17 performance review ideas from Google, Facebook, and other top companies

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It’s official: the annual performance review is no longer the hotshot of the business world. Many Fortune 500 companies have already gotten rid of their annual reviews, although 91 percent of companies are still using some form of performance review, annual or otherwise. But as you’ll see from these 17 performance review ideas, top companies like Facebook and Google are choosing to switch up their performance reviews, not get rid of them. They’ve found the sweet spot: psychological safety created by an atmosphere of regular, authentic feedback. If you want the same for your workplace, these non-traditional performance review ideas will get you started. 

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Cargill performance reviews

Back in 2012, agriculture giant Cargill decided to focus on everyday feedback over annual reviews. This kicked off a new trend in the business world, and Cargill was praised for pioneering change in an old school industry.

Ideas you can borrow from Cargill performance reviews

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1. Eliminate employee ratings completely. 

2. Don’t get rid of all structure. Cargill invested in a system focused on “feedback, development, coaching, and trust”. 

3. Emphasize that the new system will only work if it includes flexibility and a strong manager-employee relationship.

Key takeaway: Brief, frequent conversations are the key to making employees feel more valued and engaged (Cargill saw a rise of 9% and 10% of those metrics, respectively).

Facebook performance reviews

After analyzing their performance management system and surveying employees, Facebook leaders were surprised to find that 87 percent of people wanted to keep performance ratings. But they made some tweaks to the traditional yearly review.

Ideas you can borrow from Facebook performance reviews

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4. Managers still write reports, but not before getting feedback from each employee’s peers. 

5. A group of managers discuss all performance reviews in an attempt to mitigate outliers (supervisors who are overly harsh or lenient). This process is known as calibration. 

6. Use a formula for salary raises. That way, managers can focus on their rating, rather than translating it into a salary recommendation.

Key takeaway: Invest in training to eliminate bias from reviews. For example, Facebook analysts look at performance reviews to make sure managers aren’t unfairly attributing certain traits to minorities.

Adobe performance reviews

Software giant Adobe stopped doing annual performance reviews when they realized it was eating up thousands of hours of managers’ time. But HR didn’t try to fix the issue all by themselves. Instead, they brought in employees from every level to find out what wasn’t working.

Ideas you can borrow from Adobe performance reviews

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7. Replace annual reviews with frequent and less formal check-ins. 

8. Check-ins don’t have to line up across the entire company. Instead, each department is free to choose the timing of check-ins depending on what works best for them.

9. Eliminate formal rankings to determine salary increases. Instead, supervisors can make a judgment call based on their check-in conversations the rest of the year.

10. Learn from the best: in this case, you can use Adobe’s open source check-in toolkit to test a similar process at your organization.

Key takeaway: Ask your team members how they want to be treated before you make significant changes to the feedback and performance review process.

Netflix performance reviews

Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer at Netflix, explained why Netflix axed annual reviews a long time ago: “In many functions—sales, engineering, product development—it’s fairly obvious how well people are doing. Building a bureaucracy and elaborate rituals around measuring performance usually doesn’t improve it.”

Ideas you can borrow from Netflix performance reviews

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11. Get rid of annual reviews and move to more frequent 360-degree reviews. 

12. Only give feedback you’re willing to sign your name to. Deliver your feedback face to face if you can—never anonymously. 

13. Simplify your review form into a blank text box. Reviewers are encouraged to fill it out using a stop/start/continue format (“What you should stop/start/continue doing”). 

14. Ask B-level performers to step down, offering a generous severance package to discourage them from taking legal action agains the company.

Key takeaway: Ask yourself and your team if the current review process actually reinforces your company values. For Netflix, annual reviews were at odds with their tenet of “hiring, rewarding, and tolerating only fully formed adults”.

Google performance reviews

One reason that Google’s performance reviews are considered extraordinary? Salary discussions and performance reviews are held separately. Former head of people operations Laszlo Bock explained, “A negative dynamics exists when managers sit down to give employees their annual review and salary increase. The employees focus on the extrinsic reward—a raise, higher rating—and learning shuts down.”

Ideas you can borrow from Google performance reviews

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15. For self evaluations, choose criteria that’s less obvious. For example, Google evaluates presence (the ability to make yourself heard in a noisy organization) and thought leadership (how often other employees defer to you as an expert). 

16. Ask employees to evaluate their peers in just two areas: strengths and weaknesses.

17. Not all peer feedback is created equal. Weigh input from peers based on how close they are to relevant projects.

Key takeaway: If you can measure it, you should. Each of Google’s performance management practices has been meticulously tested to make sure they meet the company’s standards.

Should you keep performance reviews around?

Even performance review ideas from the world’s best companies can’t determine what’s best for your organization. Experts claim that top performers appreciate performance reviews, while formerly cutthroat companies like Microsoft—a place that’s filled with top performers—have softened their position on employee feedback. So where should you land? We recommend following the lead of Adobe: ask your people what they want. Be unafraid of change, like Cargill. Emulate Google by testing and measuring relentlessly. You’ll find the answer by listening to your team and responding like you care (because you clearly do). Good luck!

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