Western National Prioritizes Flexibility and Customization

How Western National Insurance Group found success with PerformYard after trying a module from their payroll system.

Meet Sharon

Sharon A. Sterriker is the HR Analyst Lead with Western National Insurance Group. She’s been with the company for seven years and works with compensation, benefits and compliance. “Because compensation is part of my job, I’m also responsible for performance reviews,” said Sharon.The company’s team of 11 human resources professionals supports six offices spread across the United States with a staff of approximately 750 people. Sharon’s personal focus is making sure the performance management process is both easy and relevant for employees.

About Western National Insurance Group

Western National Insurance Group consists of eight property-and-casualty insurance companies, as well as business insurance and surety bonds. Western National has been around for 115 years and is known to its partners as The Relationship Company, said Sharon. “We provide the insurance our customers need, and if they have to file a claim due to unforeseen circumstances, we pride ourselves in being there for our customers through the recovery process”.

The Challenge

“Historically, we did performance management through paper forms and that's always a lot of fun,” Sharon said jokingly. When she first started, performance reviews were centered around the anniversary of the employee’s hire date. Managers were provided with review forms and a certain amount of time to complete them, along with merit recommendations. That evolved into a once per year review process, in hopes of saving time and making the process more efficient.

“The insurance industry, in general, has very tenured employees and people are pretty set in their ways. But for my own sanity, as we continued to grow, I continuously looked for ways to automate our performance management processes,” she shared. 

In 2017, Western National adopted a new payroll system and decided to utilize its performance management module. “We weren't really enamored with it, but at least it got us away from the paper process,” Sharon admitted. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, their first attempt at going digital with their performance management process failed. Sharon and her team quickly discovered the system could not meet their needs. “We wanted to continue online performance management, but we had to find a better partner that could meet our specific needs” said Sharon. That's when she started looking for other solutions.

Why PerformYard

In Western National’s search for a new performance management platform, three factors influenced the final decision: affordability, customization and flexibility. It was important that their subsidiary and affiliated companies could pursue a different process if they wanted to.

Sharon said that references from other PerformYard customers played a big part in her decision. One of her concerns was that customer service would stop after Western National signed up for the system. However, other PerformYard customers allayed her fears. “Before adopting PerformYard, I requested to speak to one of their existing customers and she confirmed that the backend is just as good or better than the frontend,” she shared.

The Process

Today, Western National has annual reviews and mid-year check-ins along with regular one-on-ones to make sure employees are progressing in their careers and meeting their goals.

For the first step in the annual review process, which runs from mid-December to February, employees fill out a self-assessment and managers fill out an evaluation form. In the annual review meeting, the self-assessment and manager evaluation are discussed, and goals are set for the coming year. 

Even employees who struggle with technology have been able to participate effectively.

“From my perspective, it works very well. PerformYard has the flexibility so that either the employee or the manager can update goals or enter them.”

Both the self-assessment and manager forms have a list of competencies with a 4-point rating scale (“Needs Improvement”, “Partially Successful/New to Role”, “Fully Effective”, “Superior/Role Model”). There are also open ended questions such as “What is the employee doing well? What are some of their notable accomplishments? What do they still need to work on? What stretch goals are they working on to improve?”. Finally, there is space for comments of any kind.

For the mid-year check-in, there are two or three questions formalized in the system around goals and how employees are doing. These check-ins make sure everyone is on track to meet their goals for the year and create a space for managers and employees to discuss performance and personal aspirations.

The check-ins had been informal, however after an engagement survey revealed that employees thought the informal check-ins weren’t effective, Western National formalized the process. “The formalized check-ins make sure managers actually sit down with the employees and have a good conversation about how their work is going, how they're doing, how they're feeling, where they want to go with their career, and if they want to do something different,” Sharon said.

As Western National starts to use more collaborative and cross-functional teamwork across their family of companies, they have also started to formalize feedback. “There's a lot to be said for doing feedback in PerformYard because it's right there when you're doing the performance reviews,” Sharon said. “You're not having to hunt it down, and it's connected to that employee's record right in front of you.”


Sharon said the move to PerformYard has been a positive change. “I think one of the biggest pluses for managers, particularly as employees move around the company, is being able to see the employee’s previous performance records.”

Western National is continuing to evaluate their performance management processes, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Instead of focusing on each individual company now, we're looking more at programs that can be adapted and adjusted across the majority of our companies.”

Sharon shared that she wants to continue to improve their performance management process and feels very confident that PerformYard will be able to adjust to whatever direction the company decides to go. “PerformYard's flexibility helps us achieve what is really important to us as we continue to adjust and look for ways to adapt", she added.

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