How to Run Employee Performance Reviews Like Google?

6 Actionable Ways 28 corporate e-learning

Google has been ranked by Glassdoor as one of the best places to work for three years in a row as it is making an important effort to become a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive place to work.


In this article you will learn:

  1. Google’s ethos of openness and honesty.
  2. Why Google pays attention to the best people and tries to perform like them by copying their work ethic, mindset, and skills.
  3. Why Google doesn’t think it’s right to fire underperformers even though it spent time and money hiring them.
  4. How Google gives its employees the help and direction they need to get better.
  5. How managers are trusted by Google to make clear decisions and encourage teamwork.

Since Google has more than 160 thousand employees, performance management, which has a significant impact on employee satisfaction, must be extremely structured.

The tech company has a strict ranking algorithm for its internal performance management system.

Employees are categorized according to their average, top, and below-par performance in this ranking system, with the top-performing and underperforming employees highlighted in particular.

Google is a great inspiration for HR leadership and people management best practices. That way many believe Google human resource management as the most progressive human resource organization

They have already expended a great deal of time and money determining what works best. You can use their practices as a benchmark and possibly adopt some of their successful strategies because they have even discussed it openly.

lessons we can learn from Google’s people management strategies

Google’s people philosophy

Google is a perfect example of how founders can play a pivotal role in shaping company culture. The principles of freedom and trust are Google’s driving force.

Their top-down approach reaffirms that a company’s culture can flourish when employees are trusted to do good work and given sufficient freedom.

Everyone naturally performs better and is held to much higher standards when this is done.

Their method is deceptively straightforward: Do you want better from your staff? Put more faith in them! 

You must be open and honest with people if you think they are fundamentally good and deserving of trust. This includes notifying them when they are performing below expectations..” Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, in his book Work Rules.

Laszlo Bock describes the procedures that led Google to become a benchmark in human resources, or “People Operations,” as they like to call it: “All of us want our work to be important. Knowing that you are having an impact on the world is the single most potent motivator.

Google continuously learns from the data it collects from its exclusive pool of talent, all of whom are the best in their fields: product sales, engineering, partnerships, and other areas resulting in constant evolution in their people operations department. 

Some of the best practices across Google retained till today

Hiring the 1% talent pool across functions.

In order to hire a “great fit eventually,” Google’s People Operations carefully source and handpick the best candidates, making subsequent performance and appraisal discussions much simpler.

The Google interviews are the most difficult to pass. Their acceptance rate is 0.2 percent.

Rewarding, promoting, and recognizing talent

As part of its “People Operations Practice,” it places a strong emphasis on implementing a merit-based incentive and reward system and helping employees realize their full potential.

Investing in employees 

Google invests in their employees all year round through different skill-based and executive coaching forms.

Not giving up on the bottom-performing 5% of employees.

Google SVP Laszlo Bock, Welle’s boss, told Harvard Business Review about a study that found many of the worst-performing employees weren’t bad at their jobs; rather, they were in the wrong positions or were poorly managed.

So, through coaching, outside training, and a 360 degree crowdsource feedback program Google develops employees to their full potential. 

Though in recent recession time, like many tech giants like Amazon, Facebook; Google under the performance improvement plan laid off low performing employees from the top 1% talent they only hire.

“To have a workplace that is driven by a mission and serves a purpose, you must also approach people with compassion. The majority of people who are performing poorly are aware of it and want to improve. It is essential to give them a shot.”

How does Google run performance reviews?

The goal of Google’s performance reviews is to inspire underperformers and encourage high performers to keep up their excellent work.

At Google, there are numerous performance reviews conducted by various departments.

The main aspects are as follows:

  1. A goal-setting strategy known as OKRs (objectives and key results) is used to anticipate outcomes for each team and employee at the beginning of each quarter.
  2. The “Googlegeist Engagement Survey” provides leadership with data on several aspects of satisfaction among employees.
  3. Detailed one-on-one meetings and monthly performance reviews to provide employees with frequent, relevant feedback.
  4. In accordance with Google’s Project Oxygen, the Annual Upward Feedback Survey identifies and evaluates the characteristics of a great manager. 
  5. The results of this survey are used to select the “Best Managers who can be a strong decision maker, communicator and support employees career development.
  6. Annual Performance Review to help make final decisions about how to rank performance and give an evaluation.

