Cornerstone for Small Business (CSB) is Cornerstone OnDemand’s web-based software product dedicated to the sub-500 staff company (as opposed to Cornerstone’s Business Edition for larger enterprises). The CSB suite of products at the moment includes CSB Performance, CSB Learning, and CSB Goals (which is meant for ad-hoc daily/weekly/monthly goal setting and tracking).
CSB Performance covers talent management/performance appraisal functionality, but integrates with the other products in the suite.
Admin and employee user experiences are roughly the same within CSB Performance, with both utilizing the same UI and review tools. The admin role simply includes wider functionality and the ability to view and assign to multiple different employees and (presumably) run reports.
On the whole the UI is simple and intuitive, with big, clean buttons and symbols. It’s a modern interface that shouldn’t require too much explanation to get started with, and includes some great tutorials to explain the basic layout and elements.
That said, a few things weren’t immediately apparent to me, such as how to configure an individual’s job description (which, as we’ll see, impacts just what specific competencies they are reviewed on) and it wasn’t clear at-a-glance that 360 feedback is only visible on the second step of a review (“Competencies”) since the 360 view is an option at all stages of the process.
The software allows a manager to do both a self assessment, and to review all their direct team members. Both review processes function similarly, with the main difference being the options a manager has to analyze a specific employee’s performance as compared to their peers and their potential.
The reviews section allows you to send email reminders to team members who haven’t completed their self-assessments yet, and view and manage individual team member’s reviews. What’s nice here is the analysis tab that places each employee, at a glance, within a 9-block chart from “under-performing” to “starring” so you can see the overall status of your team easily. In fact, this feature was so popular it’s now been implemented in Cornerstone’s enterprise edition of performance appraisal software as well.
Reviews themselves are straightforward, allowing you to rate a direct report on a range of factors and competencies based on their job role. While it is fairly easy within the software to change a person’s job role (you can choose from a pre-populated list of 49, covering everything from HR Training Officer to IT Administrator), the factors attributed to each job role cannot be changed without speaking to CSB support for customization.
Within the reviews page you can also see periods up to 7 years back, view content and tips for each competency to give you ideas of where to go next with a specific employee, and even print off an aggregated view of the assessment to use for in-person meetings and if senior management signatures are required.
Each employee and each manager can set and edit a Development Plan for the individual that lists short term career objectives and development activities, and long term career objectives and development activities. Each free form field is populated with prompts like “What is your development path to achieve your career objective; please define your development activities and the expected outcomes of these activities.”
Additionally, “Future Goals” can be set for the next review period in the review itself for each competency and performance indicator. Both the manager and individual can set these and edit and weight them.
Analysis: This is a fun tool within the reviews tab to be able to see at a glance the strengths and weakness of individual members of your team, and compare them with each other in a visually pleasing way.
Analytics: This is a more strategic, “helicopter view” version of the above tool, with deeper functionality to view relationships, comparisons etc. across the entire company. A graph view allows analysis of trends and projections for the company as a whole.
Reporting: Seven stock reports can be generated within the software, but if you want custom reports you’ll need to talk with the CSB support team during implementation. That said, reports can be exported as PDFs, Word files, CSVs, Excel files and even in Open Document (.odt) format and then the data manipulated outside the CSB software.
While Cornerstone’s sales team was very responsive and reached out to me within a few hours, I still have not received a response to an email I sent to their demo support team. Whether this is because they assumed the sales-person would be able to answer all my questions and so a response wasn’t necessary, or not, I’m not sure.
That said, support is included with a subscription to CSB Performance, and can be reached by phone (during normal business hours), over email, and through a website support portal. FAQs and tutorials are also abundant, and I found the embedded tutorials within the software helpful to orient me (though additional tutorials on manager-only pages like “People” would have been helpful as well).
I had no major issues running reports, saving data, or opening up pages. There were some minor hiccups that are endemic with SaaS products (for instance some pages being slow to load, or some buttons not being clickable until I reloaded the page), but nothing that repeated itself or seriously hampered the usability of the program.
Integration with other systems
CSB does integrate with other systems like payroll and HR, but there is an additional cost for this implementation of $2,500. However, Cornerstone has a deal with Bamboo HR so that any integrations with the Bamboo system are free.
CSB Performance is clean, simple/intuitive, and easy to use. There are lots of tutorials to explain things and walk you through the workflow. Pre-populated competencies and metrics make it easy to rate employees and analyze them at-a-glance, and tons of features like email reminders to subordinates make the review process as painless as possible for small businesses.
The software is potentially too simple for those needing customized performance indicators and competencies, and for any organizations with employees who have non-standard job descriptions. While these things can be changed, they require working with CSB’s support team and are not tweaks users can do on their own. Additionally, the software is not brandable like the enterprise version and the UI can’t really be customized.
Pricing is $2,400 annually for 1-40 users, and $60 per year per user after that. An optional implementation service is a one-time fee of $3,000 (it includes a dedicated implementation manager and training for your admins). You must commit to a 12 month contract, but if you commit to three years you get 10% off.
CSB Performance is aimed at the SMB end of the market, and for smaller companies that need a simple tool to track employee performance and progress, who don’t want to invest in developing their own metrics and competencies, this is a good one. The price is also right for small business at just $200 a month for under 40 users.
That said, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of flexibility or customizability in terms of what proficiencies and competencies are being tracked, and what reports you can pull, so a small company that has unique or niche needs/job descriptions might not be satisfied with this offering.
For the vast majority of small to mid-size firms, however, this is a great, easy-to-use tool for managing their employee assessments.
General Features Included in the System (from Capterra’s Performance Appraisal Software Directory)
- 360 degree feedback
- Appraisal History
- Competency Management
- Email Notifications
- Employee Evaluation Forms
- Goal Setting / Tracking
- Human Resource Integration (Free with Bamboo HRIS, $2,500 otherwise)
- Individual Development Plans