How Chargebee, a $3Bn SaaS Unicorn, Designed Its Performance Management System

Let’s learn from the experts. In this article, we dive deep into Chargebee’s performance management practices — from goals to reviews to rewards and policies


min read

10 second summary

  • OKRs are an effective goal setting practice to build an effective  performance management system
  • A performance management system should focus on uncovering strengths as well as weaknesses
  • Written feedback constitutes an important part of performance management, which the leaders must guide the managers to undertake
  • An effective goal management system should focus on clearly communicating the top priorities
  • Having a contribution-driven rating scale over expectation-driven rating scale is important
  • It is important to de-link compensation and review conversations

Continuing our focus on performance management, we recently had a discussion with the Chargebee team to learn what performance management practices they followed to build a $3Bn SaaS unicorn. In our 3rd episode of The Talent Talks, we were thrilled to be joined by Rajaraman Santhanam, Co-Founder & COO and Lavanya Gopinath, Director, Ops, Chargebee. 

For those of you who aren’t aware of Chargebee’s name, it’s a financial services company that rose to unicorn status in record time. With 1300 employees and despite having a steady emphasis on high performance, Chargebee is known for its employee-centric people management practices. 

Let’s get into the details of how Chargebee creates a high performance culture all year round and see what we can adopt to scale faster.

Performance management system at Chargebee

What was the context when you designed your performance management system?

When we started in 2011, there were not a lot of startups and the biggest source of revenue was from Europe. Sitting in Chennai, India, the only way to acquire knowledge about selling to customers in Europe was by talking to people and learning. Thus, learning continuously and building a network to learn from became important, which overtime evolved into a culture of continuous learning. After 4-5 years, we decided to build the core values or tenets for Chargeebee, by gathering a lot of team members together and brainstorming on what values do they identify with Chargbee. Four core values came to the forefront, Curiosity, Customer Centricity, Empathy and Bias for Action. 

Four core values at Chargebee — Curiosity, Customer Centricity, Empathy and Bias for Action

Eventually, these have become the basis for how we operate across all verticals, including our  performance management system. 

What are the constituents of the performance management system at Chargebee?

With performance being at the center of the performance management system, we look at it from a team and an individual perspective. 

Components of team performance management system

  • Adopted the OKR framework about 2 years ago, which became the big rock for team performance within the performance management system
  • Each team has specific KPIs which add to their performance management

Components of individual performance management system

  • Created our own evolution of the OKR framework, which we call Individual OKRs or IOKRs, which is still evolving
  • IOKRs also bring in learning and development into setting goals at the individual level. 

Process of our performance management system

  • Annual performance rating, review conversations and a rating cycle 
  • Quarterly review conversations aligned to the quarterly goal setting cycle 
  • Bi-weekly one-on-one conversations, also focusing on review and feedback 

Thus, formal performance review as a part of our performance management system is annual in nature, but is supported organically by continuous interventions. 

Also Read: How to successfully run weekly, quarterly and annual OKR reviews

Philosophy of the performance management 

  • Focus on uncovering strengths to value team members for what they bring to the table and delegate work accordingly
  • Focus on weaknesses to understand the gaps and facilitate hiring for the skills gap
  • Strengths and weaknesses are uncovered by review and self reflection from team members on areas of non-clarity, knowledge sharing, etc. 

Recognition for performance at Chargebee

  • Focus on a culture of recognizing each other. Rolled out a program called Rewards by Bonusly which allows team members to celebrate those who help them become successful or achieve an accomplishment, i.e. celebrating help by others
  • Decentralized recognition efforts with flexibility for teams to decide which are the best and the right practices for effective recognition that they are most convinced about
  • Supported by other efforts like spot bonuses in the form of cash, eSOPs, etc.
Chargebee has decentralized recognition efforts with flexibility for teams to decide which are the best and the right practices for effective recognition that they are most convinced about

Also Read: How manager can help employees write a great self assessment

How can organizations drive a strengths based performance management culture?

