NGM Creates a Culture of Continuous Feedback

How NGM Biopharmaceuticals automated every aspect of their performance management process and instituted a culture of continuous feedback.

Meet Kristen

Kristen Townsend is the Manager of Culture and Rewards at NGM Biopharmaceuticals. Her job includes training and development, compensation planning and benefits. “I really focus on making sure that we are supporting career progression and that we are providing a great employee experience,” she said. Kristen is a member of the People Operations team at NGM, otherwise known as Human Resources!

About NGM Biopharmaceuticals 

NGM is based in California and has been in business for about 13 years. They have about 210 employees with around 165 of them working in research and development of drug candidates for cardio-metabolic, liver, oncologic and ophthalmic diseases. “NGM stands out from our competitors because of our uncompromising conviction to follow the science,” Kristen explained.

The Challenge

Before NGM switched to PerformYard, their performance management process consisted of Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. “It was just too much to manage. When you have over one hundred spreadsheets, you simply can’t keep track of everything and documents get lost,” said Kristen.

Employees worked toward goals set by their managers, and performance reviews included a self-review and then a manager review.

NGM always had a culture of continuous improvement and learning from mistakes, but continuous feedback wasn’t being tracked. “We definitely encouraged ongoing feedback but there was no way of knowing if it was actually happening,” she shared. 

Storing feedback was particularly important for employees at NGM. “When a project is eliminated, employees want to be sure that their contributions won’t be forgotten” Kristen explained. 

“We knew that we needed a performance management platform that would scale, allow us to better manage the process, and establish a home base for performance management.”

Why PerformYard

As the People Operations team began its research for a performance management system, they quickly realized many of the core functionalities were very similar across platforms. However, PerformYard stood out in two areas: customer service and user experience.

Kristen shared that she felt heard and supported by the PerformYard team. “We knew we wouldn't have any issues because we felt we were good hands,” she said. “That feeling has definitely stayed true. PerformYard has provided everything we needed and more.”

The user experience was also important for the NGM’s team. They needed a system that could be slimmed down to simple transactions but still had additional functions readily available that could be turned on or off. The flexibility and simplicity of PerformYard allowed NGM to transition to a true continuous feedback culture. “For us, PerformYard functions as a home base where employees and managers record conversations and provide notes to our department seamlessly,” Kristen said. 

The Process

NGM’s performance management process now focuses on continuous feedback with a formal annual review and an informal mid-year conversation. Additionally, goals have become a large part of the process with each employee working with their manager to create individualized annual goals.

The annual review occurs at the end of the year and includes a self-review, a 360 review with three raters, and a meeting between employees and their managers. Because NGM has fully adopted a culture of continuous feedback, they can use the annual review meeting to focus on just three questions: What are you doing? What areas of improvement do you want to have? What do you want to continue doing, start doing, and work on? Meanwhile, the mid-year reviews are more casual and informal conversations between the manager and their direct reports and are not required to be recorded.

The self-review is largely a reflection of the employee’s progress on each of their goals. The goal tracking feature is important to NGM because it addresses employee’s concerns about their progress being forgotten if a study gets cancelled. “Employees can now track their goals to remember what they’ve done, which can be a really good reminder to the manager when it comes towards the end-of-the-year evaluations,” she said. “PerformYard’s goal tracking feature makes the conversation between managers and their employees truly consistent.”

In the weeks following the annual review, employees set their new goals for the upcoming year, which managers review to ensure alignment with the departmental and company goals. At that time, new salaries and bonuses are determined and NGM will send a department email about employee promotions to further celebrate achievements.


NGM’s adoption of PerformYard has resulted in significant internal efficiencies. Kristen happily shared that her team is now able to run their entire performance management process without any email communication. “Everything is now in the same browser and no one is wasting time trying to find specific emails about an employee’s performance. “PerformYard simplified the process for the managers who have a lot of direct reports and need to fill out several forms in a timely manner. They can now do it all in one place.” 

The switch to PerformYard simplified Kristen’s work life as well. She is now able to spend more time training managers on how to provide feedback. “My number one focus is to provide managers the skills and resources to be productive in their review meetings because ultimately, those conversations decide career advancement, which is everyone's goal,” she said.

Kristen also pointed out how continuous feedback and tracking goals in PerformYard helps keep the annual review process transparent and free of surprises. “Now that we have a process focused on continuous feedback, it created an easier review cycle because nothing is new to the employee,” she said. “I think the most impact has come from continuous feedback,” Kristen said. “Having a platform that continues to support us on an ongoing basis helps everyone at NGM be more successful.”

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