Performance and Engagement and Puppies, Oh My! Visit HighGround at the #SHRM18 Expo



The 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition is right around the corner and one of the most exciting parts of the confernece is the Exposition Hall and all of the workplace and workforce solutions that will be on display for HR. 

One vendor that I am most excited about seeing is HighGround. HighGround is an agile performance management and employee engagement software that changes the way employees develop, recognize and reward one another and participate in surveys. Everything is done in real-time so you get immediate insight and can make adjustments where necessary. 

I first learned about HighGround two years ago when I attended the HR Technology Conference as a member of the blogger team. I'll admit that when another blogger mentioned that she saw puppies in the expo hall, I made a beeline for the booth. I was greeted by the most pleasant HighGround representatives who told me more about their awesome product and introduced me to the shelter puppies that were available for adoption inside their booth. Not only an excellent cause, but a brilliant idea. This was the best booth magnet ever!

I Interviewed VP of Marketing Anna Burke to get the scoop on why SHRM18 attendees will want to visit Booth 1816 to learn more about how HighGround is revolutionizing performance management and engagement... and how they can get their puppy fix for the week! 

Q. What are the biggest challenges employers face when converting from traditional annual reviews to a continuous, real-time feedback system of performance management?

First, HR leaders must have a clear planning and implementation strategy. A company’s performance management process is closely tied to the organizational culture. For that reason, any change or shift made to the way employees are coached or evaluated has a very direct impact on culture and should be considered carefully. Also, change of any kind can be difficult or even scary for some employees, especially when it is related to how they are compensated. Our advice is to communicate, communicate, communicate.

Second, it’s a mistake to think that some form of the annual review cannot exist alongside a real-time feedback system. While eliminating the review and ratings altogether might work for some, other companies have successfully transitioned to a real-time feedback system that complements a modified annual review. It can be a challenge for companies to find the balance between implementing new processes and keeping existing elements. We find many customer get small wins and continue to evolve their program… for instance, starting with goals and check-ins then adding feedback down the road.

Third, there’s no blueprint for the “perfect” process. No two companies have the same employees or culture, so no two performance management systems should look exactly the same. This can be challenging in situations where executives are looking for examples of exact program implementation success. We help a lot of customers with their business cases for this reason.


Q. Instant feedback or pulse technology for performance and engagement is growing in popularity. Why are these systems becoming a critical substructure for businesses in terms of talent management and retention?

It boils down to two main reasons: immediacy and employee demands. First, companies can no longer afford to wait weeks, months or even a year to uncover issues or fix problems. We live in an on-demand world, and this extends to employee expectations in the workplace.

Second, employees are more apt to stay with a company if they: (1) feel they have a voice, (2) have the opportunity to grow/develop in their career, (3) have meaning and purpose and (4) feel they are valued. A real-time feedback system is the best way to enable this, by giving them a comfortable (as in safe) avenue to speak up, improve and be recognized.


Q. What workplace and workforce trends are spurring the popularity in peer-to-peer rewards and recognition?

Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends Report addresses the rapid rise of the social enterprise. “This shift reflects the growing importance of social capital in shaping an organization’s purpose, guiding its relationships with stakeholders, and influencing its ultimate success or failure.”

Creating a sense of community in your workplace has never been more important. With such a competitive talent environment, companies need to do everything they can to create “stickiness.” Peer-to-peer rewards and recognition is a great way to bring employees together and foster community. Peer-to-peer rewards and recognition also help to enable visibility, by allowing employees to see more clearly how they affect and impact their peers, and ultimately how their peers see their contribution to the company’s goals.


Q. How does HighGround’s platform help organizations improve the employee experience?

Today it seems that the “employee experience” has turned into a buzzword in a sense, and with good reason – it’s not enough to offer a salary and benefits, which is essentially doing just enough to keep the lights on. Companies that are able to attract and retain the best talent have thriving cultures with loyal employees who are brand ambassadors. How an organization motivates, coaches, develops and recognizes its employees is a huge part in creating that type of culture.

HighGround helps companies create a frictionless workplace experience while implementing agile goals, continuous check-in conversations, peer feedback, recognition and rewards and pulse surveys. Some specific ways we do this include:

  • Integrating with everyday business applications such as email and collaboration tools to improve performance right within the natural flow of work.
  • Enabling candid, specific and ongoing feedback so each employee is developing and improving
  • Providing a user experience for managers that allows them to focus on the discussion, not the administration


Q. What is your favorite story about how an organization is using HighGround to improve its overall culture?

It’s impossible to have just one favorite! But let me share one story that comes top of mind.

PillPack is a full-service online pharmacy that delivers a better, simpler experience for people managing multiple medications.They are rapidly growing with a large population of entry-level employees. They were challenged by a lack of perceived growth opportunities and need to improve employee communication.

Using HighGround they were able to create a culture that is more empowered and transparent. They rolled out very clear career progression paths. Managers can give achievement badges for advancing in progression steps and peers can recognize each other with everyday shout outs. The individual builds their “profile” over time in what they call a Trophy Case.

And, most importantly, it is working. They have increased their Employee NetPromoter Score from 21 to 39 in just three months. They are averaging approximately 50 recognitions given per day. Many employees have advanced in their progression path. Their customer acquisition costs have dropped by 27% and their sales sign-ups per hour have dropped by 34% due to increased efficiencies.

One employee said of the program, “The progression plan has provided clarity in advancement. It also empowers me to take the proper steps to advance my career, seek out opportunities and to be happier at work.”

To learn more about HighGround, visit us at booth 1816 at the SHRM conference. We’re excited to partner with local animal shelters and feature adoption-ready puppies at the booth. We’re also hosting a cocktail party at London House on Monday, June 18th - pre-register for the event here.


Q. HighGround will have adoptable shelter puppies at your SHRM18 Expo Hall booth.  Tell me more!

We first brought booth puppies at our very first large-scale conference and expo, HR Tech in 2016. Our brand wasn't very well known and we were competing for attention against much bigger brands and bigger budgets. Our marketing team was brainstorming ways to generate booth traffic and the idea to bring puppies surfaced. We're all dog lovers so we dug in and made it happen. It is a huge plus that we can donate to rescues and help some dogs get adopted as well!

Our CEO, Andee Harris is a dog person. She has a 12-year-old black lab named Scout. And my dog's name is Izzy.  I adopted her from PAWS, a rescue organization here in Chicago.

We helped over three dozen dogs find new homes through our shelter promotions both in Chicago and Las Vegas.  Adoption forms will be available at our booth to start the process right away.  The shelters offer a 2-week fostering program to make sure that the dogs and new owners are a perfect match. 

The puppies will be in our booth the following days and times:

Sunday, June 17th 4-6pm

Monday, June 18th 10-2pm

Tuesday, June 19th 10-1pm

Lastly. I wanted you to know that besides working with animal shelters during conferences we also have our internal volunteer program "HighGround Helps".  We have had quarterly outings including Greater Chicago Food Depository, and Cradles for Crayons.  Toys for Tots is a regular foundation we donate to as well as food collections during the holidays.  We have a great culture at HighGround and enjoy giving back. 


Thank you Anna and we'll see you and the HighGround team at SHRM18 in Chicago!

Be sure to visit Highground at Booth 1816 at the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition to learn more!  



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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