How does this review system work? 


At the beginning of each quarter, the top executives at Google set OKRs for overall business which helps them channel team efforts in the right direction.

This move was made with the goal of improving overall business performance rather than achieving specific goals. Instead of setting a quota that had to be met, they gave the example of tracking referrals as a key performance indicator to ensure that they are moving in the right direction.

Communication is the single most difficult aspect of scaling a business as it expands. It’s quite challenging. OKRs are a great way to ensure that everyone knows how your strategy and success will be measured.” Dick Costolo, former Group Product Manager at Google.

On the company’s internal website, OKRs are accessible to all employees. Also 1 on 1 meetings with employees to discuss individual OKRs.

Employees can easily compare the company’s and manager’s goals to a benchmark once they see them. This makes sure that each employee sets their OKRs in line with Google’s bigger goals so that everyone at Google works toward a bigger goal together.

Because everyone is on the same page, this level of total transparency makes it easier for employees to communicate.

“It’s important that there be a way to see what other people and teams are doing and how you fit into the bigger picture of what Google is trying to do. Teams that are clearly out of sync stand out, and the few major projects that affect everyone directly are manageable.” Lazslo Bock in Work Rules.

Employee evaluations

Employees at Google evaluate one another based on the following five criteria:

  1. Googleyness: The employee’s adherence to the values of Google.
  2. Problem-solving: Utilizing analytical abilities to resolve issues
  3. Autonomy: The capacity to produce work of the highest quality without much assistance from supervisors or peers.
  4. Thought leadership: If an employee is a go-to resource in a particular field.
  5. Leadership: Everyone is required to take full responsibility for a few projects and demonstrate their leadership abilities, despite the fact that many of the younger employees have little or no leadership experience. Google is of the firm belief that executives of today will be leaders of tomorrow.

360-degree feedback

The first step in the 360 performance review process is an employee self-evaluation.

In the self-evaluation step, employees highlight their accomplishments from the previous cycle.

The self-evaluation instructions ask you to list specific projects, their roles, and what they accomplished in a 512-character text field, which the peers review in the following step.

Managers and nominated peers can see the self-evaluation.

The annual self-evaluation takes place in November.

3) Peer reviews

Google’s 360-degree feedback removes any hidden bias and provides managers with a comprehensive picture of their direct employees. A strong feedback culture is always helped by peer feedback.

In order to participate in the feedback cycle, managers and employees select a fair and representative sample of peers.

A shortlist is created by the employee and approved by the manager based on how well the peer can evaluate the employee’s performance.

The self-evaluation of the person being evaluated will serve as a reference for peers. However, the goal is not to assess the reviewee’s summary, but to ensure that the peers are familiar with the project and the reviewee’s work.

“We asked one individual to do more and one thing they could do differently to make a greater impact. argued that the more people there are, the more likely they are to make real change.”Laszlo Bock on Work Rules.

Refining the peer feedback template yielded very good results.

“By making the template more specific, it took him 27% less time to write a review, and for the first time, 75% of his colleagues found writing reviews helpful.”

Feedback from colleagues is received anonymously, and only managers can see which employees have rated others negatively or positively.

360-degree feedback is provided once a year during the performance review in November.

In the past, many of these reviews were done twice a year. However, employees complained about the tediousness of the iteration cycle. So recently, out of dissatisfaction, it is reduced to once a year.

360-degree feedback: Upward feedback

Google receives manager feedback from employees through the Manager Feedback Survey which is collected semi-annually.

The Manager Feedback Survey consists of 12 questions based on a Likert scale. Google employees must agree or disagree with the statement.