We started by creating a culture of written feedback to identify strengths. Our focus towards strengths based performance management involves:

  • Giving feedback in writing, be it bi-weekly, quarterly or annually which becomes a frame of reference and the next feedback comes on top of that which enables everyone to reflect on their progress every now and then
  • Capturing 360 degree feedback in writing to identify behavioral patterns and to highlight strengths and areas of improvement
  • Adopting the right communication frameworks to share the feedback so others are able to receive it openly
  • Encouraging our team members to share feedback directly
  • Being specific in feedback that others can relate to and absorb and form action items 
  • Getting in the habit of sharing feedback 1-o-1 and in real time
To become a part of such conversations and learn from the top HR leaders directly, sign up for The Talent Tribe, the best online community for HR and talent management professionals

Goal management with OKRs at Chargebee

What is the context behind the goal management system chosen by Chargebee? 

We adopted the OKR framework as our goal management system about two years back. Our goal management system is based on the philosophy that we need to:

  • Focus on fewer things, but go deep into the focus items
  • Clearly communicate the top priorities for the organization
  • Reinforce the top priorities among team members

For instance, last year we acquired a few companies and our goal for this year is to unleash the multi-product motion by learning as much as possible about those companies to increase revenue from direct selling, cross selling and upselling. For Chargebee, the goal management system is essentially about clearly communicating the goals. 

How did you introduce and roll out OKRs at Chargebee?

Before adopting OKRs, teams used to set their own goals, which were not visible on a single dashboard and leaders used share goals, which was often conversational. However, in the growth phase, making the goals visible became really important to enable people to align and prioritize. Thus, we built the habit of setting goals quarterly and making them visible for everyone. This led to what we called the ‘Quarterly Commits’ and the idea was to keep them focused and visible to everybody. 

In the growth phase, making the goals visible became really important to enable people to align and prioritize. Thus, we built the habit of setting goals quarterly and making them visible for everyone

We put these Quarterly Commits on sheets, which facilitated visibility, gentle nudges, checking other’s commits, getting an understanding of what others are doing and how one can add value to prioritize one's own commits.  This set the stage for OKRs because they were simple, focused on big rocks with measurable outcomes. We started it as a pilot project for a few teams for a quarter and then finally rolled it out for the entire organization. 

How do you apply OKRs for goal setting and performance management system?

Today, the OKRs exist at three levels and focus on setting and reviewing.

Setting OKRs

  • Between october-november, there are a lot of conversations at the executive levels, focused on questions to craft the company OKRs. This is an annual exercise which is reviewed every quarter to ensure relevance. They are made visible to everyone by mid-december.
  • This gives the directional impetus to create quarterly priorities and OKRs at the functional level. The focus is also on alignment between functions to facilitate cross collaborations. Thus, there is a sharing of functional OKRs at a quarterly level. 

Reviewing OKRs

  • Organizational level reviews to gauge OKR progress happens on a monthly basis.
  • Within teams, it might be even more rigorous, which has been left for the teams to decide, depending upon what their key results are. Sometimes it makes sense to do it on a weekly basis, sometimes bi-weekly and sometimes monthly. 

Furthermore, on a quarterly basis, the CEO goes and shares progress, thoughts on where we are, as well as what we need to correct and what can be done better with an open presentation with the entire organization. Using a specific OKR tool provided a hierarchical view to help us understand what maps to what. 

On a quarterly basis, the CEO goes and shares progress, thoughts on where we are, as well as what we need to correct and what can be done better with an open presentation with the entire organization

How do organizational and team goals translate to individual goals at Chargebee?

