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Performance Management and Promotional Processes in Startups

Career Path
Handling Promotion

13 February, 2019

Raghu Battula

Raghu Battula

Sr Director of Engineering at Ripple

Raghu Battula describes how to create performance reviews and promotional processes for early stage startups.

Problem

There is an ongoing process of communication between team members and management around what effective performance looks like. In larger companies there is usually a system in place that provides feedback, accountability, and documentation for performance outcomes. However, in early stage startups, these procedures may not yet have been put in place. Here are ways for smaller organizations to approach performance management and promotional development.

Actions taken

  • First, begin by establishing a good cadence. Create a culture where goal setting is very important. Layout for your team a normalized way of setting up goals so that they have something to hold on to. Instituting a formalized cadence builds an operating mechanism within your teams that sets a mode to achieve objectives.
  • Next, give your team a bit more stretch work. It will then become necessary for them to approach you and for you to determine the prioritization of tasks. This will enable you to deliver the biggest bets first and to observe how employees manage their time and take direction.
  • Collect data and look for patterns in each of your engineers. When you work with your team members every day you have the advantage of learning their strengths and recognizing areas that they need help in. Use this knowledge during your one-on-one performance reviews to give constructive feedback and directional shifts to their work.
  • Promotions are based off of how well employees consistently perform. Consistency is important because you don't want to promote somebody and then have to move backward and operate at a lower level after you have already promoted them.
  • Duration is another factor to consider when promoting an employee. Look for a reasonable period of time, perhaps two or three months, and if that person is consistently performing well during that duration then approach the necessary management to make the promotion happen.
  • The timing of a promotion is critical. If someone is delivering well and consistent work, then think about promoting them immediately after the duration period. People who are promoted are more energized, more excited, and more motivated to go above and beyond their daily tasks. Essentially, by promoting a person you raise the bar for them and, thereby, increase productivity.
  • Consider conducting performance reviews every three months and announcing that promotions will be made at that time. This does not mean that you are required to give anyone a promotion, but it is a justifiable amount of time to evaluate team members after their one-on –ones. This will also ensure that there is a designated timeline in the promotional process.

Lessons learned

  • Casual goal-setting strategies leads to difficult conversations during performance reviews. You will be faced with tough questions that can only loosely be answered, thereby, making it more difficult for you to give concrete replies. Therefore, cadence is a necessary provision to performance management.
  • Clearly define and articulate the promotional process. Figure out simple titles or tiers and categorize your team members into those tiers based on criteria. This way everyone has hard evidence of where they stand and why.
  • Promotions and raises are two different things. Promotions always have raises but raises don't always need to be coordinated with a promotion.

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