Across businesses, both large and small, performance management has appeared to bubble up over the last year as a key topic of conversation. Everyone is asking themselves, “Are we handling employee reviews right?” and, “Can we do this better?”.
In most cases, the answer to the latter is yes. There is always room to do better. Annual reviews are becoming outdated and the workforce is looking for more constant feedback that allows them to pivot and adapt.
While, as a small business, we are proud to say we have always performed quarterly check-ins with employees, we still had room to do better by them. Historically, our check-ins focused on getting feedback about the company with some time dedicated to discussing the employees' one- and five-year goals.
These conversations were great in figuring out how the company could improve but left the employees asking a few questions:
- How am I doing at my job?
- What is the next step for me in my career here?
- How do I get to that next step?
Over the last year, I have worked on updating our performance management process to better answer these three questions without eliminating feedback on the company. Here is how we have tackled each of the questions to improve our employee reviews.
How Am I Doing at My Job?
The biggest flaw in our historical check-ins was that we never asked the team members or their managers to reflect on performance over the last quarter. While any serious issues were being handled as they happened throughout the quarter, there was no push for reflection as a whole. Team members were asking for more direct feedback on job performance so we wanted to provide an agreed-upon venue for the managers to provide it, as well as push employees to reflect on their own room for growth.
To do this, we started using the performance management software available through our human resource management system, BambooHR. On top of some other great questions they ask, two of their set questions for employees are, “What are some things I do well?” and, “How could I improve?”. We want to push people to think about where their own weaknesses or knowledge gaps are but also brag to their manager about where they have strengths. Managers can’t always see everything an employee is doing, so it's good to offer an opportunity for people to also share what they feel they are doing well at.
On the manager’s side of the assessment, they are asked the following about each employee: “What are some things [Name] does well?” and, “How could [Name] improve?”. This opens the door for managers to provide overall job performance feedback, including the good and areas that could use improvement as well. These two questions alone are pushing managers to take more notes on employee performance and past conversations throughout the quarter to be prepared for these conversations during reviews.
What is next for me?
While we were asking about employees' one-year and five-year goals in our historical check-ins, we weren’t quite going deep enough. The vision for where a team member’s career was going within the company was only coming from the employee side of the table. That put all of the pressure on the employee and provided little guidance from the company on their career roadmap.
We decided then that for each employee, we would build an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that focused on goals for one year out, two years out, and as far as five years out. These plans focused on what employees want to achieve, what skills it would take to achieve it, what resources they needed, and what activities they can try or milestones that can be tracked to get there.
To build it, we had both employees and managers complete working sheets for each team member before coming together to discuss their development plans. Through these conversations, employees and managers created an agreed-upon plan that funneled up to their directors and co-founders to ensure they align with the company's vision and goals. With IDPs—on top of helping team members figure out what’s next—the company is building a better workforce plan.
How do I get there?
Plans and goals are great, but if we can’t help people figure out how to accomplish them, we are in no better of a place. Through IDPs and BambooHR, we have focused on creating milestones and steps for people to complete the agreed-upon goals and keep track of them.
We had each employee break down their milestones from their IDPs into individual goals with necessary steps to achieve each one. The goals and steps were then uploaded into each employees' goal tracking section in BambooHR. This tool allows employees and managers to keep track of progress and roadblocks towards each goal. Throughout the year, everyone is encouraged by their managers and the system to put their notes in under each goal.
During scheduled check-ins and throughout the quarter, managers are having conversations with their team members on how things are going and how they can overcome roadblocks. Using this part of the system is going to help give managers visibility into progress towards the goals and keep goals that are important to our employees on top of mind for everyone.
While these changes are still new for us, we have gotten some great feedback so far from both team members and managers on the impact these changes have had on their conversations. We are always pushing for feedback on how Workshop Digital can do better and how we can improve these processes. It is thanks to our team that we are able to raise the bar on the employee experience and how we handle performance management.