Using performance reviews to build an engineering team that serves company and individual goals

By February 17, 2019 Engineering, ScaleUp Heroes

In the beginning, startup companies build a team with an entrepreneurial spirit, attracting employees with a sense of adventure and drive to create something impossible. At this stage, performance reviews are more like open conversations about company success and next steps.

But as companies start to scale up, the performance review structure starts to seriously come into the picture. Here companies have to decide: how can we build a system that benefits the goals of our company while also giving employees what they need to succeed in their role and further along in their careers?

This week’s episode of the ScaleUp Heroes podcast is a discussion about how to structure performance reviews for your scaling engineering team. Featuring Ryan Foland of Influence TreePedro Torres of TalkdeskBob Vincent of BetterCloud, and Dieter Wachters of Collibra, Inc. NYC.

Focus on more than operational success

For a team of engineers, management must have a concerted awareness of how they present feedback sessions to their group. If they’re too loosely defined, team members might find themselves heading down a discussion of coding and operational improvement — rather than using it as an opportunity to speak broadly with a more global view of their own success.

For this reason, Dieter Wachters uses a checklist method in his feedback sessions with his engineering team at Collibra. He finds that with designated speaking topics, you can encourage your team members to speak to their job over just specific codes they’re working on.

Plus, this means there’s less room for surprises and more time for exploring the future of each specific employee. As leaders, this should be on our list of to-dos.

It is, however, very easy for distractions and day-to-day tasks to get in the way of developing a specific future for our employees with the company and beyond. But there is more we can do with performance reviews to ensure that employees are getting what they need.

Using a ‘push and pull’ strategy to give your team members more

While it’s easy to leave engineers to their work, companies should find ways to challenge employees to think in the long-term. Finding the ‘push and pull’ — or balance between getting things done and encouraging engineers to come out of their bubble of work — is something that can come about through performance reviews.

Bob Vincent employs smart goals in his team at BetterCloud, supported by regular and continuous feedback. He finds that this encourages employees to plan for their career before time flies away from them.

By making regular lunch and learns easy to attend, as well as asking that the engineering team contribute to company initiatives like blog posts, Vincent keeps professional growth at the top of his team’s mind.

For more on how to develop the right performance review strategy for your engineering team, listen to the full episode of this week’s ScaleUp Heroes podcast in SoundCloud. Then, keep listening and keep scaling — the next episode goes live on Monday. And if you want to know more about ScaleUp Academy initiatives, calendar and purpose, join our community by subscribing to the ScaleUp Academy newsletter.