18 Performance Review Ideas from Google, Netflix, and Other Top Companies

Performance Review

It’s official: the annual performance review is no longer the gold standard of the business world. In a recent Gallup survey, only 14% of respondents felt that annual reviews motivated them to improve. But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate any form of review. It means you need to change your approach. Use examples like Cargill’s, Netflix’s, or Google’s performance-review setups to inspire you and help you find an approach that motivates your team.

Google and other top companies have found the sweet spot: psychological safety created by an atmosphere of regular, authentic feedback. If you want the same for your workplace, these nontraditional performance-review ideas will get you started.

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Cargill Performance Review: Ditch the Formality

In 2012, agriculture giant Cargill replaced annual performance reviews with a system of continuous feedback called Everyday Performance Management. They prioritized daily conversations between managers and employees over a single formal meeting. This resulted in 70% of employees feeling more valued, and Cargill was praised for pioneering change in an old school industry.

Ideas you can borrow from a Cargill performance review

  1. Eliminate employee ratings completely.
  2. Replace or enhance annual performance reviews with regular one-on-one discussions.
  3. Simplify review requirements. Encourage managers to focus on building relationships with employees, rather than checking boxes off a list.
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Key takeaway: Brief, frequent conversations are the key to making employees feel more valued and engaged.

GE Performance Review: Incorporate Technology

Technology and energy company GE replaced its 30-year-old performance-review system in 2016. They implemented an app, called [email protected], to facilitate constant, open communication between employees and managers. Teams use the app to set goals, exchange voice and text messages, send documents, and receive input from other app users within the company.

Ideas you can borrow from a GE performance review

  1. Keep written, regularly updated records of employee goals for employee and manager reference.
  2. Hold a summary conversation instead of a formal review. Have the manager and the employee work together to make a summary document.
  3. Implement technology that fosters open, continuous communication. For example, with Uptick team members can share priorities with managers and both parties can edit and add to the list as a result of their 1:1.
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Key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to change your established system. GE had the same system in place for 30 years before doing a complete overhaul.

Google Performance Review: Separate Performance and Salary Discussions

One reason that Google’s performance reviews are considered extraordinary? Salary discussions and performance reviews are held separately, one month apart. Former head of people operations Laszlo Bock explained that when managers give employee performance and salary reviews at the same time, “[t]he employees focus on the extrinsic reward — a raise, higher rating — and learning shuts down.”

Ideas you can borrow from a Google performance review

  1. Make the process collaborative. In a Google performance review, employees and managers work together to decide which peers should give feedback.
  2. Simplify peer reviews. Google asks for peer feedback on only strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to specific projects.
  3. For self-evaluations, choose criteria that are 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).
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Key Takeaway: Getting feedback from a variety of sources, such as peer reviews, self-reviews, and manager reviews, helps paint a more holistic picture of employee performance.

Facebook Performance Review: Eliminate Surprises

Even though Facebook still utilizes traditional biannual reviews and a stack ranking system, the company has implemented a few innovative tactics. They use internal software to keep up a constant flow of feedback. Reviews are treated like checkpoints, with the goal that the employee should never be surprised by anything brought up in the meeting.

Ideas you can borrow from a Facebook performance review

  1. Managers should review employee self-evaluations and peer evaluations before writing a manager assessment.
  2. Have 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.
  3. Use a formula for salary raises. That way, managers can focus on their rating rather than on translating it into an open-ended salary recommendation.
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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 Review: Decentralize Timing

Software giant Adobe stopped doing annual performance reviews when they realized it was eating up thousands of hours of managers’ time. Instead, they removed stack ranking and formal skill ratings and implemented regular “check-ins.” Check-in timing is determined by department rather than by trying to line up the whole company.

Ideas you can borrow from an Adobe performance review

  1. Give employees a dedicated resource, especially if you’re making big changes. Adobe created an employee resource center so employees knew where to go for templates, guidelines, and other materials.
  2. Model change from the top. Executives all need to be on board and actively using the new system.
  3. Make professional growth and development a dedicated part of the conversation. Talk about how the employee can grow within the company, rather than focusing solely on past performance.
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Key takeaway: Holding shorter, less formal meetings more frequently is a huge time-saver. Adobe estimates managers save over 100,000 hours a year with the new system.

Netflix Performance Review: Make Feedback Actionable

Netflix axed annual reviews a long time ago in favor of less formal, more frequent reviews. At the same time, they restructured peer feedback so employees stated what they thought peers should stop, start, or continue doing. With this method, there is always a balance of praise and critique, and employees get feedback they can easily set goals against.

Ideas you can borrow from a Netflix performance review

  1. Opt for transparency. Netflix initially allowed feedback to be anonymous, but they soon switched to signed and face-to-face feedback.
  2. Use a blank text-box review form with a suggested format. At Netflix, reviewers are encouraged to fill out a blank box using the stop/start/continue format.
  3. Use reviews as a chance to give context about the company’s goals and how employee goals fit into the business and culture as a whole.
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Key takeaway: Ask yourself and your team if the current review process reinforces your company values. For Netflix, annual reviews were at odds with their tenet of providing adequate context and feedback for employees to improve.

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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. Just as the Google performance-review strategy is different from the GE strategy, your company has to choose its own strategy. Look at top companies for ideas, and then make them your own. Follow Adobe’s lead and 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).

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