How Knotel Practices Performance Management with Lattice

Knotel designs, builds, and operates custom spaces for established and growing companies, allowing them to focus on growing business instead of dealing with long-term leases.

How Knotel Practices Performance Management with Lattice

Lattice Plan

Platform w/ Premium Support

Location

New York City, San Francisco, London, Berlin

Industry

Commercial Real Estate

Size

150-200 Employees

Meet the People Team

How Knotel Practices Performance Management with Lattice

Elliot Epstein

Head of People Operations

Elliot started his career in recruiting before expanding into talent development and core HR operations. He joined Knotel in June 2017 to build and scale the People Operations team.

“You need to train people in it, tell them how it’s going to be used and what it means - not in a way that’s scary, but in a way that gives them full visibility into the process.”

Challenge

Elliot Epstein, Knotel’s Head of People Operations, joined the company in 2017 and one of his major goals was to “implement a rigorous, meaningful, and manageable performance management system to ensure that Knotel maintained its high bar for performance as we prepared to double in size.”

“Prior to using Lattice, there was no performance management process in place. Feedback occurred informally and on the fly, but we didn’t stop to take stock of what we had accomplished, what our major development opportunities were, and how to forge the path ahead.”

“Keep in mind that we were still a very young company, and most people had not been with Knotel for more than a few months. We had just closed a Series A and we were beginning to scale. Everyone agreed that performance management was a top priority as we prepared to double the size of the company.”

Evaluation

Elliot led the search for a performance management platform, surveying the market and leaning on his network of People leaders for recommendations.  

Several people in his network suggested Lattice. “I had good back-channel references from People leaders who were using the product already. I had a number of demo calls with Lattice and also considered a couple of other platforms.”

Having a dedicated account manager was essential because Elliot wanted to have high-touch support during the implementation process. That requirement eliminated smaller vendors that only offer online documentation or chat support.

Elliot ran a thorough vetting process to verify that Lattice would meet all of his team’s needs--from OKR (objectives and key results) management, to real-time feedback, to customizable review processes. Following the demo calls, he had a few back-and-forth question-and-answer sessions with the the Lattice team and became confident that the platform was the right choice for Knotel.

Implementation

Rather than trying to get the entire company to start using all of Lattice’s features at once, Elliot rolled each feature out according to Knotel’s key priorities at the time.

“When I first launched Lattice in October of 2017, the main priority was establishing company, team, and individual OKRs, so the rollout focused on that. The company directory and feedback features were fairly intuitive too, so I included those as well."

"I also told everyone that performance reviews would be done through Lattice later, but didn’t train the company on it until it was time to actually do them. By then they were accustomed to using the tool and more receptive to learning new features.”

OKRs

Getting a company to use OKRs ensures that individuals align their work to their team’s priorities and company priorities. OKRs are highly motivating because they provide accountability and help individuals put their work in the context of how it serves the broader organization. OKRs are great for passive feedback because individuals can see how they’re performing against their goals and self-calibrate.  

Elliot trained the Knotel team on OKRs in groups when he first rolled out the Lattice platform and incorporated it into the training for new hire onboarding.  

“Educating people on the structure itself is important. Part of it is knowing that you can edit OKRs mid-way through. You’re not supposed to necessarily hit each key result that you set for yourself but there is a lot value in being ambitious and tracking your progress.”

It’s also important to remind people that goals will be part of the performance review process.

“In a performance review framework, you should not only consider whether a person reached their OKRs, but how they handled OKRs they missed. ‘Did they make smart trade-offs and prioritize strategically?’, ‘Are they generally acting with ambition or are they sand-bagging and playing things safe?’”

Feedback & Praise

Elliot also trained the team on how to give and receive feedback during the Lattice implementation process and developed a “Feedback 101” training that all staff members receive in their first month at Knotel.

Delivering constructive feedback can be a sensitive issue, so Elliot developed guidelines on how to give and receive feedback. "Making everything specific and actionable and operating with emotional intelligence is key."

He advises that it’s best to deliver feedback privately in person first, then document it later in Lattice. “You shouldn’t post constructive feedback publicly. Someone should not receive constructive feedback for the first time in Lattice.”

Team members should also “close the loop” on constructive feedback. “If you’ve had a constructive conversation, [Lattice] is a fine place to document it but it’s important then to follow up a few weeks later if you’ve seen an improvement based on the conversation to be able to say ‘I’ve seen a lot of changes, and I think we’ve turned the corner. I really appreciate the work that you’ve put in to this.’ That way the written record will show the feedback and the subsequent improvement.”

The team also uses the feedback tool to praise each other for good work. Making praise public is fantastic for recognition and helps strengthen company culture. The People team has started including screenshots of Lattice feedback to highlight kudos in company communications.

Updates & 1:1s

Doing weekly updates and 1:1 meetings creates tighter feedback loops by creating a regular check-in process for managers and direct reports.

Having two different tools running on a weekly cadence can be confusing to employees. Elliot explains to employees that “1:1s are like a project management tool while updates are a synopsis of your week that sets the stage for a more productive conversation.”

“It’s about front-loading support to make sure that communication is open and that managers are unblocking anything that’s preventing someone from being productive. It’s good to have a regular cadence because it can normalize the feedback process. There’s less pressure if it’s happening weekly rather than having it happen in an end-of-year review.”

“Sometimes people assume that you’re on the same page if you sit near someone and chat informally during the day. That’s not actually true. You need dedicated, focused time.”

Elliot is happy to report that the “many people are now having 1:1s with their managers” since deploying Lattice. Managers were having 1:1 meetings prior to using Lattice, but having them in a tool gives them more importance.

Updates give employees a quick way to report on what they’re doing and bring up any obstacles. “Managers can customize the questions to be whatever you want. It’s about getting a true sense of how people are spending their time, discovering what you can unblock for them, and seeing how they’re feeling.”

Performance Reviews

The final piece of the performance management program is the performance review. Knotel runs two formal review cycles per year, a mid-year review and a year-end review.  

Knotel had a 98.8% completion rate for its most recent year-end review cycle. Elliot had a thorough kickoff with an email announcement, followed by trainings, and written instructions. “I announced it over email. I had mandatory training sessions for everyone. Then I followed that up with writing that recapped all of the training session content.”

“You need to train people in it, tell them how it’s going to be used and what it means - not in a way that’s scary, but in a way that gives them full visibility into the process.”

Nudging people through the review process was another process altogether: “I monitored everyone’s progress through the review dashboard. The ‘send reminder’ button was useful. I would also remind people in person or over Slack. You need to use every tool in your arsenal but not be spammy. Set a calendar reminder, send an email, and make sure people understand, in terms of impact, on what happens if they don’t meet the deadlines. Most of the time I just showed people how to use the product and that got more traction.”

What does he want to change for the next cycle? “We’re going to do more focused prep for managers this time around: ‘How do you have an effective review conversation?’, ‘What are the points you need to hit on?’ I have some resources for that to help improve the quality of the conversations.”

Takeaways

  • Easy-to-use OKR system
  • Public praise and private feedback
  • Customizable updates and 1:1s
  • High performance review engagement

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