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09.27.13 | TECHdotMN

Alignamite Helps Orgs Get It Straight

Entrepreneurs and leaders often excel at creating a vision. They have a bright idea that is crystallized in their own heads, but their vision doesn’t always translate...
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Entrepreneurs and leaders often excel at creating a vision. They have a bright idea that is crystallized in their own heads, but their vision doesn’t always translate to plans and goals everyone else can understand.

 

Alignamite, a new software startup spun-out of consulting group Employee Strategies, is working to close that gap.

 

The web-based, software-as-a-service performance management tool helps leaders align the goals of their organization from top to bottom.

 

“My philosophy, in life and in work,” says J. Forrest, founder of Alignamite, “Is leave a place better than you found it…that’s the inspiration behind Alignamite. We believe people want their work to matter and want to see the impact.”

 

A number of companies already provide full HR software systems or performance management tools. But according to Forrest, those solutions tend to be very large, complicated systems that are generally priced out of reach for smaller businesses.

 

Focusing on organizations with fewer than 100 employees, Alignamite offers tools and process guidelines that help leadership solidify what the organization vision means at the individual employee level. An associated accountability plan helps the leader and employee work towards the same goals while creating a year-end performance review framework that employees don’t hate.

 

“Our vision is to become an integral tool in the making of great places to work,” said Forrest. – See more at: tech.mn

 

By Mike Bollinger/TECHdotMN Co-Founder

06.7.13 | Minnesota Business Magazine

Human Resources: Up for Review

How a small company’s call for help as it struggled to manage employees led to an unexpected spin-off business
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When Michael Johnson approached Employee Strategies in 2011, it was because he needed a better way to manage the talent at his software development venture in St. Paul. Little did he know then that his actions would be instrumental in the creation of a spin-off business.

His company, Fisdap, designs tracking software for EMS (emergency medical services) student competency and experience instructors. When he launched it in 1997, Johnson had only his computer science background to draw from. “I don’t have business training,” he admits.

Distracted by other challenges, Johnson never took the time to define Fisdap’s culture. Then a few years ago two or three new hires left — significant in a 15-person venture — and in early 2011 Johnson learned that some employees actually had conflicting visions for his company. He decided it was time to call J. Forrest, owner of Minneapolis-based consulting firm Employee Strategies.

Through a company audit and employee interviews, Employee Strategies discovered some key insights about Fisdap’s cultural challenges. While employees had sky-high scores when it came to valuing Fisdap’s type of work and mission of it, the company was ineffective at on-boarding new employees. “People would get hired, sit down, and we would say, ‘Let me know when you need something,’” Johnson says.

The research also revealed that the people being hired weren’t necessarily the best fit for the company, which has a flat organizational structure and puts an emphasis on collaboration. Forrest helped Johnson see that new hires needed to have both individual work mastery and a knack for the collaborative process. “They weren’t hiring the right people,” says Forrest. “They were people with the right skills, but they did not have the right competencies to thrive there.”

After completing the audit, Forrest took the data and put it to use by implementing some pragmatic ways to train employees and familiarize them with the benefits and intangibles of working at Fisdap. He also helped ensure employees understood the value of the Fisdap personality type as an “adaptable, smart problem-solver.”

“In small businesses, sometimes we don’t train or develop people — but say they are getting great experience,” Forrest explains. “Something just gets lost.”

He helped Fisdap — which usually hires two to four new employees per year — improve its on-boarding process. Instead of just hoping that new hires transition well, Johnson and his team now have effective ways to help fresh arrivals integrate into the company culture.

“He helped us think about it from the employee’s perspective,” Johnson says. “We want to make a good impression and solidify what it means [for the employee] to work here.”

Today, new employees are paired with a mentor to show them the ropes, whether it’s about where to get help or where to park. New employees also receive a to-do list of tasks centered on getting settled, as well as fun things like getting a nickname and checking out good lunch spots.

