When a company is in its early days, there probably won't be much of a performance review process in place. Reviews and reflections happen organically with a small team, and the structure or resources are generally not in place to implement a detailed process. 

For the past six years, we've held performance reviews at ThirdLove on the anniversary of each teammate's hiring. But at the beginning of this year, we realized we had to make a change. 

Our team was asking for more clarity and structure in the review process. Managers were struggling to assess the performance of their entire team because everyone's reviews happened at different times. Compounding that problem, our growth over the past few years meant that teams were becoming too big to effectively track individual hiring dates. 

So, we spent a few months revamping our process. Now, everyone's reviews happen at the same time, rather than haphazardly throughout the year. 

If you're considering changing your own process, I'd recommend taking these steps before you roll it out to the team.

Set goals based on your team's request. 

Before you roll out a new review process, you should understand what goals you want it to achieve--and your team should be involved in helping set those goals. 

Listen to what they tell you about their current problems or what they'd like to see. For instance, we knew that we needed to create consistency in the review process. So managers now evaluate their entire team together, which ensures everyone is being reviewed based on the same time period and accomplishments. Our goal is to keep everyone on track and have regular, meaningful conversations about performance. 

However you decide to hold your reviews, you need to make sure the process is transparent and the reviews themselves are equitable and fair. The team has to feel that a structure and process are in place that will be followed and that they have clarity around what's expected of them. 

The best way to do that is by listening to and addressing any of their issues or concerns. 

Offer training to get everyone on the same page. 

The goal of any good review process is to avoid surprises come review time. Everyone should be working with the same information and the same expectations.

That means before you can roll out your new review process, your managers need to be on the same page about their roles and responsibilities throughout the review process.

For instance, in our new review system, there are five different ratings a teammate can receive. We had to make it clear that if a team was performing well, the vast majority would be receiving an "On Target" designation. Often, managers will feel the urge to give their team superlative ratings, which is only natural if they're performing well. But if everyone is "redefining expectations," then that designation becomes essentially meaningless. 

Before we could move forward with the review, we had to ensure all the managers had the same understanding of what it meant to be "On Target" or any of the other four designations.

If you want to achieve consistency and clarity in your performance review process, you have to make sure the people doing the evaluating are all working with a common set of rules and guidelines. 

Calibrate expectations across roles.

Clarity and structure are paramount when it comes to performance reviews.

As your company grows, you may discover that people with the same titles (associate, assistant, director, etc.) are being evaluated differently across the company. 

If that's the case, you have to identify and define the expectations at each level--regardless of the department. Even though the roles may be very different, there are still expectations regarding professionalism, collaboration, leadership, and management that need to be met at each level. If you can calibrate those expectations across the company, then your team will have a better idea of how they're performing and what they'll need to do to move up. 

During the review process, both the managers and teammates will be working with the same understanding of what it means to be at a certain level within the company. 

No two companies are exactly the same, and your performance review process should always reflect your team's unique needs and culture. But if you focus on achieving clarity and consistency, rolling out a new review system will come with fewer issues and plenty of rewards for teammates and the company at large. 

Published on: Oct 2, 2019
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