Big tech

Two tech giants are going in very different directions when it comes to performance reviews

Google and Adobe decided their performance management processes were due for change, but they differ on the frequency of that feedback.
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· 4 min read

In January, Google’s HR department asked employees to rate the company’s performance review process in its annual “Googlegeist” survey. The reviews of the reviews, it seems, demanded further review. As The Information first reported, nearly half of Googlers surveyed place the company’s twice-annual reviews somewhere on the spectrum of toiling away at the DMV, arguing with a relative about politics on Facebook, or scrolling TikTok. Performance reviews are certainly something to do, but only 53% of Googlers categorized them as “time well spent.”

Elsewhere in Silicon Valley, Adobe management might beg to differ.

Fortune reports that Adobe employees have received quarterly reviews for the past 10 years, and that’s still not enough for these feedback fiends. As the company has grown larger and remote work has become the norm, some Adobe professionals told HR they want more feedback—a prospect some Googlers might regard as a nightmare.

So how are these tech giants revamping reviews to fit employee needs, and why?

Less is more. Google announced that beginning in May, the company will transition to an annual performance-review model, while still promoting qualified employees twice a year, according to The Information.

Grove HR reported that, previously, Google formally reviewed employee performance twice a year. The company also solicited 360-degree feedback—a self-review, a colleague review, and a supervisor review. Not only did this likely lead to far too many searches for “self-starter” and “team player,” but it also took a lot of time.

Google announced the move to a more streamlined process, which they’re calling Googler Reviews and Development (GRAD). The company said the move to a pared-down process reflects that most Google employees “deliver significant impact” to the company daily, and a new performance management process “will help employees stay focused on what matters most while developing their careers, as we continue to deliver helpful products and services to people around the world.”

…Or more is more? Then there are Adobe employees, who the company says desire more frequent feedback and the opportunity to provide it.

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Previously, the company conducted quarterly reviews, conducted in-person, between managers and direct reports. As of March 2022, Fortune reports, the company uses a new dashboard to manage “employee KPIs and career goals, and allows managers and their direct reports to request feedback from peers at any time." Prior to ousting the processes that had been in place for the last decade, HR solicited feedback from employees, piloted the new dashboard with 3,000 global employees, and trained managers to use the tool. 

Arden Madsen, director of talent management at Adobe, told Fortune that the change stemmed in part from employee concerns about remote work and worry that their managers would be less attuned to everything that goes into their work. Using the dashboard, Madsen said, employees can celebrate their own successes.

“It empowers employees to drive their career,” Madsen told Fortune, “because your boss can celebrate all the things they don’t see. It can also help you recognize blind spots of how you’re showing up culturally, to different levels of individuals and to different teams.”

Zoom Out. There’s no clear consensus in the tech industry on how to conduct performance reviews. The Information reported that Meta is also a fan of the annual-review approach, while IBM, Accenture, and Deloitte favor Adobe’s constant-feedback approach. Whatever approach companies take, Aubrey Blanche, Culture Amp’s senior director of equitable design, product, and people, believes HR should inspect processes for possible biases.

Blanche recently told HR Brew, “You’re not actually doing DE&I if you’re not auditing [performance reviews], because so much of someone’s opportunity and experience hangs on that one process.”—SV

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SusannaVogel1 on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Susanna for her number on Signal.

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