Rachael Rosen, a Fisdap employee since 2009, has been able to see the effects of working with Employee Strategies firsthand.

“One of the things [Forrest] helped us work on is transparency and trust in leadership,” she says. “We’ve all thought Mike is a nice guy — but now I see a better leader. We have more trust in his leadership style because he’s entrusted us with a lot of that ownership.”

Rosen adds that Fisdap has become more focused on ensuring that new hires are a good fit for the company culture, and that it can protect that culture.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t have a company culture [before],” recalls Johnson. “But we didn’t have a good means of communication around it.”

A different relationship

During the consulting process, Johnson and Forrest discussed the need for some kind of performance tool that would fit the Fisdap culture — something that wasn’t too formal and would work with Fisdap’s collaborative environment and flat employee structure. Those discussions led, in the fall of 2011, to the beta launch of a software tool called Alignamite.

Alignamite is designed to improve performance in three ways. First, it’s a career development tool in which goals are established from both the top down and bottom up, with employees empowered to set their own goals. Second, it features a performance dashboard that provides a live bird’s-eye view of the company’s effort toward achieving goals. Third, it’s a tool for reviewing employee performance, in collaboration with 360-degree feedback.

Alignamite encourages company leadership to be more transparent with their employees by sharing the vision and goals for the company.

“When you share goals, the likelihood that you will achieve them increases,” Forrest explains. “In most cases, we are too private, and the [company] leader carries that burden.”

Fisdap was the first company to test Alignamite. “A lot of what Alignamite does is good for organizations that are more segmented and don’t have a lot of contact with each other,” Rosen says. “In terms of transparency and trust in leadership, Alignamite helps us craft organizational and personal goals, build some accountability and transparency, and help our peers in reaching their goals.”

In May 2012, Alignamite (alignamite.com) launched as a separate spin-off business. Based in Minneapolis, it engages primarily with small and midsize companies; however, it can also work with departments nestled within larger organizations.

Currently about a dozen businesses are using the software. One of them is Barsness Solutions, a Minneapolis-based web development company that started using it in May 2012. The staff holds monthly meetings to talk about the progress of the goals shared through Alignamite, and the company also uses the tool for its year-end employee evaluations.

“We have a place to write down goals and keep it centralized, and be reminded of how we are doing on them,” says owner Tim Barsness. “It’s been a really valuable tool for us.”

05.20.13 | Minnesota Business Magazine

CLIENTS NAMED ON MINNESOTA BUSINESS LIST

Minnesota Business magazine anounced its second annual 100 Best Companies to Work For...
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Minnesota Business magazine announced its second annual 100 Best Companies to Work For, saluting Minnesota organizations setting the standard for employee well-being. Two of our clients were announced on the list; SuperClean Brands and FISDAP. We are proud to be their employee experience provider. These companies represent how we create great places to work.

Let’s hear what our clients have to say about Employee Strategies and our staff…

“Working with J. Forrest has been an absolute joy. His humor and personality makes everyone instantly like and trust him. He has helped us develop our workplace culture and competencies which has lead to a direct improvement in employee engagement and satisfaction. I would highly recommend J. to other organizations looking to make gains in these areas.” – FISDAP

“If you’re considering hiring J. for a project, DO IT! You won’t be sorry. I’ve used J. on multiple HR/cultural improvement projects and he’s delivered every time. Whether it was helping set up the structure for a high-performance, human capital HR department for a large company (over 1000 employees) or creating and helping to drive a smaller company’s culture culminating in us winning a Best Places to Work in Minneapolis/St. Paul award, J. gets it done.” – SuperClean Brands

02.12.13 | Press Release

AMPERE! AND SBS SIGN ON WITH ALIGNAMITE

Ampere! and School Business Solutions (SBS) begin their subscription to Alignamite...

MINNEAPOLIS – Web-based software tool, Alignamite, is excited to announce two new clients signed on to Alignamite; Ampere! and SBS.

