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Performance Review

Context

  • Team of 35. Grew rapidly from 14 to 30 in 6 months. Previously had a "version" of bi-annual 360 reviews, stuck to the same structure for 2 years.
  • July 2019 cycle was the first time when more than 10 people were going through a review.
  • There was internal feedback (from current staff and via exit interviews) that people felt the ways to progress and grow in their roles were unclear and decision making on progression was not very transparent. There were few promotions and leadership was beginning to get questions about that.
  • The company wanted to ensure this was not the case going forward, and enable people to feel that they knew where to go next. They envisioned making something that would work for the team for 18 months.
  • Didn't want to make something overburdensome (in terms of time to complete, but also explanation needed, etc.) but wanted it to cover every role, every team and every level.
  • Alongside this, we were trying to embed a culture of radical candour.

What was in place before

  • 3 people (non-manager level) cross-teams give 360 reviews.
  • Self-evaluation form.
  • Comment on strengths, areas to improve; give feedback on company values too.
  • Forms then collated by manager, 360 review 2x per year.
  • Not all people had job descriptions. Even if they did, JDs / role competencies were not shared with the people giving feedback.
  • Some company-wide training on feedback was done, but nothing extensive.
  • Quality of feedback was highly variable, some people struggled to give constructive feedback / were not sure what to comment on.
  • The system was not broken per se - just thought it could get better.

Process overview: what we did and how it worked

  • Started with competencies - mapped out where we wanted to get to. Initially thought of 1-4 at all levels. Landed on meets and exceeds only, across general competency and team specific. When exceeds on both, and meeting next - in line for promotion.
  • Then mapped all the roles in current team, and the levels they would sit at. Identified a few "problem roles" where levels/salaries were not aligned to team (e.g. videographer, copywriter). So decided to have a "specialist" track for these roles and build teams later. Knew that certain roles would need pay adjustments to fit into new framework at the next review cycle.
  • Once had where people were, started to think about the general competencies. What is universal that everyone needs to do? Landed on Collaboration, Communication & Outputs.
  • Also mapped out (in draft) whom should review who. Managers could finalise, but to remove all friction from the process and make it as cross functional as possible we gave baseline.
  • Minimum of 3 people review + manager + self-evaluation.
  • Head of Ops drafted, shared with managers to prompt them to do team specific; then met with every team lead/owner of competencies to help them flesh out. Took 3 weeks to get completed competencies (draft) back from each team lead.
  • Then COO/Head of Ops reviewed/QA's the work. Mostly aligning the team competencies to the general ones - ensuring they were MECE - no repeats, etc.
  • Once had competencies - trained managers on feedback, 360s and how to use the framework in management.
  • Gave 1 more week for team leads to finalise before managers stepped each person through the framework in 1-2-1s. Chance for wider team to QA/feedback.
  • Very open throughout that it was iterative, collaborative and that anyone should be able to give feedback to managers.
  • Note: specialists were talked through framework by Head of Ops.
  • Included single C-Suite competencies. On reflection, they should have meets and exceeds too.
  • Then, once people had the framework, ran training on the 360 process and how to give constructive, evidence based feedback. Also covered how to use the competency framework.
  • This was 10 days before the review cycle ran.
  • Managers then sent templates to people reviewing. 1 week was given to complete (note: probably too short!)
  • Managers then had 1 week to collate reviews, give their own synopsis and share the final collated review with direct reports.
  • The recommendations for salaries/role changes then went to senior management team 1 week later, with decisions made and feedback shared with line managers to give reports.
  • There was no process for disputes.
  • Did not have "announcement" plans for promotions.
  • Did not brief managers well on how to have salary discussions.
  • After the process concluded, ran team training on creating a PDP based on the framework and their own personal career ambitions.

Final outputs:

  • Competencies for all levels, and all teams that should last for 18 months
  • 2 levels at each - meets and exceeds with clear guidelines on when someone would be recommended for promotion
  • 1 competency that applies to everyone, in every team: "Company: Collaboration, Communication & Outputs"
  • Generated by ops team, reviewed by team leads and signed off by senior management team
  • Then 1 domain specific competency
  • Generated by team leads (sometimes with drafting from ops team to prompt) and signed off by senior management team
  • New template for 360s. Made commenting on competencies mandatory - values optional. People preferred more objective things to comment on.
  • Tried to limit people to 5 reviews max (+ people manage). Some people hit harder than others (e.g. product managers, people who work with cross functionality like ops). On reflection - running it all through G-Suite is fast but also a bit cumbersome for the wider team. Would consider software next time to support a quicker process.