Yearly Reviews - The good parts

The yearly or half yearly performance reviews are the things every one looks forwards to, loves and hates. This is the only process where people get emotional and the details are personal. There are companies which only do only self reviews and those who add a 360° feedback. On the other hand there are startups where this process is cranky and screwed up( err., not so well organised). We hate the tools the HRs choose and the way the tools get stuck to on the last hour when everyone is trying to submit/finalize their reviews.

The self review feedback where I have from couple of friends that the feedback is only between you and your manager. This usually is biased since its only important what your manager thinks and your alignment with him along with the goals. Your manager does this for all others in the company. Your manager “may” get feedback from others, but “may” not be included. This is how startups or small companies which care of deadlines usually think. Its good for the employees short term since they only see what their manager wants them to see. (*depending on the manager).

Introducing the 360° feedback, startups transition to this when they usually want to have “changes” in policy and when they feel that 1-1 / self review feedback has had enough biases and see reports people are unhappy or when someone in the chain is unhappy. There are downsides to the 360° feedback as well. This does not work so well for introverts since they may not like to work well with others especially on the communication part which is crucial. If you are a senior developer, you get lots of requests. Middle Managers and Product Managers usually tend to get much more than 40 since they deal with many people.

About the financial aspect of things, is where different companies try to show different tactics. Some have fixed component based on your “rating” across 5 levels and decides how much increment you are eligible for and the bonus part of it also changes based on the currently vesting stock options(from previous years that have been granted) and some stock vesting grant for the future. Some companies tend to payout as a “variable” bonus which the employees look forward a lot to.

(getting side tracked here, open “details” if you want to read more)

In the current generation of corporate sector, the people are in a state where they “feel bad” if someone your experience is getting a higher salary than you or worse if a fresher makes even a penny more than you. Companies are okay with employees moving around (the iteration) and they care more about money given to employees than the amount of money kept to retain them. (This is only about local companies established with a sense of money and not a damn about people like the standard service based companies which employ freshers and fake them as 5yr experience to clients who blindly accept them. Not any two companies are the same. some suck more than others)

The “screwed up” process based companies (where I have experienced in a proclaimed “furniture startup” which does e-commerce) tend to work that every employee is responsible for the revenues the company make and cut your bonus based on that. This is the SOP in Indian based service companies where your actual take home is 70% of your CTC (after taxes). Even though you are not responsible directly or even indirectly for your company’s sales or pace of growth and if you want to do something to increase it, you will have to spend your own time to do it since you are busy with by existing deadlines and last minute feature creeps which did not exist 1 hour ago. I will explain how choosing such a company has impacted me and how you can avoid making the same mistake. I think I can write a PRD about how a company should not be, but I think I will limit it a post.

The good parts about the feedback reviews at companies is that, I really liked the way it was done at Amazon. Amazon has 15 principles. Any business decision you do is usually backed by it. There are some conflicting principles, but they really really help cover many parts of what you tried to do. Amazon Leadership Principles. If you are a developer, some code/features or design changes you have done may not fall into any of the categories. Your code does not have meaning till it solves a business problem or solution.

Every company should have such or similar principles where you can link any business action you have done which gives you a clear idea on what is right and what may be wrong in the decision you have taken. There are points for being wrong or right, which means that there are points for “trying” and being responsible.

Amazon Leadership Principles

I don’t currently work at Amazon anymore, but I love their principles. The amount of clarity it brings to you when you are reflecting on your previous year and the actions you have done is immense. Even if you are very small company or a startup, you should start using your feedback reviews with your company’s principles. I don’t see startups doing this, but it’d make a hell lot of a culture stick to your employees on what the CXX thinks and the company aims for.

Culture is created by what you publicly reward, not what you say