Performance Management, Reinvigorated by Google and LinkedIn

June 16, 2017 - 6 minute read - Posted by

Photo Credit: Štefan Štefančík | Unsplash

Google and LinkedIn have revolutionized the way people find things online, how consumers buy and how businesses sell to other businesses. It was the classic underdog story of a young, nimble startup disrupting a new market. What’s interesting is how they have inherently changed a whole different market, seemingly by accident.

Back in the day, companies used to run annual performance reviews, just as many corporations still do today. In terms of helping an employee understand how they are doing, and how they can improve, 12 months is absurdly long. It’s an almost laughably long feedback loop.

That’s precisely why Google and LinkedIn didn’t see annual performance reviews to be a good fit and needed to engineer an alternative that worked just as fast as they did; and one that scaled. It’s those changes that created ripples at the forefront of a revolution in the HR field.

You see, the practice of measuring employee performance is nothing new, in fact, it’s a field that’s well known in HR circles called Performance Management. What’s changing the field are the big winners of Silicon Valley; they have the scale and data to allow them to advance the field faster than in the past.

What’s resulted is a Google-engineered modern, continuous performance management system that is revolutionizing the way HR works across all companies—all without meaning to do so. I’ll give you the primer on motivating and retaining great people at work but first…

What Is Performance Management?

“Performance management is an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year, in support of accomplishing the strategic objectives of the organization.”

—UC Berkeley

They go on to say:

“The communication process includes clarifying expectations, setting objectives, identifying goals, providing feedback, and reviewing results.”

How Do Startups Run Performance Management?

Startups have narrowed performance management down to rely mainly on short-term goals, short-term projects, high-quality data and intellectual rigor. In committing to these modernized performance management practices, feedback is given fast and improvements are made.

1. Short-term goals.

Rather than year-long goals, LinkedIn and Google both rely on quarterly OKRs.

Arguably the best fit for startups, short-term goals allow for undivided focus on key priorities that will scale your team. You want to support employees in matching the pace your startup is growing at and setting short-term goals will provide the structure they need.

2. Short-term projects.

Similarly, short-term projects and view of employment are what it will take to assess present needs for a scaling team.

As Reid Hoffman identifies in The Alliance, “as much as companies might yearn for a stable environment and employees might yearn for lifetime employment, the world has irrevocably changed.” Gone were the days of two-year project development cycles and twelve-year careers with the same company.

Today’s workforce is growing and changing just as fast as the startup landscape. The alliance framework shows us that short-term projects align with the talent-dependent startup because we’re acknowledging that great employees might leave the company.

Short-term sprints provide focus while generating much-needed rapport with employees so as to help them improve in shorter timeframes.

3. Radical feedback.

The true value of modern performance management becomes clear as a result of the consistent feedback being given. Consistent feedback brings an element of predictable growth to the otherwise changing startup landscape.

In fact, Kim Scott, co-founder of Candor, Inc., and author of Radical Candor argues that “criticizing your employees when they screw up is not just your job, it’s actually your moral obligation.”

Giving radical feedback means delivering messages, both good and bad, in order to drive the quickest and best results. Match your short-term sprints with regular feedback to maximize employee growth.

As you reinvent performance management across your scaling startup, we want to dive head first into these three simple performance management practices.

Final Thoughts.

Setting goals and reviewing expectations for feedback once a year is no way to grow your team and company. It comes down to short-term goals, quick sprints, and regular engaging feedback.

Just as cultivating respect for your team’s time and efforts rarely comes from annual performance reviews; it stems from regular acknowledgment.

Bring your team up to speed with modern performance management practices that will put you up a notch for this year’s growth.

Next Read: How to make better hiring decisions.


Also published on Medium.

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