It's a collaborative process. This also happens at the quarterly level

  • Once the team OKRs are set, the manager is able to give some level of visibility into the priority for the team. This enables the individuals to set their own development goals and their specific contribution goals to a team OKR. 
  • There is a specific conversation on the goal setting itself which works in tandem with the quarterly review and expectation setting cycle. 
  • There are inputs from the manager, but there is also an input from the individual which are captured in the IOKRs.
  • Focus is on asking a lot of questions in order to take a key result and make it really quantifiable to augment clarity. 
  • We emphasize on the importance of building the habit. While creating a goal setting system is not an easy task, we focus on building perseverance to adhere to it and breaking out of the inertia to build this as a habit and organization. 
  • We have evolved into the place where people have started thinking about clearly articulated outcomes as OKRs.  
  • To avoid the confusion of KPIs or KRAs, we decided to evolve with IOKRs. 
Without building a habit and knowledge about the OKRs, any efforts towards OKRs will not work out really well. Thus, it is important to invest time in the beginning to bring the knowledge level of OKRs up and build the habit for the first 2-3 quarters to break the inertia, post which stabilization and perseverance begins

Thus, OKRs start from the CEO and stop at the team level, while IOKRs are for all team members, individually. Building a habit and knowledge about the OKRs are extremely important and without handling these two, any efforts towards OKRs will not work out really well. Thus, it is important to invest time in the beginning to bring the knowledge level of OKRs up and build the habit for the first 2-3 quarters, post which stabilization begins. 

Performance review and assessment at Chargebee

What is the frequency of performance assessment for the performance management system?

  • At an organizational level, performance assessment as a part of the performance management system is a quarterly practice to capture performance reviews and notes into the HRMS system
  • Some teams capture notes monthly which feed into the quarterly conversation, to make the process simpler
  • The annual level conversation partly focuses on the performance that went by, but also is an opportunity to frame the opportunities for an individual in the upcoming year, along with goals 
  • The annual performance assessment is a two-part conversation where we also share the rating of how the individual has contributed to the organization 

Also Read: How often should you conduct a performance review

How did you decide on the right rating scale?

We looked at the three-point scale, the five-point scale and questioned if we needed a point scale. Furthermore, there were questions whether ratings mattered at all. Then, we decided to apply them to our context and see what would be meaningful. 

We transitioned performance rating from an understanding of meeting expectations to reflecting the contributions of an individual, vis-à-vis reflecting the expectations of the manager or the team. 

That was the pivot, a contribution based rating:

  • It is a four-point scale
  • The two middle options are solid contributors who are really good at their job in the middle and strong contributors who probably take it up a notch and go beyond the contributions of that role. You can see their contributions visibly in other parts of the organization and other teams
  • The outlier on one end of the spectrum are the exceptional contributors 
  • The other end of the spectrum has limited contributors who are newer and are trying to get their feet wet and trying to figure out how they can grow into a solid contributor 
  • The frame is to show people where they are now and maybe where they can feel help in order to perhaps contribute better

Where is this rating scale used? 

Most rating scales focus on performance of the past, however, as a part of our performance management system, we believe that any appraisal or promotion is for what they will do in the future. Thus, our performance rating scale seeks to capture the philosophy of focusing on the future. 

For instance, if someone has a bad performance in a quarter and if you're still excited about that person because they have continuously performed well, and believe that they are a strong contributor, you need to give them a rating that reflects that. Our rating scale brings this change into the conversation between the manager and the team member. For us, every performance review is a hiring decision. 

For us, every performance review is a hiring decision

We also request the manager and team member to mutually align on the rating for the performance management system. We expect there is no ambiguity on the rating and the areas of improvement as part of the performance review. 

Finally, the contributor rating plays an important role in awarding the compensation revision. The onus of this performance review for performance management system is put on the individuals instead of the managers so that the individuals take ownership of blocking a time, writing it down and ensuring that their manager also writes it down and then owns its own outcome for that. 

Also read: 100+ self review comments and phrases for performance assessment

How do you de-link compensation and ratings for team members?

