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How to create an effective performance management process: Getting started

Think back at the moment you’ve felt most appreciated and recognized. No, not just in your career, in your life. Close your eyes and take yourself back.

Next, think back to a time you’ve been told you aren’t good enough. Again, close your eyes and take yourself back to that moment.

Most likely, you can remember the exact moments and some oddly specific details of them, even if they were decades ago. The color the other person was wearing. The way your head heated up. The details specific to you and the unique value you add to the world. The carefulness or carelessness of how the information was delivered. Sharing the moment with trusted others once it passed. These details may not even be completely accurate at this point but you can still remember the emotions and how they changed you, for better or worse.

Try to never forget these moments when participating in creating them for others, as well as for yourself.

At the heart of any exceptional performance management processes is remembering we’re all human. Once you’re in the business of humans, moments, and emotions, you’re in the business of complexity.

At the head of any exceptional performance management process is connecting to the purpose of every individual, ultimately leading to growth and retention within your organization.

Therefore, exceptional performance management processes recognize it will be complicated and it will never be perfect, but it will be worth it. You’ll have to adapt with the organization and colleagues within it as well as continuously apply new best practices other leaders have tested.

This is all well and good, but to be honest I’ve been guilty of creating, accepting, and participating in less than exceptional performance management processes myself.

Two years ago at Cobalt, we were a humble, small company of 25 people, predominantly located in San Francisco. Like many small companies, the visible high-performing individual with the manager who cared would get a review and compensation increase.

We’re now at 100+ colleagues globally with performance management processes that strive to be exceptional and fair. According to our monthly engagement surveys, we consistently rank among the top 5% of tech companies for recognition, reward, and growth.

Everyone should be recognized for meaningful contributions. High-performing colleagues should be rewarded, and low-performing colleagues should be given support.

In order to achieve this, over the last year we’ve developed:

  1. Our Values

  2. Career paths outlining expectations of each role and level

  3. Compensation analysis and structure specific to team, responsibilities/role, level, and region

  4. Reviews including guides for makers (individual contributors) and managers

Over the next couple months, we’ll be sharing how we’ve created and adapted these processes in our quest for exceptional performance management to achieve, grow, recognize, and celebrate results. These are the moments we’ll all carry with us.

Interested in learning more about a career at Cobalt? Check out our Life at Cobalt page to hear more.

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About Kate Turkawski
With more than 7 years of experience in HR, Kate is Cobalt’s Manager of People Operations. Driven by her passion for community and the future of work, she devotes her time to developing the company's dynamic, collaborative and engaging environment, and has much to share on how to support the development of diverse talent. More By Kate Turkawski