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Case Study: Equinix

Embracing Ongoing Performance Conversations to Drive Global Growth

Strategic HR for a Strong Future

Equinix, Inc. is a public American company providing data center and internet exchange solutions in 40 markets across five continents. In 2015, the company’s HR organization undertook a massive overhaul of its performance management program to bolster the organization’s rapid global growth. They needed to move performance management from a quantitative, annual appraisal-based system to a more personal, ongoing conversation-based process aimed at maximizing the growth potential of each of their nearly 5,000 worldwide employees—and they gave themselves six months to make the transformation.

Larry McAlister, Equinix’s VP of Global Talent, and his team pulled together global leaders from across the business, an executive steering committee, and a cross-functional team of global HR Business Partners and SMEs to develop, socialize and implement the new approach in record time. He saw it was HR’s job to clear away every distraction that was in the way of the manager and the employee and focus everything on their connection, a shift that would not only enable more transparent and meaningful interactions, but it also lead to stronger process and outcome accountability—and better business results.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset Based on Quarterly Conversations 

Equinix was rooted in traditional “rankings and ratings” and annual reviews, which kept managers’ energies on justifying generic scores and away from exploring opportunities for an employee’s growth. It left little room for connecting an employee’s performance to their rewards, the company culture, or organizational goals. To turn things around, McAlister wanted to make the entire process simpler yet more dynamic and reinforce the value of the manager/employee relationship through effective training and communications. 

The new program was anchored by four quarterly growth-oriented conversations and employee performance was assessed once a year by answering six simple questions online. The assessment questions were based on the employee’s impact, demonstration of the company culture and values, and the growth and potential they’ve shown over the past year. The quality of the employee-manager relationship was then measured by a bi-annual Equinix Pulse survey, focused on engagement, alignment and communication. To help manage change throughout the transition and gain workforce buy-in and engagement, the HR team implemented GuideSpark’s Talent Solution. As part of their communications plan, GuideSpark’s customized, multimedia content was embedded in their intranet and a manager-only microsite and delivered through emails, infographics, and online articles. Part of this evolution included translating content to Portuguese, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch.

Transparency, Pay Differentiation, and Accountability

McAlister and his team achieved their goals in just 6 months, considering year one to be a rousing “win,” with 75% of managers saying they’ve changed the way they look at performance management. What’s more, they quantified 73% employees as “highly engaged” after the process, a number McAlister deemed “amazing” and indicative of future success. The HR team reported that 85% of employees took the first Pulse survey to reveal scores in the upper 80th percentile, and the second Pulse survey saw 87% participation and an increase in scores across all questions, demonstrating a significant improvement in manager and employee accountability for career growth as well as a stronger, more aligned workforce culture.  Even though year one was a great success, the team is not resting on their laurels.  It continues to look for new ways to improve its approach to performance and growth with major enhancements for planned for 2016.

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