Why you should focus on impact and contribution during performance reviews.
We’ve put impact and contribution in the center of our feedback cycle. Here is how and why I advise you to do the same.
At the end of 2017, Rick and I were discussing the plan for the next feedback cycle (a.k.a. performance reviews). Rick felt like we were missing out by not focussing on our people’s biggest contributions and actual impact in the performance reviews. I must say I was hesitant. People like working at Blendle because they notice how steep the learning curve is and how much they grow and learn. So why not focus on personal goals, personal growth and maybe even milestones or personal KPI’s?
Up till now the performance reviews and feedback sessions did have that as main focus. But thankfully, Rick was persistent. We switched focus and I can happily admit it worked. I noticed how new things popped up, new ideas arose and new perspectives appeared. Let me try to explain.
If you look at these two sets of questions, you’ll (hopefully) notice how each one affects the way you think about performance differently:
What went well? What could have gone better? In what areas/skills are you doing really well? What areas should improve? How would you rate your overall work? How would you rate your drive? What could you do to improve that rating? What skills would you like to learn? What knowledge would you like to gain?
What was your impact? What did you contribute? What was your share? What did you add that made a difference? How can you increase your impact? What do you want to contribute the coming period? How are you going to do that? What skills, knowledge, experience or resource do you need to achieve that goal?
The first set of questions focuses on personal growth and improvement. The second set takes your thoughts on performance to a higher plane: Okay you did good, but what did you actually achieve? That’s pretty next level — and way more abstract than the feedback you would get from the first set of questions.
The second set starts with what is most important. I believe this is key in a company where it’s do or die. You want everyone to constantly think about impact and the bigger picture. Am I doing what is most important for the company? The feedback sessions (a.k.a. performance reviews) turned out to be a great starting point for this line of thinking.
Why is that so important?
I believe it answers the most essential questions we have about our work: why am I doing this and does it matter?
Personal development of individuals at a startup should tie into the company goals. They joined because they believe in what you are trying to achieve and saw an opportunity to add something significant.
Focussing on impact makes it abundantly clear how important the work people do is and where they stand. People want to add value, have purpose and know that they’re effort serves a greater good. This will create a longer-lasting satisfaction then checking off a personal goal about learning a new skill, reading a book or visiting a conference. It feeds one of the biggest drivers we human beings have: your work matters. You matter.
As a bonus, good people will progress and improve. They will progress because contributing something significant forces them to stretch themselves (and others). It will force them to reinvent themselves, their work, their skills and capabilities. Along the road they will discover new talent, skills, knowledge, interest, confidence and ambition. When looking back, seeing your actual impact feeds pride and motivation. All of these factors are crucial to personal growth. All you have to focus on next is giving your people the right surroundings: time, space, budget and hire really good people for them to work with.
Focussing on impact and contribution creates clarity. A lot of HR related topics become easier when looking at them from an impact-point-of-view. Hiring is easier. Firing is easier. Even salary raises are easier. It makes a lot of decisions and conversations easier because you start at the root.
In my experience, the feedback cycle is a good starting point for this. We added the second set of questions (or some of them) to the form for written reviews. We removed most of the ratings and questions about personal development. This form is filled in by peers, team leads and the colleague themselves. After that we discussed the questions during the feedback session. It’s so valuable to take time and look back at achievements that are recognized by your peers and your team lead. Looking ahead also becomes more fun: what would you like to achieve in 6 months? That’s a though question. You’ll be amazed by what you hear (or at least I was).
I really hope you try it out. If you do, please let me know how it worked out and if you have any tips for me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks a lot Anna for making all the above understandable and readable. Also thanks to all my Blendle colleagues who let me try out new stuff, make mistakes and stay supportive.