Compensation is a function of the market as well. Thus, if someone who is a solid contributor has some issues with compensation, we review it on a case to case basis. Furthermore, these two conversations, compensation and recency, happen at least with a gap of thirty days, to ensure there is no recency bias. The compensation is driven by a strong recommendation from the HR around the range and each team also has a budget which they can allocate as they see fit. 

What principles should organizations follow while designing their performance management system? 

Try and understand what sort of an organization you want to build i.e. what are you really looking for in your people or what is that thing that needs to be in your DNA

At Chargebee, the hunger to learn and grow is something that you can see is what we look for, and that is probably an identifiable trait that you can notice. 

  • Write down the traits you are looking for 
  • Keep your performance management system simple
  • Articulate the why and share it with the team
  • Keep iterating as you scale

Is there a bell curve which you follow?

No, there is not really a bell curve that we follow at Chargebee, yet. We personally don't believe in the bell curve but we need to see as we scale through our own journey and how it evolves in the next one or two years. 

How do you train managers to deliver feedback effectively?

  • Showing managers how to write feedback is an important exercise that organizations have to go through from the top
  • Adopting the coaching methodology and then demand from managers to do it for their 1-o-1 team members 
  • Running and a lot of office hours leading up to the final date of the closing the performance review conversation, having the managers come to the HR team to walk them through some of the samples written down and how they could use the framework
  • Rolling out a proper manager program focused only on effectively giving written feedback

Wrapping up

To conclude, it is clear that effective goal setting with OKRs, performance review and written feedback collectively contribute to a robust performance management program. It is important to have a clear vision in mind when designing a performance management system, both on what you seek to achieve and the DNA of the organization you're trying to build. Finally, it is important to keep iterating on the go, to adapt to new realities and dynamic priorities

Suggested Reading

150+ useful performance review phrases for managers

8 best performance management software in 2022

How to strategically align compensation and performance management

Stay updated with talent and performance management best practices. Register for The Talent Tribe today

Sudeshna Roy

Marketing, SuperBeings

Hi There! I am Sudeshna. At SuperBeings, I lead our content strategy to bring you the best and latest on everything related to people management

Latest posts

min read

50+ Most Useful Employee Onboarding Survey Questions

‘Onboarding: How to get your new employees up to speed in half the time’ - George Bradt, founder and Chairman PrimeGenesis

Did you know that a strong onboarding process improves new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%? 

However, only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job at onboarding new employees. 

This clearly states that while employee onboarding has a direct impact on the bottom line, most organizations miss out on how to get it right. 

Don’t let that happen to you. To onboard new employees like a pro, keep reading.

What is an onboarding survey?

By definition, an onboarding survey is a questionnaire that is administered on new hires to gauge their initial experience and level of satisfaction, in an attempt to understand their engagement and retention potential. 

As an HR, you can get multiple insights from an onboarding survey, including:

  • what employees thought about the organization when they heard about it for the first time
  • how their impression changed over time 
  • whether or not their experience aligns with their expectations, etc.

It can help you estimate how long the employees are likely to stay and how you can further optimize your onboarding process to make it more aligned with employee expectations. 

Why are onboarding surveys important?

An effective onboarding survey can help you reflect on your performance through the onboarding process, which directly impacts KPIs for organizational success, including:

1. Retention

93% of employers believe a good onboarding experience is critical in influencing a new employee’s decision whether to stay with the company. At the same time, 25% of a company’s new hires would leave within a year if the onboarding experience was poor. 

2. eNPS

20% of new hires are unlikely to recommend an employer to a friend or family member and an onboarding survey can help you identify the reasons for the same. However, new team members who were asked to provide feedback prior to their start date also had a 79% increase in willingness to refer others. Thus, illustrating how onboarding surveys and feedback can impact eNPS.

Read: How to use eNPS for better employee engagement

3. Satisfaction and Engagement

Employees with exceptional onboarding experiences are 2.6x more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace and 70% say they have ‘the best possible job’.

