Google’s Performance Management Playbook: Inspiration for Your Organization

Updated:

February 1, 2022

Google has been ranked by Glassdoor as one of the best places to work since 2013. As one employee said: “All of the good things people say are true—great culture, great pay and benefits, fun projects, and awesome offices.” 

That’s an enviable position that any company would like to hold, especially in an environment characterized by high turnover and growing employee dissatisfaction.

So what about Google helps it hold onto its position as a great place to work, even during the uncertainty of the great resignation? 

There’s a number of reasons, but its great performance management practices are high on the list.

Streamline your performance management process with PerformYard. Learn More

Google’s Performance Management Practices

Google has what some say is the world’s most progressive human resource organization. Its “People Operations Practice” includes a strong focus on a merit-based reward/incentive program and developing employees to reach their fullest potential.

google performance management

Google has a robust process full of performance management practices, including:

Self-Assessment

The employee evaluates themself on five criteria and highlights their main accomplishments for the last review cycle. This gives employees an opportunity to be introspective and also to give some consideration to their own performance in preparation for a discussion with their managers.

360-Degree Feedback

Employees and managers discuss and decide together who will provide 360-degree feedback for the employee. Peer feedback is sought for input on strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to specific projects. Having a broader range of input can help employees put the feedback into perspective and gain a more well-rounded sense of how their work is perceived.

Annual Performance Review

Google’s annual performance review is split into two parts: a mid-year checkpoint and end-of-year review.  The end-of-year review uses data from the employee’s self-assessment and the 360-degree feedback provided. Managers also draft a rating for employees as part of the annual performance review. Two main things are taken into account when assigning employee performance ratings:

  • Results attained, or what the employee accomplished
  • Behaviors, or how the employee attained these results 

These two factors help maintain a focus on both hard and soft skills as part of the annual review.

Monthly Performance Check-Ins

In addition to the mid-year and annual review, Google employees meet monthly with their managers for regular check-ins. These check-ins address career development, coaching, and an opportunity to address any personal issues. They facilitate open communication between employees and managers and help both parties stay on top of developing issues or need for course correction throughout the year.

Googlegeist Engagement Survey

The Googlegeist is an annual survey given to all employees where they are asked to rate their managers and life at Google. The survey allows leaders to manage and monitor trends as well as to make comparisons across the company to spot trends, best practices, and areas that may need attention.

Upward Feedback Survey

In addition to the Googlegeist for gathering broad input on employee sentiment, Google also conducts annual upward feedback surveys where direct reports have the opportunity to rate their managers. Like the Googlegeist, this input allows leaders to identify trends, best practices, and areas that may need attention or improvement.

OKRs: How Google Sets Goals

Every quarter, Google assigns about 4-6 Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to help provide the company with clear focus and to ensure that employees understand how their work impacts their work area and the company overall. OKRs also encourages team effort. Overall targets drive the creation of sub-objectives and are set annually. 

Meritocracy

Google has a strong focus on meritocracy, striving to compensate people based on their contributions through bonuses, equity stock option grants, and prizes.

What Google Employees Are Saying

Google has a robust ​​performance management process that encourages employee engagement, feedback, and a strong performance culture. But what do its employees think? Let’s take a look at a few anonymous Glassdoor reviews to see what Google’s employees are saying. 

Pros

“The company is amazingly open: every week Larry Page and Sergey Brin host what's called TGIF where food and drinks are served, a new project is presented, and an open forum is held to ask the executives anything you want. It's truly fair game to ask anything, no matter how controversial.”

“Google has incredible resources for learning high-tech and managing teams. There is outstanding onboarding, process documentation, and shadowing for new joiners. The community of individuals is top-notch​​—amazingly smart, driven, and courteous colleagues.” 

“Google is a fantastic company with its heart in the right place. The real gem, though, are the people. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with some of the most incredible people on the planet.”

Cons

“Sometimes being that it is such a big company it is sometimes hard to be heard when you need to voice concerns or comments.”

“Product culture is bewildering sometimes.” 

“Very flat organization structure creates for highly ambiguous roles.”

Takeaways for Your Organization

Like any organization, Google has both its cheerleaders and its detractors. But Google generally has a great reputation among both employees and customers. 

So, what can you take away from Google’s practices to consider for your organization? Here are a few recommendations:

  • Google has “Googleyness”—it places a big focus on company values and how employees adhere to them.
  • Employees are heavily involved in the performance review process. They help decide who provides 360-degree feedback, set their own OKRs, and provide upward feedback to their managers.
  • The peer feedback process is simple and focuses only on strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to specific projects.
  • Google’s OKRs are shared publicly with the entire company—everybody knows how and where they fit in and have the opportunity to know what others are working on.
  • Upward feedback is used to give employees an opportunity to rate their managers.

Having a robust performance review process with a number of elements designed to provide feedback throughout the year, engage employees in the process, and ensure a well-rounded perspective of both employees and leadership have helped Google position itself as a place where employees have a voice and an opportunity to make a difference.  

More Inspiration

Looking for more inspiration and ideas for performance management at your organization? These articles show how other top companies do performance management.  

How Does Uber Do Performance Management?

How Does Asana Do Performance Management?

How Netflix does Performance Management

Deloitte's Radically Simple Review

How Does Amazon Do Performance Management

How Does GE Do Performance Management Today?

3 Approaches to Performance Management: Google, Betterment and IBM

How Does Facebook Do Performance Management?

What to do next.

Here are three ways you can continue your journey to a more modern and effective performance management strategy:

  1. See PerformYard In Action. Find time with one of our product experts to get a live look at what it's like to use modern performance management software. Every call starts with a 5 minute discussion of your approach and then immediately dives into a live product demonstration that's based on your organization's process. Or start by watching a 2-minute video overview.
  2. Learn more about modern performance management. Start with our Guide to Building a Modern Performance Management System, or visit our blog to see the latest ideas from our team.
  3. If you know other HR Pros who would appreciate this article, share it with them through email, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.