2013 is Alignamite’s initiation year for clients and its time to build users. After these two clients were signed on, Alignamite can say they have over 100 users implementing the tool, with a goal of 800 by the end of 2013. The companies using Alignamite are small to medium-size and their purpose to provide their employees feedback on their work, individual goals, and aligning them to the organization’s goals.

Ampere! specializes in providing administrative management and support services to professional associations. This 22-large company needed a tool to facilitate their organization’s goals and reinforce their values and purpose to the team. Alignamite was the step to take for them to achieve these needs and they kicked off their team into Alignamite right away.

School Business Solutions is a 20-large company that provides business management, accounting and financial compliance support services to Minnesota schools since 1999. Their staff helps schools thrive, not just survive and from that purpose they want to make sure their company does the same.

The Alignamite Support Staff and executives have been so responsive to these new clients, which is one comment that the Owner of Ampere! wrote to the team, “ I do appreciate that you have always responded very quickly to get things resolved. “

About Alignamite

Alignamite is a web-based performance management company that engages to improve employee performance and feedback. The software tool enables alignment between employees’ goals and those of the company, and strives to help individuals understand how their work and performance impacts the entire organization. For more information, please visit www.alignamite.com

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11.28.12 | The Line Magazine

Alignamite Develops Employee-Centric Performance Tools

Founded in 2011, Alignamite got started when Forrest decided to quit building performance tools for other companies and start his own enterprise instead. He envisioned a system...
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Employee performance reviews: the three little words that no one likes to hear.

“Almost universally, it’s been a process filled with dread,” says J. Forrest, founder and president of Minneapolis-based technology company Alignamite. “Who looks forward to performance reviews, even if they’re largely positive?”

Forrest wanted a better strategy, so he built one. Alignamite’s new software tool is designed to create alignment between an enterprise’s goals and an employee’s success. With a dashboard that tracks employee performance and a system that brings in colleague opinions as well as management views, Alignamite looks like it could change how performance is measured.

Founded in 2011, Alignamite got started when Forrest decided to quit building performance tools for other companies and start his own enterprise instead. He envisioned a system that would be more employee-centric, where staff members could get a grasp of their performance on a continual basis and an ongoing sense of how well they were meeting company goals, rather than relying on annual performance reviews.

After completing a beta testing period, Alignamite recently launched a robust, full version and is already seeing strong growth, particularly with clients of about 50 to 200 employees.

“There’s great scalability in the tool, so that makes it exciting for organizations,” says Forrest. “Most important, though, is that it significantly improves communication within an enterprise, and that benefits everyone.”

Source: J. Forrest, Alignamite
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

11.1.12 | Press Release

Alignamite Completes Beta Period, Launches More Robust Full Version

Ninety percent of beta users see how their work impacts the organizations’ performance!...

Ninety percent of beta users see how their work impacts the organizations’ performance!

MINNEAPOLIS – Performance Improvement company Alignamite announced its software tool – also called Alignamite – is out of the beta period, and that the full version of the performance management software tool launched earlier this month.

“When employees and employers have aligned expectations and can measure progress toward these, there is greater understanding and enhanced performance potential,” says Founder and President J. Forrest. “The beta product yielded significant insights that we’ve now reflected in the full version.”

Eight Minnesota-based companies participated in the Alignamite beta program during 2012, and three of those organizations are on track for their best performance year in company history. Further, 90 percent of the users report seeing how their work impacts the organization’s performance; compare that to a Balanced Scorecard Collaborative study that suggests only 7 percent of employees even understand their organization’s objectives.

Alignamite makes performance management easy, creating alignment between organization goals and employee success. A dashboard approach provides transparency throughout the organization, and ten layers of reporting are available. In addition, leaders are now able to articulate future goals within the tool.

