A Critical Evaluation of Performance Management

By: Pobert II Smith

The purpose of this assignment is to critically evaluate the Human Resource Development (HRD) aspects of my employer, Otis PLC’s, performance management and development process and to suggest ways in which they could be improved. I have chosen this area of Otis’ HRD practices to review because, within Otis globally there is an increasing focus on performance outcomes rather than training inputs. In this respect, Otis is reflecting a common trend, particularly among US based organisations, Harrison.

This review will be in the light of the organisation’s business strategy, key commercial challenges and culture and will compare Otis PLC’s practice to a model of best practice. In reviewing best practice I will suggest that performance management is a system of interlinking processes which are carried out by both line managers and Human Resource Management (HRM) / HRD professionals. I will also suggest that in order for the system to be fully effective its components must work in a coherent and integrated fashion. However, the purpose of this assignment is to consider issues of performance management specifically from an HRD perspective and so I will not review in detail those aspects of performance management which fall outside the HRD function.

In the light of this review I will propose appropriate actions to bring the organisation’s current practice closer to best practice standards.

Otis PLC is the UK subsidiary of Otis Elevator Company which is itself a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (UTC). Other significant subsidiaries of UTC include Pratt and Whitney, manufacturers of aircraft engines, and Sikorsky, manufactures of helicopters. Both Otis Elevator and UTC are U.S. multinationals with their headquarters in Connecticut.

Otis Elevator is a global organisation and its principal business is the manufacture, installation, maintenance and modernisation of lifts, escalators and moving walkways. Globally Otis Elevator is market leader in its industry and employs 40,000 people. The financial performance of the business has been a source of concern for UTC recently. Although Otis Elevator returns significant profits, its Return on Sales is felt, by U.S. stock analysts to be below what could be achieved. Improving this performance is seen as critical to the future stock rating of UTC as the following extract from Lehman Brothers makes clear, “More importantly, the company (UTC) will host an investor conference focused on growth prospects at Otis on December 2nd. This meeting will be very important in the minds of investors as earnings growth at Otis is critical to the UTC story going forwards”.

As a consequence the business has been undergoing significant restructuring and the business context for Otis is one where costs are tightly controlled and efficiency of operations is closely monitored. As a result, in the UK the company’s approach to performance management is changing.

In Britain Otis PLC employees approximately 3000 people. As elsewhere, the Otis business model depends on achieving a significant market share of newly installed lifts and escalators, this in turn allows the organisation to achieve economies of scale in the maintenance of customers’ equipment. Maintenance is the primary generator of profits, with a target of 50% gross margin, that is direct costs of service, excluding Selling and General Administration expense, should be no more than 50% of the cost of the contract. Currently the organisation is achieving 40%.

Traditionally, purchasers of new equipment would choose to have it maintained by the manufacturer. Increasingly, however, purchasers are using a tendering process to select a maintenance supplier and this is placing downward pressure on maintenance prices. This trend, together with the global requirement to increase profitability has led the organisation in the UK to review its maintenance business with a view to increasing efficiency and profits. A significant restructuring process was announced in July 1999 under the title “ Seizing the Offensive”. This restructuring is focused on increasing workforce efficiency while improving customer service levels. It includes a declared intention to take a more active stance on the management of performance coupled with increased investment in training and development. The restructuring included a reassessment of all line managers and sales staff within the maintenance division. The selection process, by means of an assessment centre, was based on a competence model that was developed with support from an external consultant.

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