4. Performance

77% of employees who went through a formal onboarding process were able to meet their first performance goals. However, 49% of individuals who failed to reach their first performance milestone had no official onboarding instruction. An onboarding survey can help you determine the effectiveness of your onboarding process.  

5. Other

In addition, your new employees might also have an inclination towards providing feedback as a part of the onboarding survey, which you will lose out if you don’t conduct the same. Research shows that only 26% of new employees recall being asked for feedback on their candidate journey and the hiring process before their start date wherein 91% of new hires are willing to provide this feedback. 

Employee onboarding survey: Best practices

Now that you understand the importance of an employee onboarding survey, let’s quickly discuss how to effectively run an onboarding survey. 

1. Set the cadence

You must coincide your employee onboarding survey with important milestones for the new employee in the organization. Mostly, these milestones coincide with the end of the first few months. Thus, you should circulate your onboarding survey after 30, 60 and 90 days respectively, with different objectives for each. Furthermore, you can send interim surveys in case you feel the need, for instance, when the employee starts a project, or when the orientation process is over. 

“Effective employee onboarding isn’t about swag, stickers, & company value pamphlets on their desk the 1st day. But, how you help them understand their goals & how co values are interwoven in operating are more important.”- Suhail Doshi, founder and chairman of Mixpanel, Inc.

2. Identify critical areas and build questions

Based on the milestones or cadence you have set up, it is important to identify areas you would want to cover with each milestone. For instance:

In the first 30 days, you should focus on themes like: 

  • Orientation process
  • Initial thoughts
  • Expectation alignment 
  • Recruitment process
  • Onboarding experience

In 60 days, you can touch on themes like:

  • Knowledge transfer
  • Level of engagement and satisfaction
  • Induction process

By the end of 90 days, focus should shift towards:

  • Manager support
  • Role clarity
  • Likelihood to stay
  • Organizational alignment

Once you have decided the themes, you can start building questions, a snapshot of which is covered in the next section or you can download the template now here. The themes can be fluid across milestones, depending on the context for your organization. 

3. Roll out the survey for participation

Once the milestone arrives, you should roll out the onboarding survey and drive participation. It is important to explain to your new employees why the onboarding survey is important and how they can fill it up. Give them the requisite time, deadlines and communicate what will be the next steps to encourage them to participate. 

4. Follow up

Simply rolling out the survey is not enough. You must reach out to your new employees to remind them to fill the onboarding survey as amidst numerous new things, they might lose track of it. Don’t push too hard, yet send subtle reminders to get genuine responses. For instance: employee survey tools such as SuperBeings integrate with chat tools like Slack, Teams, Gchat to send personalized nudges to fill out the survey in the flow of work at set intervals as well as allows them to participate directly without switching context. 

Unlock a wide array of survey questions and employee analytics. See how SuperBeings can help

5. Take action

Once your onboarding survey responses are in, slice and dice them to get insights into what your employees feel and leverage the data points to further refine your onboarding process to facilitate engagement, retention and advocacy from the beginning. 

Sample onboarding survey questions for 30-60-90 day review

Taking cue from the section above, here are 50+ onboarding survey questions that you can leverage to gauge the pulse of your new employees as they complete different milestones.

You can also download these questions as a template and use it whenever you need. Click here to download

1. Onboarding survey questions for 30 day review

a) Onboarding and orientation process

  1. How can we change or improve the onboarding process?
  2. What did you like most about the onboarding process?
  3. Was the orientation interactive and engaging?
  4. Did the onboarding process meet your expectations?
  5. Do you feel welcome and proud to be working here?
  6. How would you rate the duration and quality of your onboarding experience?
  7. How would you describe your first day?

b) Decision related questions

  1. What were the top 3 reasons for joining this company?
  2. Do you think those reasons have been met?

c) Technical training and knowledge transfer

  1. Have you received the training that you were promised during your induction?
  2. Did the training meet your expectations and was accurately described during the hiring process?
  3. Is the training relevant to your roles and responsibilities?
  4. Were adequate tools and materials shared during training to facilitate knowledge transfer?

