As companies evolve and grow, so do their performance review processes. ScaleReal, a company that started with just 3 people and has now expanded to a team of 30 over the course of four years, has experienced firsthand the various phases of the performance review cycle.
Let’s discuss the different stages of ScaleReal’s growth journey and the unique challenges associated with our performance review processes during each phase.
1st Year — The Formative Years
Team Size: In its initial year, ScaleReal consisted of a tight-knit team of 4 employees.
Review Process: The performance review process was relatively straightforward and informal. We didn’t have any fixed Performance Review Cycles, and it was very easy to remember the performance review feedback of each and everyone since it was a very small team.
Challenges Faced: The main challenge during this phase was establishing a foundation for performance evaluation. The key objectives were to define clear expectations, set measurable goals, and create an environment of open communication.
2nd Year — Expanding the Team
Team Size: By the second year, ScaleReal had grown to a team of 10 employees.
Review Process: As the company expanded, the performance review process had to adapt accordingly. We decided to move forward with a Bi-Annual Performance Review Cycle. After every performance review cycle, we used to send the discussed pointers and action items/goals for the next review cycle to their respective emails, so that the mentors/managers and the team member could keep track of it.
Challenges Faced: The main challenge here was to search for these performance feedback emails during the next review cycles, which had the previously discussed pointers and action items/goals. Imagine going through a total of 20 emails i.e. 10 employees * 2 review cycles, sometimes we couldn’t even find a few of them. With more employees, it became crucial to implement a more structured and standardized approach to performance evaluations. This included developing performance metrics, conducting regular feedback sessions, and identifying areas for improvement.
3rd Year — Maturing Operations
Team Size: Entering its third year, ScaleReal’s team size increased to 20+ employees.
Review Process: By now, we had well-defined performance metrics (KRAs) for each team, managed and maintained in a Google Spreadsheet. With the spreadsheet, it became easy to rate (from 1 to 5) each KRA and to calculate the average rating for every team member based on their respective KRAs.
Challenges Faced: We still faced a lot of challenges maintaining these spreadsheets for a team of 20+ members and that too maintaining it twice a year. Plus, these ratings were given by their Project Managers and Tech Leads, so sharing these spreadsheets with everyone, and displaying these ratings to the respective team members during the Performance Review Meeting was a challenge. Giving edit access to multiple people could have caused some problems if by mistake someone had edited other’s ratings. It was a very tedious task to maintain these things and make sure everything was working smoothly during the performance review period.
With more mature operations, the company faced a new set of challenges in the performance review cycle. One significant challenge was the need for enhanced software for performance tracking, evaluation, and feedback processes.
4th Year’s 1st Review Cycle — Sustaining Growth
Team Size: By the fourth year, ScaleReal had expanded its team to 30+ employees, indicating substantial growth.
Review Process: For the 1st review cycle of the 4th year, we continued with what we were following till now. But with 30+ team members, we started to feel the heat. Most of the project managers and tech leads had to attend the performance review meeting of 7–10 employees, with all the data maintained in the spreadsheet. Each review meeting went on for at least 1 hour 30 mins since every team member also used to self-rate the KRA pointers according to them during these review meetings and we would discuss these ratings to mutually agree and conclude on the average rating. We realized that if we continue with the same process then everyone would get frustrated and it would be impossible to move forward.
Challenges Faced: The major challenges we faced during our 4th Year were:
- The time duration to complete the review cycle for all the 30+ team members was around 45–50 working days. This was mostly due to the unavailability of team members/project managers/tech leads, because of project deadlines, deliverables, different project meetings, and various other factors.
- It became difficult for the HR team to find a suitable time slot for the review meetings in which respective project managers and tech leads can join since they are the ones who have worked very closely with the team members and also the right people to give the review and ratings, based on their performance
- There was an urgent need to reduce the time of each review meeting from around 1 hour 30 mins to at least 1-hour maximum. To do this we needed a provision or software in which self-review and manager review can be done before they get to the review meeting, and during the review meeting, only those KRA pointers should be discussed which has a difference of opinion or if some other pointers needed to be added and discussed.
- It was getting hard for HR to keep track of each review meeting, ratings of each team member, action items or goals for the next review cycle, feedback (positive, improvement, and appreciation) received from other team members, etc.
- We were not able to generate any kind of reports or analytics on the performance of an employee or the overall company as it was hard to compile all the data and generate reports manually.
- Scalability and ensuring consistency and fairness in evaluations across the growing team had become our primary challenge. So we started looking for software that can help us with these processes, but most of the good software applications that we checked were too costly and out of our budget. Also, some of the software was offering the full HRMS service which we were not looking for as most of the other things were covered in our current HRMS software.
4th Year’s 2nd Review Cycle — Building SkillWatch
Our Focus: As we realized that we can’t move forward without a software platform and most of the good applications that provided easy 360-Degree Feedback and Performance Review Processes were too costly for startups like us to afford, we immediately started building our in-house product called SkillWatch.
SkillWatch: Designed to streamline the process for everyone involved — https://skillwatch.app/
Our main focus was to build an MVP version of SkillWatch within 4–5 months and test it internally during our 2nd Review Cycle. Since we already knew the challenges faced during the last 4 years it was a bit easy to narrow down the features and work on it. Yes, it needed a lot of iterations and brainstorming.
Finally, our incredible team made it possible and we launched SkillWatch internally during our 2nd Review Cycle. It was amazing to see it fully functional and everyone using it.
- We reduced our usual 45 days Performance Review Process to almost 20 days.
- It was easy to track the progress of the Performance Review Process for the HR team.
- All the data were stored in a proper way making it very easy to view the performance of each and every team member.
- Due to different system roles like Org Admin, HR, Manager, and Employees, it became very easy to manage and share the information as certain access was restricted to only specific roles.
- It wasn’t a tedious process anymore and even if now our team expands to 100+ we are not really worried about the feedback and performance review process.
- We didn’t have to spend around INR 25,000 (USD 300) for a 30 people team per month.
- We built most of the basic features which are needed for a startup:
- 360-Degree Feedback
- Performance Review Cycle
- Define KRAs and Goals
- Reports for HR Team
- Data-driven Dashboard
- Request For Feedback
- Wall of Fame
- Employee Ratings
- Slack Integration
- Easy to set up and easy-to-use application.
- Since we tested out the product internally and we were confident about the product, now the main challenge was to release it to the outside world.
- We had to make sure different companies using different Email services like Gmail, Zoho, and Microsoft were able to log in using their accounts.
- We started giving demos to different clients so that we could get early feedback, but getting their valuable time to schedule a demo call was a task.
- We got really good suggestions from various companies and now it was our responsibility to prioritize these tasks.
- Currently, we are working on different integrations like Slack, Teams, etc. Also, integrations with a lot of AI tools. Different companies might need different integrations with many other tools/apps.
- Another challenge is to make sure our application is following different compliances needed for different countries.
- Making sure our Pricing Plan is kept as low as possible so that the startups can afford it.
- Different companies might have different ways of doing their performance review process and it might be difficult for us to cater to all those processes.
As ScaleReal entered its fifth year, the launch of the SkillWatch application for Performance Review and 360-Degree Feedback marked a pivotal point in the company’s growth and commitment to employee development. SkillWatch streamlined processes, enhanced efficiency, and facilitated a culture of continuous improvement.
It’s important to remember that every company’s growth journey is unique, and the challenges faced may vary. Nevertheless, by understanding the distinct phases and adapting the feedback and performance review process to meet evolving needs, businesses can build a strong foundation for employee success and organizational growth.
Thank you for reading…!!