Taking performance management to the next level

  • Startup wants to make work performance fun and rewarding
  • Uses gamification elements in web-based solution to keep employees engaged


Taking performance management to the next level


MANY of us associate the performance appraisals we receive at work with stress and apprehension and that often applies to not only employees, but human resources (HR) managers as well.

Local startup TraitQuest Sdn Bhd however, aims to change that experience for employees and HR personnel with their web-based performance management solution TraitQuest.

“We want to make work performance fun and rewarding,” TraitQuest chief executive officer and founder Leonard Lee (pic) told Digital News Asia in a recent interview. How are they doing that? By introducing video game elements and game mechanics to something as ‘serious’ as HR.

“It is essentially gamification in the workplace. Games have different levels and reward points. We use these in tracking progress and measuring performance. For example, employees can earn reward points for performing well and earn a chance to work from home once a week. These are benefits that companies can give out to deserving employees, to reward employees,” Lee explained.

He highlighted that research has shown that monetary rewards have limitations, however, companies can help retain employees with non-monetary rewards. “With this system, they (companies) can track performance and reward employees accordingly.”

A feeling of belonging

According to Lee, TraitQuest offers a web-based performance management system that enables employees to manage claims, time management, leave application, log and track their work progress. The company offers their system on a software as a services model, charging companies per employee per month.

“The system gives feedback to the employee and helps HR in streamlining processes and getting rid of paperwork. When you achieve something, you get points, similar to getting a badge in Foursquare. This gives a sense of achievement and belonging to the employee. Attrition rate is usually high because they don’t feel like they belong,” Lee explained, adding that research shows that employee attrition rate in corporate Malaysia is about 14%.

The top problems businesses face are people problems, high attrition rate, difficulty retaining talent and attracting quality talent. TraitQuest, said Lee, aims to improve employee engagement, motivation and morale, improve HR and heads of departments’ performance, and ultimately, improve business performance, as well as transform work culture and the brand as an employer.

The problem of improper performance management tracking is especially acute with small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), causing employees to leave out of frustration, said Lee. “In SMEs, they don’t care what effort you put in for the whole year, they only care about the three months leading up to your appraisal. Whether the boss likes you or not, or you did what he or she wanted you to do, that’s all subjective. There’s a measurement of sales, but other than that, your effort doesn’t count. That’s a huge problem I faced and know that others face that too.

When we spoke to HR people, we realised that performance appraisals are very biased…but cannot be scrapped, because promotions and bonuses are tied to them. But for us, we actually help HR quantify key performance indicators for performance management. For example, customer service is not just about the number of calls, but also about conversion of calls and customer satisfaction. We are able to measure that in relation to the company’s goals.”

Holistic approach

Lee shared that TraitQuest is currently working with training partners, where the latter provide content and TraitQuest the software. “A lot of training is on performance management, but there is no monitoring or tracking involved. So, we provide the monitoring and tracking of performance management. Another option is for us to provide the training needs analysis, we bring in a coach and a 12-months programme to help re-train managers or employees.”

Lee also shared that they recently completed a custom-built implementation for one of KPMG Malaysia’s consulting partners. “We are now targeting financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies, as well as property and manufacturing companies,” he said.

The company want to work with “local rising stars” such as Kakitangan.com to have a more holistic product for SMEs. “They are targeting anywhere from 100 to 1000 employees and we are doing the same as well. Currently we are also partnering with companies providing web-based time management and remote working systems,” Lee said, adding that TraitQuest also plans to offer their web-based performance management system to universities, for administrators to manage students’ performance.

TraitQuest is also keen to explore the possibility of securing grants to further develop the business. Lee, however, is in no rush to secure investors for TraitQuest, which is currently self-funded. Commenting on TraitQuest’s goals, Lee said they are currently focused on the product development and building traction. “We want investors to come to us instead of us going to them.”

When asked for his thoughts on the startup scene in Malaysia today, Lee said: “Startups in Malaysia have been growing progressively, or I should say explosively. You see new startups blossom every day, solving a variety of problems.

“The government has formed so many agencies and GLCs (government-linked corporations) to support the community. My experience albeit short, allows me to understand that we still lack support in terms of industrial expertise and collaborations.”

Market readiness is also an issue with many startups, Lee opined. “Everyone seems to be jumping on the latest trends, such as Internet of Things and e-commerce. But you’ve got to think about whether the trend is helping you or killing you? It’s a lot about trends and many people don’t study the market well enough and just jump in. A lot of times they build a product that the market may not need and they are stuck after investing so much into the business.”

He believes that more traditional businesses are here to stay, however. “If they transition online, they will be here for longer. They are build on blood, sweat and tears and actually have a foundation. But if you grow too fast, you actually skip all these, yet you’re accepted. That’s why 90% of all startups fail. I’m not saying that I will definitely succeed, but I’m aiming not to be part of that 90%,” he concluded.


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