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Thoughts, trends, and research for designing
high-performance cultures


4 Things We Learned by Interviewing High-Performing Companies

Posted by Caroline Van Dyke

on Dec 5, 2017 7:45:50 PM

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When you take a look at companies with high-performance cultures, what sets them apart? A mindset of growth, learning, and innovation. While building a process that promotes high-performance is different for every organization, there are a few key steps successful organizations take to ensure their employees reach their potential. First, they separate performance measurement from performance development. Additionally, they have a robust, simple framework that makes sure employees have the right resources and coaching they need to reach their goals. 
It can be daunting to find a place to start, so let's take a peek at four tips from companies that have successfully built high-performance cultures:

1. Drive engagement in the face of growth with meaningful check-ins

How do you make sure employees are engaged and developing while team dynamics shift? This was a particularly notable accomplishment for Greenhouse’s People team, which was tasked with talent management in a time of hypergrowth—growing 4x in size in one year. With no prior formal performance management process, they needed to find a way to scale development conversations to make an impact.

They came upon a new cadence and standard, the Lookback/Outlook, which is a quarterly touchpoint between managers and their direct reports. The activity provides a framework for employees to drive a conversation both about the previous quarter’s accomplishments and obstacles and also about expectations for the upcoming quarter. It’s also an opportunity to discuss the employee’s plans for development and how the manager can support them.

“We included Lookback/Outlook participation as a demographic in our engagement survey. The results weren’t really unexpected, but it was awesome to be able to validate the positive impact of participating in this activity with data.”

CHERYL ROUBIAN
Director of Talent at Greenhouse

2. Involve employees in the overhaul of your performance management process

In order to gauge the gaps in their performance management process, Amy Dobler made it a point to gather feedback from employees before reshaping their program. She administered a survey, and the results showed a clear disconnect between the experience at Jive and an ideal performance review process.

After gathering qualitative, in-depth information from employees, Jive set out to make key changes. To measure performance for compensation decisions, Jive decoupled compensation conversations from the quarterly manager check-ins. This made the significant shift away from merit-based increases, where performance was the single indicator of an increase, to a more holistic salary review program in which contributions and market data, relative to your peers, drive compensation decisions.

This reinforced the cultural value of transparency, allowing leaders and employees to share multi-directional and continuous feedback with one another to promote a high-performance culture. 

3. Build feedback into culture as an expectation, especially through onboarding

How do you encourage employees to regularly give each other feedback? At Enjoy, feedback is an important part of company culture for all employees, and they wanted a more robust process to see greater peer-to-peer engagement in order to drive high-performance. They knew that feedback led to greater growth and development opportunities and sparked important conversations between communication loops. 

They decided to focus on feedback during new hire onboarding and they chose to make the switch from anonymized feedback to “named” feedback, so everyone would know who was giving them peer-to-peer feedback. This took feedback from just another process to a cultural expectation. 

4. Focus on democratizing feedback so that performance data is well-rounded

Midtown International School was looking for a way to transition its inefficient and informal evaluation process into a more feedback-driven, well-rounded performance management process. They wanted peers to be able to get more feedback outside of just superior to direct report, so they focused on democratizing feedback. In particular, they focused on using templates in order to drive actionable feedback.

“Using feedback templates has really challenged the team to think about how to constructively effect change, and to not just list positives. By touching on one thing someone could have done better in a template, it really allows peers to receive feedback that pushes them to develop.”

KASCHA ADELEYE
Elementary Coordinator

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Topics: Performance Management