2. Onboarding survey questions for 60 day review

a) Engagement related questions

  1. Would you recommend the company to others in your network?
  2. Do you see yourself working here in 2 years?
  3. Do you feel motivated to come to work in the morning?
  4. Do you feel prepared for your role?

b) Onboarding experience

  1. Did the first 30 days of onboarding go as expected?
  2. What is the one thing you would like to change from your experience so far?

c) Company policies

  1. Are you clear on the different company policies shared with you?
  2. Do you have any concerns about any of the policies that you would like to highlight?
  3. Do you think any policy is missing that you think must be a part of our governance?

d) Questions about team

  1. Have your team members been integral in smooth onboarding?
  2. Have you been able to connect and collaborate with all your team members?
  3. Do you consider your team members to be welcoming and inclusive?
  4. What is the thing you would like to change about how your team works currently?

e) Reflection questions

  1. Have you been able to achieve the goals you set out for your 60 days?
  2. How has your journey been so far?
  3. What has been your biggest accomplishment in 60 days?
  4. What are some achievements you would like to ensure in the next 30 days?

3. Onboarding survey questions for 90 day review

a) Role and expectation clarity

  1. Do you have an understanding of what is expected from you as a part of this role?
  2. Is your role similar to what was communicated to you during the hiring process?
  3. Do you have the necessary resources you need for the role?
  4. Do you have clarity of your goals?
  5. Do you understand how your work will be evaluated?
  6. Does your role meet your career aspirations?
  7. What do you think is the most difficult part about your role?
  8. What excites you most about your current role?
  9. Do you understand the importance of the work you do?

b) Organizational alignment

  1. Do your values align with the organizational values?
  2. Do you believe in the vision and mission of the organization?
  3. Do you believe your ideas are valued?
  4. Do you have clarity on the organization’s future plans and do you align with them?
  5. Do you see yourself as a part of this organization 5 years from now?

c) Manager support

  1. Have your conversations with the managers been effective?
  2. Does your manager support your career aspirations?
  3. Does your manager provide you with the necessary support to perform your role effectively?
  4. Do you receive regular feedback from your manager?
  5. Does your manager include you in key discussions, wherever applicable?

d) Other questions

  1. What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
  2. Do you feel your onboarding was successful?
  3. How can we help you in improving the overall experience?
  4. Do you feel included and accepted by everyone in the team?
  5. How do you see yourself progressing from here?
  6. Do you have access to all the information you need?

Wrapping up (TL:DR)

By now, it would be very clear to you that an employee onboarding survey can help you in multiple ways to create a high performance culture. It can enable you to augment retention, engagement, satisfaction and advocacy among employees to ensure that there is minimal turnover and you are able to attract high quality talent. Ensure that you roll out an onboarding survey at 30/60/90 days frequency to check onboarding experience, knowledge transfer, manager support, role clarity, etc. 

You should focus on other forms of employee feedback on culture, training and development opportunities, level of engagement, manager effectiveness, workplace collaboration, work-life balance, among others. 

Finally, you should focus on leveraging technology and automation to add efficiency and effectiveness to your onboarding survey and process. 

Research shows, automating onboarding tasks resulted in a 16% increase in retention rates for new hires.

Thus, consider partnering with a survey platform which enables you to:

  • Use science-backes best practices onboarding survey templates
  • Track employee milestones automatically and roll out surveys on due date with zero to minimal manual intervention 
  • Integrate surveys with existing chat tools for reminders and sending out survey questions
  • Use NLP for decoding sentiments behind open comments to understand the reason behind each response
  • Use other employee engagement surveys to get the whole picture of new hire engagement

Related Reading

How to use employee engagement survey comments

Best employee engagement survey tools in the market today

min read

How to Give Constructive Feedback? (With Examples)

When it comes to performance management for employees, you would agree that feedback plays an important role. However, only offering positive feedback and appreciating the performance of your employees is not enough. You need to give them an equal amount of constructive feedback which is specific to ensure high levels of performance. If you feel that your employees may not embrace constructive feedback, think again.

