One of the most important parts of our fourth quarter is our employee review process. Though we hold a mid-year review and provide frequent feedback to our employees throughout the year, it’s beneficial to end the year by reviewing past goals and creating new ones. It provides a nice stopping point before we close for the holidays.
I’ve been Vector’s HR Manager since the middle of 2015 and joined full time towards the end of the year. Getting this process working correctly and benefiting our team as much as possible was one of my most important early initiatives.
As this was my first review cycle at Vector, I worked to streamline the process. Reviews up to this point were very time consuming and we did not want to create something that burdened our employees and wasted their time. To fix this, I pared down the unnecessary and repetitive questions that had been asked in past reviews, many of which did not add to the discussion and placed more value on inconsequential standards instead of the successes of each employee. Our new review process focused on growth over the last 6 months. We also asked each employee if there were any tasks or projects that they were not currently working on which they would like to.
The most important thing that comes from each review are new 6-month goals for each employee. The employees work with their manager to mutually agree on a handful of small goals, as well as 1 or 2 larger picture goals. These are tracked and referred back to periodically throughout the year. Employees are not penalized for not hitting their goals; instead they are a nice benchmark to compare where the employee thought they would be versus where they ended up.
This year, we also decided to include peer reviews in our process. We believed that peer reviews provide greater insight into each department and the dynamics of our employees that an individual review alone cannot provide. According to a study done by Globoforce, 80% of employees see peer reviews as more accurate than reviews done by a manager. Peers have daily interactions that each manager does not always have and are more likely to recognize each other’s small successes. These reviews are presented anonymously to the recipient and we emphasized the need for constructive criticism. Employees were asked to describe successes their peer has had over the last 6 months and to provide information about communication with their peer and its impact on workflow. Employees could also write short comments about anyone with whom they may not have day-to-day contact.
In addition to each employee’s personal review, employees also reviewed their managers in a completely confidential review. It was very important to us to have these reviews be completely confidential so employees would feel comfortable being open and honest. The most common feedback that we received from this process regarded transparency of decisions and future department changes. This feedback is monumental in evolving from a small company with 1 employee to a company with 32 employees (and counting!). As we continue to grow, we must continue to evolve our management style as the needs and requirements of our employees continue to grow.
Going beyond personal reviews, each employee also reviewed Vector’s culture and benefits. We asked employees what we can do as a company to help them be more productive, what they would like us to do as a company, and how we could improve. As we are a small yet fast growing company, we wanted to make sure that all of our employees felt valued and listened to. This will hopefully in turn increase happiness and productivity and help employee retention rates.
This entire review process was done within Google Forms. I created a Self-Assessment form and a Peer Review form. Once employees completed their reviews, we compiled their self-assessment and peer reviews with the help of a small PHP program written by Partner and Vector Co-Founder, Matt Weinberg. The program arranged the peer reviews in a randomized order in order to further anonymize reviews, and created a sendable PDF “packet” for each person. Employees were sent this PDF packet 90 minutes before their review meeting. All managers created “appointment slots” in their Google Calendars for employees to book themselves whatever review time was most convenient.
We hold salary compensation meetings separate from the entire review process and make that clear before beginning the process. This makes our reviews more productive and allows an actual dialogue between employee and manager, without the focus being on a potential salary bump. Employees are more comfortable discussing possible failures if the meeting is not tied to compensation.
Though our current method is working for us and our employees, the review process is constantly evolving. It looks like a trend may be doing away with the review process completely; however, we believe the review process still holds value at Vector and have found that these few changes have led to a huge improvement in both the charted success of each employee as well as maintaining and open and honest company culture.
(And, thanks so much to Dave DeRuchie at Happy Cog, who was kind enough to share his process with us last year and who we borrowed a lot of good ideas from!)