Cline Family Cellars Drives a New Culture of Growth

Cline Family Cellars introduced a consistent goal setting and performance review process to foster a culture of growth and transparency.

Meet Nicole

Nicole Winslow is the director of Human Resources at Cline Family Cellars. With over 26 years of HR experience under her belt, she’s a true expert at developing a culture of growth, productivity, and development. 

Nicole has been at Cline Family Cellars since 2020, when she joined the company alongside their new CEO. Having worked extensively in the hospitality trade, she brought a wealth of unique industry knowledge to Cline Family Cellars, complementing their tours and tasting business components.  

About Cline Family Cellars

Cline Family Cellars is a family-owned and operated enterprise based in Sonoma, California. They’ve been in business since 1982. Today, they have multiple vineyards, tasting rooms, and an olive oil subsidiary. The business has expanded considerably, while still maintaining its organic nature as a family business. 

Maintaining the company’s traditional roots while creating a structure conducive for growth has been one of Nicole’s primary focuses since joining Cline Cellars. 

“Keep the homegrown family feel, but also provide some structure,” Nicole mentioned. “That’s our goal.” 

The Challenge

Cline Family Cellars went through a period of restructuring to position the company for consistent, long-term growth. When Cline Cellars brought in a new CEO, he tasked Nicole with expanding and developing Cline Cellars’ HR function to focus on employee growth and engagement. Nicole found that implementing a performance management process was the best way to achieve this goal.

“From an HR perspective I thought, ‘Let's put in new structures. Let’s find new ways to develop and train our employees.’” 

Prior to Nicole’s arrival at Cline Family Cellars, performance reviews were happening on an ad-hoc basis. This presented an opportunity for Cline Family Cellars to implement a process that would allow for transparent reporting and consistent growth opportunities for everybody in the organization. 

Nicole also realized that pivoting to a consistent review process would yield a more productive and enthusiastic workforce that understood the values and goals they were being measured against. “Reviews have to be done in a timely way,” she stated. “Goals need to be set in order for performance to be measured.”

This challenge—finding a way to standardize reviews to help with consistency and transparency—led Cline Family Cellars to partner with PerformYard. 

Why PerformYard

Cline Cellars has teams across multiple vineyards, olive oil production facilities, and tasting rooms. This leads to a lot of employees and a lot of managers. Because tracking goals and providing actionable feedback are critical tasks for Cline Cellars, Nicole and the new CEO wanted to use a system to help them excel at performance management. 

Cline Cellars’ CEO had used PerformYard in the past and appreciated how adaptable the software is to an organization’s specific needs. Nicole immediately saw that PerformYard’s easy-to-use solution would be a perfect fit.  

“The interesting thing about PerformYard is that it couldn’t be simpler. Some of the employees have been here 40 years, and were concerned about learning a new program. But I have the confidence that I can say to a manager, ‘It’s super simple. You’re not going to break anything.’ It’s been a great selling point to my team.”

PerformYard allows Cline Family Cellars to track performance, set and measure goals, and keep track of important notes all in one place.

“If I have a salesperson who our customers rave about, I now know where to put that information to reference in the future,” Nicole mentioned. “With PerformYard, we keep everything in one central location. It’s very helpful.” 

Another selling point is that everything is stored in the cloud, protecting files from misfilings or accidents. 

“I used to work at a company that kept those records in the basement. Unfortunately, the building was destroyed, along with the records in it. With PerformYard, if there’s an emergency, we still have those records.” 

The Process

Through partnering with PerformYard, Cline Family Cellars created a standardized performance management process that aligns employees’ goals with organizational values. This has helped pivot the company toward the CEO’s vision for future growth.

The employees at Cline Cellars are divided into different groups, such as upper management, sales, and hourly staff. Each of these groups has a different set of standards that they are measured against. These may be goal-based, behavior-based, or a mixture of the two, depending upon the nature of the role. For example, sales and upper management roles are primarily goal-focused, whereas hourly employees are reviewed on how well they meet company values. 

Goals are set at both the individual and company level. Employees are measured on how they stack up against their individual goals, as well as how they contribute to the overall, strategic goals of Cline Family Cellars.

Each month, employees meet with their managers 1-on-1 to discuss goal progress. Each quarter, teams work together to set new goals that will contribute to the larger organizational goals. 

Employee performance and goal progress is all tracked in PerformYard. Because everything is stored in one central location, annual reviews are much easier to complete when they roll around because managers can pull the data from one place. 

Performance reviews themselves are now based on more objective, transparent metrics. This has helped employees in every group better understand how their performance is being graded. It’s also helped to reduce subjectivity and bias in the review process. 

“With PerformYard, it’s embedded in the system that a manager spends time talking about performance with every employee,” Nicole mentioned. “Performance is all measurable. You either meet your metrics or you come up short—it’s not a question of a manager’s subjective feelings. This way, both managers and employees are protected—they can rely on the objective performance data to speak for itself.”

The Result

By adopting PerformYard, Nicole has been able to create a transparent and objective performance review structure that’s aligned with the new CEO’s vision for the future of the business.

Instead of having irregular performance reviews, every employee is on a standardized review cycle. 

“Everybody is getting an opportunity to have face time with their manager. Managers spend time talking about performance with each of their employees, and everything is tracked and stored in one system.” 

Goals are reviewed during monthly 1-on-1s and feedback is given frequently and consistently. This feedback is now tied to compensation decisions, which has helped employees turn feedback into improved performance. 

“It's been relatively simple to get people on board, and PerformYard makes the process much simpler.”

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