learning to attract top talent and enable employees to grow and develop. The missing piece of the puzzle in their talent management suite was Cornerstone Performance, which modernized Kentucky’s paper-based performance management process. While the start of a pandemic hardly seems like the best time to introduce new technology to employees already facing drastic change, it turned out to be exactly the right moment for the Commonwealth, providing the stability and familiarity that employees critically needed during this tumultuous time.

With over 31,000 workers, the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s HR department had no shortage of talent management challenges. Before implementing Cornerstone Learning and Recruiting in 2018, the government was using outdated, disparate systems and had no digital solution for onboarding, performance management, or succession. Its managers also didn’t have much visibility into talent analytics, which kept them from using data for workforce planning or improvements to their existing employee experience.

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But once they had Cornerstone Learning and Recruiting solutions in place, these functions improved drastically. Their number of candidates grew by 114 percent thanks to a more streamlined and automated approach to hiring. And their employees were empowered to develop professionally, completing over 187,000 Cornerstone Learning courses.

But a key component of the talent management experience was still missing — Kentucky was using an archaic paper-and-pen approach to performance management, requiring employees and managers to manually complete evaluations at least three times per year. This not only wasted millions of pieces of paper annually but also endless hours for employees, according to Robbie Perkins, director of IT for the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet. So, in January 2020, Perkins and his team decided to introduce Cornerstone Performance and round out Kentucky’s talent management suite. Little did he know, his state — along with the rest of the country — was on the verge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the world of work was in for an unprecedented turn of events.

Just months ahead of the massive healthcare crisis, the implementation of Cornerstone Performance was game-changing for the Commonwealth. Not only did it enable their employees and managers to carry out evaluations remotely, but it also brought together their suite of talent management products to create a truly robust development experience for employees.

“We don’t know how we would have done our evaluations this year without [Cornerstone Performance]. It wouldn’t have worked,” Perkins said.

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Eliminating archaic processes, red pens, and paper

The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s former pen-and-paper performance management review process was so obsolete that it’s now somewhat of an inside joke at the Commonwealth’s HR department. It has even become fodder for a campaign promoting MyPURPOSE, which is how the Commonwealth branded their new talent management platform of Cornerstone Learning, Recruiting, and Performance.

“Our approach to employee evaluations hasn’t changed much since 1981. There are several steps throughout the yearly process, and a very detailed state statute dictates the requirements. [Until recently], it was actually in the state statute that evaluations had to be signed with a red ink pen. So I don’t even know how many tens of thousands of red ink pens we’ve gone through since 1981,” Perkins said.

Carrying out evaluations like this would have been impossible once employees were required to work remotely following the COVID-19 outbreak. But with Cornerstone Performance in place, employees and managers were able to complete reviews in July without missing a beat. “We were thrilled to go live with this in January, just in time for our first round of evaluations. We just beat the pandemic with our rollout,” Perkins explained.

And considering the timing, the implementation went smoothly, much to Perkin’s surprise. Already, evaluations have over a 95 percent completion rate.

“We just couldn’t have imagined this kind of success in the first year of use and in the middle of the pandemic at that.” Perkins continued “But we didn’t really have any major problems with the rollout. We’ve done a lot of digital transformation recently to implement new systems, and I have to say that this was the easiest.”

Now instead of completing forms and securing signatures, employees provide their feedback and self-evaluate via MyPURPOSE. Within MyPURPOSE, managers can review employee evaluations, complete their portions, and route them accordingly for review and approval — 100 percent streamlined and digital. Over time, the Commonwealth expects the performance solution will improve relationships between managers and employees by increasing transparency, adding a layer of organization, and helping start conversations about development. “It’s so powerful to see what employees think about their competencies, and how they’re progressing towards their goals,” Michele L Kays, Assistant Director at the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet says.

A full suite of people-centric solutions

The Commonwealth of Kentucky expected to benefit from its new Cornerstone platform, but the benefits have surpassed their expectations. Already, the Commonwealth has been recognized for its ingenuity, winning at the 2020 Kentucky Digital Summit for the Best of Kentucky Most Innovative Use of Technology — and it’s just starting to unlock the potential of its full suite of Cornerstone products.

According to Kays, once employees and managers get comfortable with the basic function of Cornerstone Performance and goal setting will be the next priority. “As workers start to express interest in leadership during discussions with managers, we can talk about how we progress toward those leadership competencies, and what we could do as far as the training and development program to send them down the right path,” Kays explained.

This is where Cornerstone Learning comes in — after identifying the courses they needed to progress along their career paths, employees are now able to take those courses without leaving the MyPURPOSE platform. Cornerstone Recruiting plays a key role, too.

As Perkins put it, “By putting performance plans into the same place as recruiting and learning, employees become acclimated to not only setting goals and developing but also applying for other internal roles. The whole solution gives our employees the ability to grow, develop, and make moves, which they had zero opportunity to do previously.”

What’s more, the Commonwealth also plans to use its performance solution to gather and analyze available data on employee performance. They aim to better understand their people and ultimately make changes that would improve the employee experience.

“Our next area of focus will be looking at the breadth of talent management data that we have and figuring out what we can do with it and how it can supplement our growth and development efforts,” Perkins explains.

Paving the path to “new normal” with modern talent management

As the Commonwealth begins to imagine how the world of work after COVID-19 will look for its employees, Perkins says he and his team are leaning heavily on MyPURPOSE. Currently, their task force is busy creating resources to support employees as they prepare for their eventual return to the office. From compiling courses via Cornerstone’s online library, CyberU, to organizing key documents about policy changes, the task force is using MyPURPOSE to create a toolkit that centralizes resources and makes employees feel supported every step of the way.

“We know there are going to be changes — there’s no doubt about that. But the question is, ‘how are we going to serve our employees better than we were serving them before COVID-19 drove us all to work from home?’ We want to engage our employees better than we used to, and that’s what our MyPURPOSE [Cornerstone] talent management suite is enabling us to do,” Perkins says.

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