Mariner7 Takes Off

Management rarely questions that people are an organisation’s greatest assets but the human resources manager is all too often bogged down in paper-based administration to help the boss shape the business through ongoing staff evaluation and training.
When Heather Miles was managing the HR function at Carter Holt Harvey she began working on staff development tools tailored specifically to the company’s needs. The approach worked and the package soon identified those who needed to improve their skills and others who deserved promotion.  The company increased its focus on staff procedures and approved software development to take the processes online.
“Any manager should really understand what they’ve got in their talent pool and what they need to do to improve it. If you don’t manage your inventory with degree of rigour and discipline you’re not going to have much left in couple of years,” warns Miles.
Miles, is now chief executive of Mariner7, the company spun-off from Carter Holt Harvey in February this year to take suite of behaviour-based tools to the world. The Mariner7 Talent Engine suite consists of performance management, the 360 degree skill monitoring tool and development guide. It is pitched at medium to large organisations that don’t want to invest in complex in-house technology. The tools are accessible to anyone, anywhere for an annual fee. All they need is an internet connection and browser.
Mariner7 now has five-year contract to handle CHH’s in-house HR requirements. Like its namesake the 1969 mission to Mars spacecraft, the fledgling business is performing better than expected with an office in Sydney, 11 distributors in Australia, one in Kuala Lumpur and strong interest coming from the US, the UK and Asia.
Not only do Mariner7’s web-based tools free up the HR manager to focus on people development and decision making but they also give the chief executive chance to identify outstanding staff members and potential management material.
The first real benefit they offer is performance management system that aligns with human resources strategy. “It means you can focus on people and coaching as opposed to tracking pieces of paper and hoping you remember what you need in nine months’ time when you come to staff review,” says Miles.
Many businesses contract third party to conduct staff reviews which are mostly paper-based, time consuming, require considerable data analysis and can take up to eight weeks to complete. Mariner7 streamlines and simplifies the process by using the 360 Degree feedback tool.
“My boss surveys me along with my peers and the people that report to me. Even customers and suppliers can tell me how I’m going. All they need is an email address and 15 minutes to complete the survey.  The report comes back almost instantaneously, flagging staff with leadership potential and strengths you can build on, and identifying gaps where more training and guidance might be needed,” says Miles.
Alongside the 360 degree module is development guide allowing employees to act immediately on the outcome of any assessment. Books, articles, training resources and videos are all available online to help build skills. “We wanted to create something that provided tools for people to develop themselves.”
Mariner7 general manager business development Warren Casey believes it takes leadership to champion performance management tools. “There are hell of lot of businesses in this country that have no measure of performance for the individual apart from an annual wage review. The responsibility ends up back at financials because you get the numbers. But how do you measure people development, team effectiveness, innovation or ability to work with customers. We’re able to highlight those areas,” he says.
In August new module known as Talent Engine was added to the package. It’s graphical preference-profiling tool that helps human resources managers filter job candidates and determine whether they’re team players or will easily fit in with the company culture.
The Mariner7 suite has paved the way for organisational and cultural change inside CCH by helping to monitor and manage staff and customer performance. Every individual has monthly one-hour meeting with his or her manager. They’re given rating against key measures as to whether they’re on target. Observations, goal tracking and accountability are managed consistently across all departments so the chief executive can tell how the organisation is doing.
Other local clients using the software include South Auckland Health, BHP Steel and The Simpl Group.
Mariner7 recently signed up with executive headhunters and consultants, Sheffield, to help businesses gear up to use the suite of products. The HR specialists who evaluate internal systems and people management processes believe companies need tools like Mariner7’s. Once the need has been identified Sheffield, which now works with about 80 percent of Mariner7’s clients, ensures appropriate systems and strategies are in place and offers consulting and training to get the web-based tools bedded in.  
Mariner7 has also had to deal with its own internal management issues because of its rapid growth. It needed the right communications and collaboration tools to ensure it was on target with its partners and is now working with Seattle-based eProject, to help oversee its rapidly growing global distribution channel.
The online database-driven eProject software helps manage and allocate tasks and documents, enables reporting and the posting of news articles and information updates all from web browser. “We get consistency and everyone in our business is able to see what stage we’re at with each of our distributors and we even get to build up an information repository which can be useful on other projects,” says Casey.

Keith Newman is an Auckland-based writer. Email:[email protected]

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