Are You in Your Boss's Top Eight?

A crucial aspect of creating and maintaining an effective team is evaluating your employees and using that information to help both the team and the individual grow. To this end, an array of software suites is on the market to help harness your most important resources â€" the human ones.

One vendor of such software, San Mateo's six-year-old software fledgling SuccessFactors -- fresh off being named as the leader in performance and compensation software market in a Gartner Vendor Summary -- has just released a new version of its on-demand employee evaluation software, Employee Profile.

Employee Profile differs from most HR software in that it is available on-demand. Companies that may not have or may not require a broad-based employee management software suite could benefit from Employee Profile because of its simplicity and accessibility, available online for a reported subscription rate of $50 per user.

It also is built on a two-way, social networking framework. The new Employee Profile software allows managers to access information on their employees, all located on a page devoted to that particular team member, resembling a profile page on a social networking site. Quick access to information the employee provides (like employment history, certifications, history with the company, special projects, education awards and language skills) is paired with manager-provided scores in various competencies, all of which can be plugged into compensation and succession plans. The software can be used for anything from looking up contact info to helping build teams across different functions in a company.

Alternately, software suites from larger vendors like SAP and Oracle tend to bundle the performance and compensation functions with a larger package of HR functions. While this approach carries the benefits of one-stop shopping and all-in-one HR capabilities, there is an argument to be made that a focus on certain aspects of the process -- especially those to which the team member could contribute -- could provide more clarity and draw in more of a contribution from the employee, who might otherwise be turned off by large and complex software suites.

However, a lack of profit, uncertainty over large-enterprise adoption and some usability concerns in the Gartner report suggest that not everyone is on board with combining social networking and employee evaluation quite yet. Nevertheless, SuccessFactors and its NEXT research and development think tank forge ahead, confident that this is the future of human capital management. And watching their product demonstrations and looking at the ease of their user interface, it's hard not to want to believe them, at least a little bit.