Simona Lapusan, Mirro: “performance management is about to be forever changed by automation and data analysis”

A disconnect between organizations and their people contributes to low morale. It’s what leads to lower productivity and the quiet-quitting trend.

Trying to avoid any hindrance to company growth means expressing gratitude and respect for the people needed to achieve success. A people-centric approach coupled with utilizing innovative technology is more effective for managing individuals and teams.

Management solutions today include tools like AI. The positive impact that this innovative technology has is evident in the data. It's contributed to increased individual and business performance.

To understand the importance of performance management solutions, we interviewed Simona Lapusan, Co-founder & COO of Zitec and Founder & CEO of Mirro - A performance management software company helping innovative businesses achieve success by using state-of-the-art data and analytics.

Let’s go back to the very beginning of Mirro. What has your journey been like over the years?

Zitec, the company I co-founded with Alex Lapusan in 2003, has seen significant year-over-year growth. In this fast-growing & complex market context, we need to continue refining our internal processes to assess people and business performance. Over the years, we experimented with various performance management systems. We used various tools from established industry players. But we needed more than these tools to meet our needs for flexibility and people-centricity.

That’s why we concluded that we should build a performance management solution ourselves. So we researched some more, surveyed the market, and started building Mirro. We launched the first version within Zitec and a few selected companies. All with excellent results.

After lunch, the market was quick to embrace Mirro. Customers of all sizes in various industries (tech, professional services, education, NGOs, health, production, etc.) and from all over the world put their trust in our product. I can only say I am grateful for their support.

We designed Mirro as a complex yet flexible product that employees love to use. And they really do! It's routine for us to set time aside to listen to our customers. All to ensure Mirro meets their needs in performance management, HR administration, employee engagement, community, transparency, and company culture.

As you know, in software, you don’t put your product out there, and then take a break. You have to refine it and continue building innovation and rich features. In light of this, in many ways, Mirro is pushing me and my team to learn, adapt, innovate, and constantly improve.

Tell us more about what you do. What features does your performance management software offer?

We designed Mirro with the user in mind. Thus, it's a flexible, user-centric, and business outcomes-oriented software. Our platform is more about people than processes. But it does have a significant positive impact on both.

For features, here’s what you can expect to find in Mirro:

  • Team and business performance

With Mirro, you can quickly adopt a performance management framework and start with OKRs. It enables you to share and request feedback from peers inside and outside the organization. You can measure team and individual contributor impact. You can also leverage easy-to-use performance review tools. Performance check-ins are entirely hosted in Mirro, and you get notified about everything you need to know about your people.

  • HRIS for distributed teams

This includes compensation data, leave and attendance management, document exchange, organizational chart, hybrid and remote work features, and more. Mirro helps companies save at least 40 hours of HR administrative time per month. More than that, it's an HRIS that people actually love to use!

  • Retain and engage

Attracting and retaining the best talent is a constant struggle for most businesses. Fortunately, things get a lot easier when you have Mirro by your side. It helps you ensure workplace diversity and brings people together through recognition and feedback. It also enforces transparency across all levels.

  • Workplace culture

You can only empower people to reach their full potential if you know the bigger picture. What they’re working on, who they interact with the most, if they're disengaged or not. You’ll be able to know this and more thanks to Mirro’s complex yet easy-to-understand analytics features.

High-performing teams that use Mirro already know how much public recognition contributes to their success. Couple that with transparency, meaning, alignment, and work-life balance – now you’ve set yourself up for great achievements.

How did the recent global events influence your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?

Many businesses out there had to adapt to the economic uncertainty that hinders the growth of even the most successful companies. We’re already seeing how it impacts small or big companies across many industries, including tech. For example, there have been massive layoffs, lack of cash flow, amassing record levels of debt, failure to ensure equal pay, lack of ability to attract and keep the best talent in the industry, etc.

Companies face a lot of challenges right now. And all this is taking a toll on people. In exchange, they respond with quiet quitting. They look at what they believe to be better workplaces, become disengaged, and even end up doing the bare minimum at work. This, in turn, hurts the company. So there is a vicious cycle that can only be broken through collaboration, transparency, radical candor, willingness to change, and mutual support.

Mirro helps organizations foster this kind of environment. The analytics for culture, people, and compensation are a good starting point for executives who want to understand the current state of their organizational culture. And they can find ways to improve it.

What processes are you most excited to see optimized or automated with AI in the near future?

The first thing I'm excited about is data interpretation and analysis. Consider this: decision-makers work with a lot of data, and the complexity grows daily. With unlimited access to data interpretation provided by AI, leaders can make decisions faster and increase their organization's agility.

Second, there are the repetitive and boring tasks we all can’t wait to eliminate. Well, it’s safe to say AI will take this burden off our shoulders.

And last, AI has already proved very useful in allowing everyone easy access to a content creation tool, video, or text. Sure, there are still mixed feelings about how to use it, but we can all agree that when you lack inspiration, AI can point you in the right direction.

What would you consider the main challenges of performance management nowadays?

Even though looking at productivity from a performance management perspective has been around for quite a long time, many companies still need to jump on this trend. Performance management isn’t just “a tool” to fix your productivity issues. It’s a way of avoiding them. I recommend starting with a performance management system and a tool to support it as early as possible in your business journey.

Leading the new generation of employees who expect more feedback, work-life balance, meaning, and impact is also challenging. A fair and transparent performance management system will provide meaning and a sense of belonging. It will satisfy the feedback needs of your people. But the bigger, more distributed, and more diverse generations your workforce is, the more challenging it is to align everyone and keep them happy.

