Wait, only 5 fields for performance review questions?

In Small Improvements, there is a limit of 5 fields for performance review as well as 360 degree feedback questions. Quite often we get asked, why 5? Is that a magical number? Surely we can have a sixth question, is this a bug? Well, we call the fields ‘topics’ so you could have more questions per field if you wanted to. But also, we do believe in a simple approach and that more is not always better. We are not a traditional performance review tool and the limit of topics has more than only an educative reason.

Small Improvements works a little different to most other tools. Let’s face it, real performance improvements come from healthy internal communications. You can capture ongoing communication in all features, which allows the performance review to have more of a check in function. The ongoing messages, feedback and objectives are referenced at the bottom of the review, so the actual form doesn’t need to be as complex and question heavy. You can, for instance, give timely feedback, completion status, progress and ratings – so ultimately a mini review – per objective. No need for role specific questions in the review as a simple ‘how well did you achieve your objectives’ can be used to summarize all issues or successes. This simplicity of reviews as check ins allows for more frequent usage, i.e. every 4 or 6 months.

From a technical point of view, the performance review module in Small Improvements is set up in cycles. Those cycles are defining questions and timings and form the framework of the review. You then bring people into them. If you could define countless questions, you’d be tempted to ask employee/role specific questions and every manager has their own ideas on how this looks. While it is possible to set up several parallel cycles in SI, a performance review with different questions per team or even employee is cumbersome to administer and compare across teams. In order to cater for that, we’d need to adjust our whole tool and become a better looking ‘one of a million’ other review tools…

We are aware that people can still conduct lousy reviews in SI and of course they could use the 5 topics and have 10 questions in each field… We are not mandating how to conduct reviews, we just built a feedback tool with 4 configurable, lean and easy features that support an open and transparent feedback culture. We are not THE right tool for everyone, can’t be and also don’t try to be… There are so many different approaches to performance management and so many tools that are complex, cumbersome and expensive to administer. And we just don’t want to be one of those.

Check out this blog by the VP of Talent from Atlassian on ‘Re-thinking performance reviews‘ and feel free to reach for further questions.

3 thoughts on “Wait, only 5 fields for performance review questions?

    • Thanks for reaching out. We believe in simple open ended questions that act more like a check in. For instance “What did I do well?’ and “What could I improve on”. This is valid for the CEO as well as the intern just with different expectations. Other possible questions could be more specific geared around i.e. objectives, company values or team work, depending on what you see important to get a summery overview of.
      We see the key to performance improvements in a “feedback-rich” culture and regular discussions. Check out this Forbes article that might interest you: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2013/05/06/time-to-scrap-performance-appraisals/

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