This article is based on research for our recent eGuide, A small business guide to implementing employee performance reviews.
Recently, we published an article on why performance reviews are still important to your small business. One of the biggest reasons we mentioned is also the simplest one: performance reviews can be whatever you want them to be. There’s no shortage of companies big and small that are turning the traditional review on its head, creating a one-of-a-kind system that perfectly suits their office culture and company strategy.
Here’s an inside look at three companies and how they revolutionized performance reviews.
As a startup with less than 20 employees (the Tel Aviv team makes a music learning app), JoyTunes was no stranger to weekly meetings and ongoing feedback. Even so, CEO Yuval Kaminka discovered that team members didn’t know how they were doing – and a former employee had no idea that the company wasn’t happy with their performance. “Our day to day is super packed, and so while it might seem that we look closely at our work and our team members, it’s surprising how much we actually miss,” wrote Kaminka in an article on implementing reviews at a startup. The solution: semi-annual performance reviews.
The details: Every six months, team leaders schedule one-on one meetings where employees review themselves and provide peer-to-peer feedback. Then they talk about expectations for the coming months and set goals. This whole process works in tandem with more frequent (and more casual) one-on-one meetings to align the formality of the review system with the company’s “casual and cynical” culture. “There was a very fine balance between our family startup and principles taken from the corporate world,” says Kaminka.
The results: The new system has helped to solve numerous issues and allowed for some much needed venting. “Team members know they are being heard, that they make progress and work on personal goals, and have an opportunity to ask questions about status of things and future plans,” says Kaminka. “It is also an opportunity for the organization to learn about what works and what doesn’t, improving work relations between people and teams.
This social media marketing management company has over 80 employees, all working remotely, and is pretty much always adapting and adjusting their process. So, when Buffer discovered that their employees weren’t benefiting from annual reviews (in fact, they were dreading them), they knew they needed to make a change. They also wanted get valuable feedback to employees faster, and give them ongoing opportunities to learn and develop, so they switched to ongoing feedback.
The details: Buffer encourages ongoing discussion between team leaders and their direct reports via one-on-one meetings every two weeks. In these meetings, the employee leads the conversation, rather than the manager – this helps team members to take ownership over the own goals and stay engaged year-round.
The company also has a second, optional, type of one-on-one meeting – this time between any two employees. These meetings are called “Masterminds,” and they’re much less formal. “It’s a space to be deeply vulnerable – it’s almost like weekly therapy,” wrote employee Courtney Seiter in an article on why Buffer doesn’t have traditional reviews.
The results: “When the majority of the time is dedicated to the team member, and it is up to them to set the agenda, it becomes very empowering,” wrote Seiter. “I always leave one-on-ones feeling energized and supported.”
The company is also constantly looking for ways to improve the system, and have experimented with various changes. For example, they send out surveys to employees to find out how often these one-on-ones are taking place, how long they run for, what they find challenging about the meetings, and so on.
As a multinational technology with more than 330,000 employees in over 170 countries, it might be difficult to see, at first glance, what an small business can learn from this success story. However, the basics of the program – ongoing feedback rooted in trust and vulnerability – are relevant to virtually any company. Basically, GE sought to update their Employee Management System (EMS), which had been in place since 1976. “The feedback we heard globally was that we need a more continuous, fluid process versus an event-driven one,” said Sonia Boyle, vice president of human resources at GE Canada, in a recent Q&A with Workopolis.
The details: The company’s new performance reviews, PD@GE (a.k.a. performance development at General Electric) works on a system of “Insights” that can be offered to employees by managers or fellow employees, both verbally and through an app. There are two types – Consider Insights and Continue Insights. A Continue Insight encourages an employee when they do something good, while a Consider Insight offers constructive criticism. Insights are private – employees only share them with their management if they want to. At the end of the year, employees and managers set up a “Summary Touchpoint” to go over insights and set goals. There are no rankings – they removed them during the pilot phase and bonuses remained unaffected – and virtually no paperwork for employees or managers.
The results: According to Boyle, employees who have embraced the system love it. “They feel there’s a little bit of a liberty and a freedom with it. And there can be immediate feedback – you’re not waiting six months, and then you forget about what happened at the beginning of the year.”
For more on how GE revamped their performance reviews, check out this episode of Safe for Work, the Workopolis podcast:
These case studies are part of our free eGuide, A small business guide to implementing employee performance reviews. Download it today for a step-by-step guide to the various types of performance reviews, and how you can successfully implement one at your company.