Greenhouse: Performance management drives engagement at a “Best Place to Work”
Greenhouse is a New York-based tech company offering an enterprise talent acquisition suite that helps companies make hiring a competitive advantage. With forward-thinking customers like Airbnb, Pinterest, and Dropbox. Greenhouse is currently Glassdoor’s #1 Best Place to Work for SMB companies.
Growth is core to the Greenhouse culture. On the company’s Glassdoor page, one former sales rep writes, “Tons of opportunities for growth, great compensation and perks, a sense of purpose at work, and good managers—Greenhouse is the real deal.”
A new need for performance management to engage employees
About the problem
Greenhouse’s People team was tasked with talent management in a time of hypergrowth from 45 to 200 employees in one year. As Cheryl Roubian, Greenhouse’s Director of Talent, says, “With our rapid growth, our employees needs changed rapidly too. For instance, while there hadn’t been a need for more formalized performance management processes at a 45-employee company, by the time they reached 200 people, employees were hungry for it”.
At the start, Greenhouse didn’t have any for performance management framework. Some organic development conversations occurred on small teams but didn’t scale. Rapid company growth and evolving team structures made it more difficult for employees to identify career growth opportunities.
“Depending on what part of the organization you were in, you might have had a lot of time talking about development with your manager or very little. You might have had a very clear path for growth or none at all.”
Cheryl Roubian, Director of Talent at Greenhouse
Roll performance management out with highest value activities first
To roll out performance management for the first time, Greenhouse conceptualized performance management in three parts: development, expectation-setting (goals), and evaluation. Cheryl says, “It felt important to focus on development and expectation-setting first. If people don’t know what’s expected of them and how to improve, the evaluation piece becomes a lot less important. By focusing on expectation-setting and development, (a) your employees get more immediate benefit from the process, and (b) you have a clearer picture of what you’re evaluating.” To do this, Cheryl started by rolling out what Greenhouse calls “Lookback/Outlook”.
Lookback/Outlook is a quarterly touchpoint between managers and their direct reports. The activity provides a framework for employees to drive a conversation both about the previous quarter’s accomplishments and obstacles and also about expectations for the upcoming quarter. It’s also an opportunity to discuss the employee’s plans for development and how the manager can support them.
To accomplish this, Greenhouse uses the self-reflections feature of Culture Amp’s Performance solution, which serves as an employee self-review. The feature gives a framework for and documents these conversations so that employees and their managers can reference them during future Lookback/Outlook cycles. Culture Amp’s Performance solution also gives Greenhouse’s People team visibility into participation both from staff and from managers.
Lookback focuses on three topics
A reflection on the previous quarter, with questions like:
- What did you accomplish? What are you most proud of?
- What are 1–2 things you feel like you could have done better this past quarter and why/how could they have been better?
Goals for the upcoming quarter, with questions like:
- What are you trying to accomplish next quarter? What are your goals, learnings, projects, targets you want to hit, etc.?
- What are 1–2 skills or traits you want to learn or develop this quarter? What specific actions or tasks will you take to get there?
How the manager and employee work together, with questions like:
- What are some things about the way we work together that help you be successful?
- How do you think we could work together better?
Greenhouse utilized the Manager Prompts capability within the platform to drive meaningful manager-employee conversations with prompts like:
- How would you prioritize the impact of the accomplishments your team members has listed?
- How you would prioritize these projects/goals/initiatives? Are these things reasonable to accomplish In a 3-month period? Should some of these be stretch goals?
- Do these skills/traits make sense in the context of what the person is trying to accomplish this quarter? Does it look like the actions/tasks will start this person on the right track to get there?
A direct correlation between participation and employee engagement
While Greenhouse had already run three full Lookback/Outlook cycles, it wasn’t until they implemented Culture Amp’s performance solution, linking the process to engagement results that they were able to connect the dots and truly see the bigger picture. Now, the Greenhouse team could actually quantify how participation in this process impacted levels of engagement, learning, and development across the organization.
The results showed a very strong positive correlation between employees who completed a Lookback/Outlook cycle and sentiment across almost every other factor in the survey; the most notable sentiment was around opportunities for learning and growth. That correlation was even stronger for employees whose managers commented on their self-reflection. Using the Culture Amp platform, Greenhouse was now able to deeply understand the cross-sectional impact of their performance process on company-wide engagement – allowing them to drive their people strategy using data-driven insights. “We included Lookback/Outlook participation as a demographic in our engagement survey. It was awesome to be able to validate the positive impact of participating in this activity with data.”
“Performance management is a pretty crowded space. There are a lot of options out there that all do very similar things. We chose Culture Amp for two reasons: 1) they were philosophically in lock step with how we think about performance management and it shows in the way they’ve built their app, and 2) working with their team has always felt like working with the Greenhouse team. They’re smart, thoughtful, and were great partners to us long before we ever signed a contract.”
Cheryl Roubian, Director of Talent at Greenhouse