Rainforest QA's Employee Performance Review Best Practices
Rainforest QA is an on-demand software quality assurance testing service that helps customers complete QA tests quickly with an army of experienced testers and machine learning to ensure the highest test accuracy.
People Coordinator Lauren Yee recalls one of the first duties entrusted to her when she started at Rainforest QA. At the time Rainforest had just ended its contract with its previous vendor, a goal-focused performance management platform, and was in search of a new performance management tool.
“The team didn’t have the best experience with [our last platform]. There were integrations that didn’t work. There were some anonymity settings that didn’t actually work. The team spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to use the tool. It was heavy. There was a lot in it and the team wanted something easier.”
It was up to Lauren to find the company’s new performance management platform. “Heather, the VP of People, said ‘Hey, your job is to demo tools and pick the best one for us. We’re going to launch our review cycle in December.’”
Simplicity and ease-of-use were essential for the Rainforest team because they didn’t want to get weighed down by another complicated tool. The team also wanted to give managers and employees the best user experience because they knew that they needed high engagement to make performance management work. At the same time, they wanted the information recorded on the software -- such as check-ins and real-time feedback -- to be measurable and useful.
Lauren had used Reflektive at her last company but she selected Lattice for Rainforest. “I did demos with Reflektive and Lattice because those were our top choices. We ultimately we went with Lattice because it was simple and easy to use for admins and users.”
Implementation & Support
The Lattice support team helped Lauren learn how to use the tool and provided guidance on implementation and adoption.
“Grant, [Rainforest’s customer success manager at Lattice], was really helpful. I had an idea of what I wanted to do on my end and I would pass my outline to him. He would review it and provide suggestions. It was straightforward and easy. Everything went smoothly.”
Lattice offered in-office training sessions for managers and employees. Lauren shares: “I hosted a manager training that Grant led, and I also had a company-wide training where we introduced Lattice. Our executive team also used Lattice before we rolled it out to the company.”
Lauren’s year-end review cycle was a success with a 99.8% completion rate. Out of 532 total self-evaluation employee review, peer reviews, manager reviews, and upward evaluations, the Rainforest team had 531 completed. The only incomplete review was for an employee that left the company during the review cycle.
Rainforest’s Performance Review Process
Rainforest’s year-end annual review time ran from mid-December to late January. Lauren designed it as a 4-week cycle but added two weeks to account for people being out of the office for the winter holidays.
After importing employees and selecting the Lattice feature settings, Lauren's next steps were focused on informing the company with clear expectations and keeping them on track to finish reviews. She sent out a company-wide email announcing that the company would be using Lattice for a performance review cycle in December.
The email included dates and times for manager and employee training sessions and due dates for each major step in the review process: self reviews, peer reviews, upward feedback for managers, manager reviews, and performance conversations.
Pre-launch: Employee Training
Lauren ran a 30-minute manager training and 30-minute employee training session a week and a half before the review cycle started to introduce the company to Lattice and answer questions about the upcoming performance review process.
She held the manager session right before lunch and the employee session during lunch which gave employees plenty of time to ask questions about the process.
Lattice Invitations & Peer Reviewer Selection
Lauren issued Lattice account invites to all employees the following week and emailed instructions to employees to nominate peer reviewers:
Each of you should have received an invite to join Lattice and an invite to nominate your peer reviewers for the upcoming reviews starting on Monday, 12/18. Please nominate your peer reviewers as soon as possible.
Your peer reviewers should be people that work closely with you and can also be on another team (recommended) if you do a lot of cross team collaboration. If you don’t select your peer reviewers by Friday, 12/15, your managers will select your peer reviewers for you. Managers have the ability to edit your final reviewer selections as well.
- If you haven't received your Lattice invite, please let me know ASAP.
- If you've been at Rainforest for less than 3 months, you will not need to complete any reviews. If you aren't going to do a review, please still sign up for an account.
- We will launch employee peer reviews, self-reviews, and upward manager reviews on Monday, 12/18 with a deadline of Wednesday, 1/10.
- If you need any help, you can use the Lattice chat function when logged in.
Peer Reviews, Self-evaluations, Upward Feedback
Rainforest dedicated the first part of the review cycle to completing peer reviews, self-evaluations, and upward manager reviews. Finishing these reviews first gives managers a more complete picture of the employee before writing the manager review.
Expect your team to have general questions on how to answer the performance review question prompts. Lauren emailed tips on writing reviews to help employees through the process:
Completing Your Reviews:
- Get to the point - Keep it simple by using bullet points to answer the question in a clear and concise way.
- Be specific - Look into specific projects, metrics, or outcomes. Your contributions are valuable and this review should focus on this.
- No surprises - A review isn’t a time to drop a big bombshell on someone about something you’ve been thinking about. You wouldn’t want that in return!
Tips for Writer’s Block:
- You only need 3-5 bullet points or a short blurb for each question.
- Check out your previous conversation archives and go through old 1:1 meeting notes.
- Look at Jira, Salesforce, or other places where your contributions are stored
- Journal what you are grateful for in terms of professional growth in 2017 and add this to your review.
Lauren also put together an FAQ to answer common questions as well as a quick guide on how to answer performance review questions and shared it with the team. She advises human resources admins to include a FAQ: “Get all of the questions that you think people will ask and prepare the answers in advance with things like specific due dates and visibility settings. I recommend having the FAQ ready when you launch the review cycle.”
Here are some sample questions from Rainforest’s FAQ:
How do I complete a review?
Log into Lattice. The dashboard will have a list of tasks to complete. Select the “Perform review” button to get started. After you click the button, this will bring you to a page that includes a list of the reviews that you need to complete. You can click through the list of people you need to review and get started on reviews. Lattice will automatically save anything that you write. Once you are ready to submit a review, scroll down and click the “Submit review” button.
What will I see after the cycle ends?
You will see your manager’s review for yourself.
Will my peers see my feedback?
No, only your manager will see your feedback.
Will my manager see my peer feedback?
Yes, your manager will have access to your completed peer reviews as they are submitted.
Will my manager see my upward feedback that I wrote for them?
No, your manager will not have access to your upward feedback. Your manager’s manager will have access to the upward feedback.
When can I expect a raise or promotion?
This time will be used to share, communicate, and grow. This isn’t the time for promotions or role changes to be decided. If this is on your mind or it’s something you’ve been discussing, it’s great to connect on your progress toward that goal. This isn’t the place to make the final call and there will be more opportunities to discuss this after the review cycle ends.
Lauren also sent reminders to the team as each deadline approached. “I gave everyone a heads-up a week before, three days before, and then a day before.”
The company-wide email reminders worked for most employees but Lauren had to do more personalized follow-up for the final stragglers. “I would send individual emails, and after that, as the final escalation, I would ping the person until they completed it.” She used the reporting tools in Lattice to monitor the review cycle progress and see the status of all of the participants.
Lauren set aside the next two weeks for managers to write reviews for their direct reports. Managers are busy people, so Lauren used a variety of tactics to get them moving.
“As we were approaching the deadline, I knew that there would be people that would not complete their reviews in time so I wanted to get on top of that.” Your managers and executive team will likely be the slowest to complete their reviews. Be ready to nudge them forward.
“I would send an email to the all-managers email alias and say, ‘Hey, there are still a couple of you that haven’t completed your reviews.’ I wouldn’t name anyone or call them out, but I would then bcc the managers and say, ‘Hey, the three of you are the only ones that are left,’ and that helped move them along.”