What’s more, the full version of Alignamite allows for more organizational levels, and enables users to drill into each dashboard icon to see individual progress. Alignamite is formulated for small- to mid-size businesses that employ 50 – 200 people.

About Alignamite

Alignamite is a Minneapolis-based performance management company that engages with small- to medium- sized companies, as well as with departments within large organizations, to improve employee performance and feedback. The software tool enables alignment between employees’ goals and those of the company, and strives to help individuals understand how their work and performance impacts the entire organization.

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10.8.12 | Press Release

Thrivent Money Revolution Signs On with Alignamite for Performance Management

Thrivent Financial for Lutheran’s Strategic Initiative to use Alignamite across four campuses in Minnesota...

Thrivent Financial for Lutheran’s Strategic Initiative to use Alignamite across four campuses in Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS – Personal development company and software tool, Alignamite, is excited to announce that Thrivent Financial for Lutherans’ pilot initiative Money Revolution has signed on for a trial of Alignamite at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Olaf College, The University of Minnesota, and Concordia University Wisconsin.

Alignamite enables small- to medium-sized companies, as well as departments and project teams within larger organizations, to provide employees feedback on their work, their individual goals, and the organization’s overall goals.

Thrivent’s Money Revolution understands the importance of aligning its overall organization goals with the goals of each individual college intern working at the four colleges. Says Ryan Anderson, New Business Development Specialist at Thrivent, “We chose Alignamite because it has the right amount of simplicity and sophistication for the type of performance management we wanted.”

Alignamite Founder and President, J. Forrest, is also the founder and President of Employee Strategies, Inc. (ESI – www.EmployeeStrategies.com), a consulting firm that focuses on organization development and the employee experience. ESI and Thrivent have a long working relationship, and rolling out Alignamite to a subset of Thrivent at this time made sense.

Forrest explains “Money Revolution is working to improve financial literacy with college-aged students. They measure the impact of their work and Alignamite helps to spotlight the performance with a dashboard of their key measures. In addition, the student leaders establish a career goal for their internship within Alignamite and have a platform for the discussion with the program leaders.

About Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a Fortune 500, not-for-profit, member-owned financial institution with more than 100 years of experience in helping people be wise with money. To learn more, visit Thrivent.com/aboutus.

About Alignamite

Alignamite is a Minneapolis-based performance management company that engages with small- to medium- sized companies, as well as with departments within large organizations, to improve employee performance and feedback. The software tool enables alignment between employees’ goals and those of the company, and strives to help individuals understand how their work and performance impacts the entire organization.

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06.21.12 | Press Release

Alignamite Launches Certified Consultant Program

Certified Consultants receive training on Alignamite and Reseller Rights...

Certified Consultants receive training on Alignamite and Reseller Rights.

MINNEAPOLIS – Personal development company and software tool, Alignamite, is excited to announce the Alignamite Certified Consultant (ACC) program, a program that trains and certifies human resource and organization development consultants to sell Alignamite to their customers and prospects.

Alignamite enables small-to-medium sized companies, as well as departments and project teams within larger organizations, to provide employees feedback on their work, their individual goals, and the organization’s overall goals. Now, consultants who focus on organization development and workplace management can offer this powerful tool to their clients for an additional revenue stream.

The ACC is attractive to consultants because Alignamite is a practical, powerful, and even fun tool that enables organization sand its employees to be on the same page – or aligned – when it comes to goals, both the organization’s goals and the employee’s goals. The software allows employees to set their own goals and gives them an understanding of how their goals really impact the organization. Founder and president J. Forrest says, “People want to be accountable for their work and know their work matters. Alignamite provides that opportunity.”

The ACC program will train independent consultants on the software itself, as well as on how to talk about the importance and need for the tool. Ongoing, the certified consultants will receive technical and user support, and will have the opportunity to learn from and communicate with each other via monthly virtual roundtable meetings that Alignamite will host.

