Productivity · Leadership

Are employee reviews worth it?

Megan May UI Designer at Chicyy

November 16th, 2015

Deciding whether or not I want to implement employee reviews for my startup. Have others felt that this is beneficial and does growth stem from reviews of this sort? How often should these reviews take place & should all coworkers take part in the review of each other since we are such a small/transparent team?

Gabriel Magana-Gonzalez Highly experienced CTO/Engineer/Software Architect

November 16th, 2015

I absolutely vote for reviews, but you have to do them right. Use it as an opportunity to get feedback. Make sure the review is a two-way street. Use them to follow up on longer-term employee goals that you can miss on less formal more frequent one-on-ones. Use them to follow up on longer-term employee requests (two-way street). Use the employee review as well to make sure your employee is paid well (potentially give a raise if it's earned).

Don’t make mistakes that other companies make that give reviews a bad reputation. If you have a form for the manager and the employee to fill up, make sure it's short (1 page max). Make sure you ask the truly important questions only (how I feel I'm doing, in what did I do a good job, what do I need to improve, what do I need from the company? What did I want to accomplish in my career in the next X months/years? Add you own, non-BS questions.). Make it so the form does not need to have a book written in response to the questions. Have the employee submit the form to their manager before the review so the manager is ready and can address the questions.

If you're doing it right, the form takes less than an hour to fill (the answers must be thoughtful, after all) and the review should take half hour or less. 

Without formal review every X months (I'd suggest no less often then quarterly), you will miss very important stuff that's always less important than the fire you have in front of you (such as giving a raise, following up on long-term goals and promises, etc). If you do not have a periodic review process, then have something periodic that forces you to follow up on both the good and the bad about the employee.

Paul Murskov

November 16th, 2015

Hi Megan,

Lots of mixed opinions on this but from my standpoint 100% yes. 1000% yes. Reviews are crucial, both external and internal. Platforms like provide a transparent and effective way to get reviews for your company. It drives leads and candidates to inquire about your company at the same time. You should never be afraid of reviews because this is really the way to gauge how well you are doing as a leader. I strongly believe that if you are going to ask for a review - it should be something that is public so it provides value for your organization in terms of a BD play. If you are so inclined to do so, you can first ask for internal reviews and then after you gauge how well you are performing in the eyes of your team - you can request them to write something publicly. If you don't like what you are seeing - you can always make appropriate changes.

Hope this helps!

Patrina Mack Experts in global commercialization

November 16th, 2015

My experience with employee reviews is that they are a two way street. It's a chance for you to provide feedback but also get feedback. I think it's critical to 360 degree feedback. Fostering a culture of openness and establishing a mindset that we can all do better attracts high EQ employees. I know of a company where the staff are leaving because a co-founder is driving them away - startups can ill afford to lose valuable talent with deep product/company experience because someone on the team may manage up well but not know how to inspire a team to do their best. Also, as you're growing your team do you want them to vent on glassdoor and affect your future hires or would you rather know sooner when you can act on it?

NOTE:   I'm not proposing that the review feedback be universally shared verbatim but that employees feel that they can honestly share how they really feel and feel heard is critical however that works for the size and maturity of your organization.

Michael Lipson Executive Coach & Strategic Consultant

November 20th, 2015

Great string.  Have compiled into a valuable best practices summary.  Thx all. 

High EQ (emotional intelligence) makes reviews highly valuable, and the lack of EQ can actually make them damaging or costly.  

So while the string is fantastic, IMO an understated yet critical aspect is the attitudinal & human dynamic aspects that make reviews highest value.  There's a few mentions about openness (including bi-directional feedback) and building trust (start early on, make it part of culture.)  Yes yes yes!  

We could go much further on this - but a good start is to encourage the reviewer to incorporate CORE in their perspective and execution, and in so doing model/encourage employee to do same: 
  • Cooperation - we're on the same side and in this together
  • Ownership  - we each own some portion of your past & future performance
  • Respect - treat as a human being, not just a productive asset
  • Empathy - stand in your shoes. How's your work and performance review experience been, and what does it invite?

Ian Homer Coach To Executives and Business Owners

November 16th, 2015

Hi Megan,

I like to think of reviews like servicing my car. The only way to know what's going on under the hood is to have someone look at it and share what's going on. If you don't service it regularly - eventually any machine will break down. So...

In any team (but particularly in a newly formed or small team) it's crucial you build trust first. Get to know each other. Get into each other's lives a little - there's no short cut for doing this but the more you can build trust with each other, the rest becomes easier (much easier). With trust you can have great debate about the issues not the people.

People want to do more of what they're good at, be part of something more than just a job and, oh yes, get rewarded adequately.

Jobs change and evolve over time as you grow, so reviews will become necessary to make sure your team members remain aligned with what they're good at _and_ enjoy doing. Other 'stuff' has a habit of creeping into jobs over time that can be distracting and limiting for progress. Reviews will help you here.

How formal should they be? Just formal enough to make sure you don't miss anything and they are taken seriously.

As with anything in business, if it's not scheduled it wont get done. So plan to have reviews e.g. each quarter.

Hope that helped Megan.

Josan Wright Writer/Producer, Educator

November 22nd, 2015

Beautifully stated! josan

Adam Metz Vice President at TerrAvion

November 16th, 2015

Do you have clear MBOs

Brian Keller Technical Solutions Leader, Mobility/Cloud at AT&T

November 17th, 2015

If the review is done without the silly curves that many companies tend to apply to the workforce then there is value in a regular feedback session. 

Annually seems to be bit long. Often the annual review tends to be about what was done recently not a year in review. Leaders can't really remember what you did for them twelve months ago. So that kind of cycle seems to have some built in 

Consistent feedback towards the team is very useful however, you do need to be careful about frequency. Done too little, it isn't effective, done too often, it isn't effective. To me it is about your motivation for the review. What are you wanting to get from it? 

Having been in a very large company and watching it's review process I would say it isn't effective in the positive direction. Too inconsistent between the leaders. Some grade hard, some grade soft. 

No doubt employees need feedback, coaching, motivating, correction and the like. Building a high performance team is about tweaking things. Making sure there is clarity of expecations and then "inspect what you expect".

Good luck!

Betty Hasker Business Development Specialist - Start growing your business today!

November 16th, 2015

Agree Gabriel. Short and clear is the key, with plenty of opportunity for the conversation to be a 2 way street. Reviews are meant to encourage growth - both of the individual and the company. 

Paul Murskov

November 16th, 2015

Hi Hellen,

That's actually a great idea and we do this in an efficient way. We have a weekly call for about 30-45 minutes for a culture review. Its an open, structured discussion about what team members feel about the current state of the company and process. We discuss vision, values, needs, bottlenecks, process and of course short term and long term goals. BUT if the team member proposes a challenge we request that the person also proposes a solution the believe will solve the issue. What this enables us to do is quickly identify challenges and overcome them right then and there so there is no buildup of negativity / problems in operations. If you can create a culture that openly identifies challenges and helps propose solutions - you can move the business forward a lot faster.

Hope that helps!