You probably won’t be able to do this alone. You will have to get specialized help from an organizational development specialist and a software solution. In addition, to overcome this challenge, communicate openly with your people. Create a safe environment for them to thrive. Make sure to reinforce how they contribute to the bigger picture.

Another challenge I have identified is tailoring the performance check-in for the individual. Leaders tend to focus more on the quantitative outcome than the qualitative process. This approach encourages the leader to label people. Put simply, that's a wrong and outdated approach.

How do you handle underperforming employees within a performance management framework? Can you share an example of a challenging situation you faced and how you addressed it?

In the modern workplace, where you deal with a wide variety of people, kindness goes a long way. Especially when managing low performers. In such situations, I get feedback from all team members and analyze their perspectives.

While I focus on the strong points, I also make sure to address potential issues. In Mirro, the feedback form addresses two areas that are essential in shaping the performance of an individual contributor: what are the things they do well and what areas they should improve.

I build autonomous teams that will identify and address underperforming issues themselves. As a team at Mirro, we get feedback right. We have frequent discussions, provide feedback on the spot and ask for feedback from people outside the organization. It helps us stay aligned with our goals and drives good customer relationships.

In your experience, what strategies or tools do you find most effective in measuring and evaluating employee performance objectively?

When suitable, it's important to set clear and easy-to-measure key performance indicators. You should also align tasks and activities accordingly.

Regarding creative work, performance is linked to business outcomes and how the individual impacts the team results.

It's important to have a holistic view of individual performance. Also, to get feedback from their peers, manager, and subordinates, to see what they receive public recognition for, how they align with company goals, and what’s their progress on OKRs. All this helps you qualitatively and objectively assess the individual performance and impact.

Other indicators I look at when measuring performance are: whether or not the individual delivers on their tasks and responsibilities, their business impact, and their role within the team.

Objectively, evaluating employee performance starts with the OKRs we all agreed on. We list all the objectives in Mirro and report on the progress. Everyone can see them; they are out in the open. For us, Mirro is the most effective way of measuring performance.

What criteria do you consider when evaluating performance management software for your organization?

In the growing niche of performance management software, flexibility is essential. As your business scales, you will need to adapt and customize the software for your organization’s needs. Considering this before purchasing is best because data migration is challenging.

Here’s a list of criteria I look into when evaluating a performance management software solution.

  • Strong security, data protection, and data backup
  • Easy to set up, no need for training
  • User-friendly interface
  • Zero implementation fees, seamless onboarding
  • Simple pricing
  • Quality of customer service
  • Reporting and analytics features for decision making
  • User reviews, customer testimonials.

A fit performance management software solution will significantly impact your business growth. Choosing the right solution can set you up for success. Ensure the vendor provides all the support you need and addresses every concern.

How important is integration capability when selecting performance management software? Can you elaborate on any experiences integrating such software with other HR systems or platforms?

When performance management software provides integration capabilities, users will have a more enjoyable experience. They can use that software solution across many more platforms. This, in turn, will help you with internal user adoption - a struggle we often hear in our niche. People might not be that eager to use what they consider “just another tool my company makes me use.”

So, giving them information in their favorite environment through integrations could be a great way to increase user adoption rates. Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Zapier, Slack, or Jira are a few examples of integrations you might want to have at some point.

Single sign-on is one integration every software out there should provide. It makes the whole experience much more enjoyable, especially for users juggling multiple tools daily.

API integration is also a must-have, especially if you are as thorough with your reporting as I like to be. Aggregating data and generating reports helps you make informed decisions so much easier. This is vital for executives or people leaders.

How does prioritize data security and privacy to ensure the protection of sensitive employee information?

Protecting sensitive employee information is paramount and one of our top priorities. Mirro is a secure, GDPR-compliant performance management software built on Google Cloud technology. We also have trusted security certifications, such as Certified Ethical Hacker or CREST.

We use encrypted databases, continuous integration, and delivery development processes. As well as automated quality assurance flows.

We are also subject to periodic internal and 3rd party security audits with top companies. We stay on top of the latest security trends and best practices. This way, we ensure we always protect sensitive data. All while giving our customers peace of mind about handling sensitive information.

Since you are the experts in performance management, how do you think this sector is going to evolve in the next few years?

Performance management will become more people-centered and flexible. This trend started in 2020 when the pandemic confined us in our homes. We will continue to develop until we talk more about people than processes or techniques. We're shifting from telling people, "You didn't do this or that," to try doing more of anything that gives you a sense of purpose within our company." This approach helps people bloom, and it should become common practice.

With a performance management system more human than ever, ratings will become a thing of the past. Using a rating system with people implies a one-size-fits-all approach to how they perform. But, in real life, many factors affect one's performance.

Last, performance management is about to be forever changed by automation and data analysis. The whole process becomes more insightful and helps executives make informed decisions. All the insights with conclusions and recommendations will be one click away, thanks to automation. How cool is that?

And finally, what’s next for Mirro?

In the past year, we’ve focused on developing the analytics features in Mirro. We now offer complex dashboards with metrics related to people, diversity, compensation, company culture, performance, leave, and attendance.

We are about to get even smarter with all this data by providing proactive insights, summaries, conclusions, and tailored recommendations. We will simplify the otherwise complex decision-making process that leaders go through daily. We'll help the individual understand their strong skills along with opportunities for improvement.

We're also planning to add a pulse survey module to help leaders and executives better understand their people, what makes them happy about their work and what doesn't, how safe they feel, how's their work-life balance, and so on. It'll be an excellent addition to the already rich features we have on the employee engagement side.