Each of the statements measures one of the ten behaviors of successful managers at Google, such as: 

  1. My manager communicates clear goals to our team.
  2. I recommend my manager.
  3. My manager’s behavior shows that he appreciates the perspective I bring to the team, even if it’s different from theirs.
  4. My manager gives me stretch opportunities to help me develop my career.
  5. The positive feedback survey also solicits confidential (completely anonymous) information from Google employees.
  6. My manager makes difficult decisions effectively (e.g. multiple teams involved and competing priorities). My boss gave me an important talk about my career development over the past 6 months.

Feedback is anonymous, so the manager does not see the name of the employee who left the feedback. However, managers can view entries only if three or more people have responded to the survey. Otherwise, it will be difficult to ensure anonymity.

Upward feedback occurs in the second quarter of each year.

360 degree feedback: Manager review and adjustment

For Google, calibration means ‘not just your direct manager making decisions.

After collecting all data from self-assessments and peer reviews and verifying the performance of all employees, managers create employee ratings.

This rating is primarily based on OKRs. But managers also consider the overall context. B. Economic changes that may have affected advertising revenue.

Managers draft evaluations using the following scales:

  1. Need improvement;
  2. Fully meets all expectations.
  3. Exceeds expectations.
  4. Greatly exceeds expectations.
  5. Superb.

So far, managers have only designed ratings. Therefore, the evaluation is not final until the calibration process is finished.

The reconciliation process brings together 5 to 10 of her managers to discuss the ratings and finally agree on a fair rating.

Calibration reduces bias by forcing managers to justify each other’s decisions. It also increases the perception of fairness among employees. ”Laszlo Bock in Work Rules.

Calibration meetings are held once a year in November.

Supplementary material for discussion of performance and development

Managers and employees receive a one-page guide to make conversations about performance and development more specific and specific.

For example, this guide covers key areas that should be covered during an interview.

  1. Have started
  2. Overall performance
  3. What to keep doing & next steps
  4. Improvements and next steps
  5. Long-term goals (if needed)
  6. Summarize

Laszlo Bock observes in his book Work Rules, “Those who used the Interview with Managers Guide rated performance interviews 14 points higher than those who did not. “

Rewards and promotion

The reconciliation session determines each employee’s final performance evaluation for the period.

After the evaluation is complete, the manager will have two meetings to provide feedback based on all proofread input.

Laszlo Bock recommends having separate conversations to communicate compensation and promotion decisions.

“Split the reward story from the development story. Combining the two learning. This applies to companies of all sizes. […]

[The reason] is that there is a [negative] dynamic when managers get together to give annual employee reviews and raises. Employees focus on external rewards (salary increases, higher ratings) and learning stops. […] There is an embarrassingly simple solution. Don’t have a [payment and feedback] conversation at the same time. “

These two meetings are a month apart from him, so the feedback isn’t mixed with numbers, it’s purely qualitative and actionable.

“Traditional performance management systems make big mistakes. They combine two things that should be completely separated.

Performance evaluation and human resource development

Appraisals are necessary to allocate limited resources such as raises and bonuses.

Development is also necessary for people to grow and improve. Prasad Setty, Vice President of Digital Work Experience and former Vice President of People Operations at Google, quoted in Work Rules.

A remuneration briefing is held once a year in December.

2022 performance review updates: Google Evaluation and Development (GRAD)

In May 2022, the Silicon Valley-based company introduced a new performance development system called Googler Reviews and Development (GRAD).

Google recognizes that investing in employee career advancement and overall development is central to our performance management approach.

The GRAD system is a framework that helps managers work with employees to advance their careers.

Learning from its own data and industry-leading research, Google’s HR department has developed a streamlined process for performance reviews that they conduct only once a year.

The purpose of this new approach is to proactively support employee professional development and not spend undue time on employee “appraisals”.

Important updates for this change include

Expectations, feedback and check-ins

The goal is to match employees to expectations. Managers also became responsible for providing frequent feedback in their official capacity.

These feedback sessions serve as guides for employees throughout the year. There are also frequent check-ins, one of which focuses solely on learning and career development.


Google is committed to career opportunities for our employees.

All Google employees are eligible for promotion twice a year. This includes facilitating internal mobility and other ways to balance performance and incentives.

