Refueling the Deimos Culture through Automation

Deimos automated and customized review forms to enhance company culture.

Meet Lizanne

Lizanne Jansen van Vuuren is the Head of People Operations at Deimos. She joined the organization in September 2020 and her focus areas include enhancing the company’s culture, promoting an exceptional employee experience throughout the employee lifecycle and ensuring that employees are provided with the best working environment to grow, develop and add their unique value.

When Lizanne joined Deimos there wasn't a lot of focus on human resources or formal processes in place. One of Lizanne’s first priorities was to find a platform that could accommodate a custom performance management process. “I've personally seen the value of having a good performance system so that's where my journey at Deimos started.”

About Deimos

Deimos builds cloud-native software solutions for customers around the world. The three-year old company is based in Cape Town, South Africa and currently has 60 employees spread between South Africa, Nigeria, Canada and the UK. As Lizanne explained, “Deimos is a DevSecOps company. In other words, we help with modernization of bigger companies.”

Deimos’ employees are between the ages of 25 and 35 and everyone works remotely. Lizanne shared that the vast majority of its workforce are Software & Cloud-Native Architects, Site Reliability Engineers and Software Security Experts. “That's a different type of person to work with and think about how you structure your systems.”

Lizanne also shared that Deimos is a space-themed company. They refer to its core business as ‘Mission to Mars’ and its employees are internally referred to as ‘Martians’. They also creatively use that theme to name their performance management cycles, with the employee onboarding phase named ‘Lift Off’ and reviews referred as ‘Refuel’. 

The Challenge

Before Lizanne joined the organization, there was a performance appraisal form that managers used to assess employee performance twice a year. But as she explained, there was no structure or workflows behind the process. “We had Google Doc with a big check list of different skills and employees would fill out the form prior to their review meeting.”

Although every employee would receive a performance appraisal, the form was only customized for software development roles. There was no check list or templates available for other types of positions in the company. 

The completed forms would be stored in their Google drive and only reviewed again at the next review cycle. “When I first saw the checklist I didn't like it at all because I don't see any value in just going through a checklist but I do see value in having good high-quality conversations,” she mentioned.

Why PerformYard

Lizanne’s first priority was to find a more robust HRIS system. But as she looked for a suitable platform, she also searched for a standalone performance management solution. “We were open to having an HRIS system do it all or get a separate integrated system, like PerformYard.” 

Lizanne and her leadership team decided to adopt BambooHR as their HRIS, however, their performance management solution could not deliver on Lizanne’s vision. “I looked at their performance management module and it was very limiting and not very customizable.”

Because integration with BambooHR was an important factor for the team, Lizanne only looked at BambooHR’s performance management partners, “that's when I came across PerformYard.”

Customization and 360 review features were Lizanne’s top priorities. She wanted a system that provided enough flexibility to create her own process, “I wanted a system that would allow me to add whatever questions I wanted and any type of rating scale I chose.”  Lizanne also wanted the platform to be able to host probation reviews, continuous feedback, and provide robust reporting features. “I was looking for a platform that was simple, clear, easy to use and set up. That's what I found in PerformYard, which I didn't necessarily find in other systems,” she shared.

The Process

Now performance reviews happen every six months, and there is a clear process that is automated in PerformYard. Employees receive their first review six months after their hire date and their annual review on their employment anniversary. Lizanne shared that structuring reviews in such a way prevents employees from spending too many work hours completing review forms and sitting in meetings all at once. 

Doing reviews every six months also helps employees and managers reflect back on their recent goals and accomplishments, rather than waiting an extended period of time to have those discussions.  “My stance on performance management is to customize, simplify, make it easy and change it if it’s not working. As long as managers and employees are having good conversations, learning and growing, then it's working.”

Review forms now provide an opportunity to set goals and include questions relating back to the organization’s core values. “You could be a rock star at your job but in the meantime, nobody in your team wants to collaborate with you because you're not communicating well or you're not investing time in forming relationships, and so on. It’s important to discuss these things because it either adds or detracts from your performance,” Lizanne explained.

One of their values, for example, is “leave no martian behind”, which Lizanne translates to the importance of working together on the same mission. “That's definitely a big part of our culture. Even though we're all remote, it works because of how we communicate with each other and how our CEO communicates with us. He really cares for our people and that's definitely felt across the company.”

The Results

Lizanne mentioned her entire staff finds PerformYard very easy to use. “They know exactly where to go and what to do. PerformYard does everything it needs to do.”

To continue to build on their robust performance management process, Lizanne intends to introduce 360 reviews, further encourage employees to provide more continuous feedback and improve on goal setting processes. “I don't want to over cook performance and implement too much at once because it will go over everyone's heads.”

“From an administrative point of view, PerformYard is great. It has really changed things, plus there's a record in PerformYard if you ever need to go back and look at what was discussed in previous performance meetings. As an organization, we are doing much better at having good performance conversations and setting growth objectives. I struggle to see how companies do it without a performance management system.”

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