Alignamite is in beta launch now, and plans a full launch in the beginning of 2013. One of the users said about the tool, “Alignamite is not accomplished with words alone; alignment requires tools. Alignamite is one of the few tools that aligns people and strategy.”

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05.20.12 | Star Tribune Business

Aligning Employees, Company Goals

Employees might not openly campaign for job evaluations, but they do want to be held accountable, according to J. Forrest of Minneapolis consulting firm Employee Strategies.
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Employees might not openly campaign for job evaluations, but they do want to be held accountable, according to J. Forrest of Minneapolis consulting firm Employee Strategies. They also want their work to matter and would like to discuss career development, said Forrest, a performance improvement consultant whose findings come from hundreds of workplace culture interviews.

The problem for those working at small companies, Forrest contends, is that their employers often don’t have performance review tools, robust career paths or transparent business goals in place. The answer, in his view, is Alignamite, an online organization and employee performance tool that aims to make performance reviews easier, clearer and, believe it or not, fun.

Alignamite works through an online dashboard that measures employee progress in such key categories as revenue, innovation, customer interaction and career development. The interface includes icons — an airplane crossing the sky, a burst of fireworks — to track progress on individual goals.

Alignamite’s focus is on how employees do their jobs and how they are to work with, Forrest said. It avoids performance ratings and wordy descriptions of the “meets or exceeds expectations on occasion” variety. It values employees who are team players and have earned trust and respect and are accountable in the workplace.

“I always think of this as having cube cred,” said Forrest, who uses his dry humor to play against the image of Toby, the stereotypical personnel sad sack on “The Office.” “If you have cube cred with your colleagues and the company and you hit your goals, you’re going to do great. If you lack cube cred, it’s a little harder to hide with something like this.”

Forrest sees a “staggeringly large” potential market for Alignamite in companies with up to 100 employees, which he plans to market through Employee Strategies and other small consulting firms. He’s seeking a first round of financing through next year to help build a regional presence for Alignamite, then planning a second round that would take it national.

A new version of Alignamite launched in early May, after its December debut. Eight companies are using it now and Forrest expects to be looking for more in June or July.

Forrest founded Employee Strategies in 2006. The firm offers customized services in four areas: culture survey, customer surveys, business planning and implementation. Specific activities include project management, training design and delivery, team building using the Myers-Briggs assessment tool and leadership development.

The firm’s goal is to help organizations “create great places to work,” and Forrest notes that half a dozen companies he has consulted with have landed on best-workplaces lists. Employee Strategies, which has five employees and one subcontractor, had revenue of $350,000 last year and is projecting $400,000 in revenue this year.

Forrest has been interested in organizational development since he was a student at St. Olaf College. He got a master’s of education in human resource development from the University of Minnesota. His previous experience includes working in organizational development at Xcel Energy.

He’s formed a separate company to market Alignamite with Mike Johnson, founder and president of St. Paul-based Fisdap, which makes online software for emergency medical services training, tracking and testing.

“The whole concept of being in alignment is a powerful piece that a lot of small businesses struggle with,” Johnson said.

Bryan Badzin, president of Eagan-based cleaning products maker SuperClean Brands, said the company recently began using Alignamite after working with Employee Strategies for three years to improve its culture.

“My belief is Alignamite will help employees and management make sure we are in touch with where we are versus where we want to be,” Badzin said. “I’m looking to Alignamite to make sure we always try to get a little better.”

The expert says: Mike Harvath, president and CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group, a Bloomington firm that consults with tech companies, agrees with Forrest’s assertion that the potential market for Alignamite is huge, with some 5.8 million companies with under 100 employees nationally.

The challenge will be getting the word out about Alignamite, connecting with busy decisionmakers and getting the product sold, Harvath said. One step is finding influencers, likely other consultants, who can sell the product.

“In concept, I think it’s great,” Harvath said. “Being extremely focused about who the ideal prospect profile is for the product and marketing through an influencer channel that sells to that market will be the key to success or failure.”

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.