“At Google […] promotion decisions are made by a committee, similar to rating decisions. Set clearly defined criteria to ensure And it wouldn’t be Google if it didn’t also rely on the wisdom of the crowd. Peer feedback is an important part of the technology promotion package reviewed by the committee. “Laszlo Buck in Work Rules.

Reviews and Ratings

The review and rating process will remain the same, but Google will reduce the frequency to once a year.

Constant feedback to employees helps them improve throughout the year. Investing in the career advancement of Googlers is ultimately reflected in their ratings.

We believe that our updated approach will demonstrate that most of our employees contribute significantly on a daily basis and are an integral part of the company’s overall success.

From planning to hiring to measuring performance, Google’s entire human capital capabilities are inherently fostering a culture of high performance, not the default.

3 Reasons behind Google’s current performance review system 

Google had four performance reviews prior to launching the semi-annual reviews.

A report found that 47% of Googlers found their previous performance-review system cumbersome and a poor use of their time.

The new GRAD system encourages employees to work with their managers throughout the year to receive feedback and plan their career development.

However, he can only receive performance evaluations once a year. Google says the new system “reflects the impact most Googlers have on a daily basis.”

This allows employees to use the time saved to contribute to company goals. However, Google still allows employees to get promoted twice a year.

Here are three main reasons why Google is ditching its time-consuming biannual performance rating system.

  1. Fewer reviews helps in reducing pressure.

Employees always perform better when they are relaxed.

Two appraisal interviews in one year left employees focused on short-sighted goals and losing sight of the big picture.

Underperforming employees didn’t have enough time to prove their efficiency. An annual review encourages employees to set and achieve long-term goals.

  1. Every hour matters

Eliminating the semi-annual appraisal system saves a lot of time for managers and employees.

Googlers can use this time to make a bigger impact.

  1. Increase sense of accomplishment

Most Googlers do a great job and don’t need micromanaging. This gives employees a sense of accomplishment and improves morale. Confident employees are inherently motivated and get more done.

The key to Google performance review success

“As a leader, it is important not only to see your own success, but also to see the success of others. You should lead them to success. Keeping the team focused is one of the most important tasks for a leader,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. Google values ​​employee transparency and overall promotion.

A performance rating system works more like a compass to point you in the right direction than a speedometer to measure your performance.

“The scope of our mission is so vast that Google can use a compass rather than a speedometer to propel us forward.” Laszlo Bock in Work Rules.

Direct takeaways from the Google playbook.

Set goals correctly

To ensure that employees are aligned with company goals, goals should be open and ambitious.

So everyone knows where and how they fit in the big picture. You also have the opportunity to learn what others are working on.

Focus on employee development

Google encourages managers to complete a career development check-in to help Google employees grow with the company.

“What most organizations overlook is that it’s the bottom that represents the greatest opportunity to improve organizational performance, and the top that tells us exactly how to take advantage of that opportunity. […] Let development go back and forth between you and your team members instead of surprises at the end of the year.” Lazlo Bock in Work Rules

Listen to your employees

Google’s top management has listened to employees and has continued to reduce the frequency of performance reviews to once a year.

Measure manager performance just as accurately as employee performance

“[…] Having a good manager is as important as breathing. If we make our managers better, it will be like a breath of fresh air. [. ..] What if everyone at Google had a good manager?” , okay okay, but someone who really understands them and inspires them to work every day. How would Google feel then? ” Michelle Donovan, Director, People Operations at Google, quoted in Work Rules.

The annual upward feedback survey, where managers receive feedback from their direct reports, is a key component of Google’s performance review process.

Managers are ultimately responsible for guiding their teams toward a common goal. Investment in their development is therefore key to the company’s overall success. At Google, we take this mission very seriously and help more managers become successful leaders.

Radical transparency helps lay the foundation of a meritocratic culture.

At Google, we believe it is important to publish each employee’s OKRs company-wide.

This level of radical transparency, in which even junior employees can see his CEO’s OKRs, forms the backbone of an unbiased, performance-oriented culture.

Transparent alignment of goals and incentives is just one of many ways Google builds high-performing teams across the organization.

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