Research shows that 92% of people believe that constructive feedback is effective at improving performance.

In this article we will help you understand how you can give constructive feedback and examples you can leverage. 

What is constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is essentially a tool that most forward looking professionals leverage to help others in their team with specific and constructive inputs on areas where one’s performance can be improved. Put simply, if you have an employee who doesn’t pay attention to detail, constructive feedback involves helping them acknowledge that this is a problem area, and more than that, enabling them with the support to overcome the same. It involves not only identifying a performance problem, but also, providing action items and ways to address the same. 

Importance of constructive feedback

Now that you have an understanding of what constructive feedback means, let’s quickly look at some of the top reasons why constructive feedback is important. Constructive feedback:

  • Improves performance: It enables your team members to understand how they can perform better with specific inputs on areas of improvement
  • Reinforces expectations: It helps your employees clearly gauge what is expected out of them in terms of performance, and sets clear deliverables and measurement parameters to avoid any surprises during performance appraisal
  • Boosts morale and confidence: It involves also appreciating employees for a job well done and illustrates how they can become a better version of themselves
  • Facilitates employee stickiness: It ensures that employees see your organization which cares about their professional growth and encourages them to stick around longer, and even act as advocates for others.

Positive feedback vs constructive feedback 

When delivering feedback, you must understand the difference between positive and constructive feedback and ensure that you use both of them where they fit the best. Here a quick distinction between positive feedback vs constructive feedback:

  • Positive feedback focuses on a job well done and highlights where an employee has excelled. Whereas, constructive feedback talks about areas of improvement and action items for desirable outcomes. 
  • While positive feedback seeks to reinforce the positive behavior, constructive feedback focuses more on facts and traits.
  • Positive feedback is a reflection of the past performance and doesn’t necessarily have a futuristic orientation, however, constructive feedback takes reference from the past to feed better performance in the future.  
  • “Your presentation during the board meeting was crisp and informative” is an example of positive feedback. Whereas, “While your presentation was informative, you can focus more on articulation to ensure that all your research is communicated in a way that everyone is able to understand. Using pointers can help here”, is an example of constructive feedback.
In a nutshell, positive feedback is a reinforcement tool, whereas constructive feedback is a mechanism to facilitate development. 

How to give constructive feedback

With an understanding of the fundamentals of constructive feedback, let’s quickly jump to the best practices which can help you deliver constructive feedback in a nuanced and effective manner. 

1. Decide when to give the constructive feedback

The first thing you need to focus on is ensuring that the timing of the constructive feedback is ideal. For instance, a busy period when the employee is putting in a lot of effort may not be ideal for giving them feedback about their performance from three months ago. At the same time, ensure that you provide constructive feedback regularly and consistently, to avoid recency or primacy bias. However, don’t offer feedback when you are angry about their performance either. 

2. Set the context and build trust

Before you get down to giving the feedback, set the tone. Share with the employee the purpose of the meeting and make them comfortable prior to sharing your reflections. It is important that you build trust so your employees can share their perspective and don’t feel intimidated by what you have to say. 

3. Share your reflections

Once the context and tone is set, start sharing your reflections. Your focus should be on sharing what you have observed about their performance. However, ensure that you also share how the same is likely to impact their career growth as well as organizational success. For instance, if you are providing constructive feedback about missing deadlines, you can use the impact of losing clients for the organization and a casual attitude marker for the employee.

4. Give specific examples

When sharing reflections, use specific examples of when you noticed a particular behavior. For instance, in the above example, you can share instances of when the employee missed his/her deadlines. Ensure that you use examples which illustrate a pattern, rather than a one off incident, which is very uncommon. Furthermore, always use concrete examples and not interpretation of what you hear or see.   

5. Balance positive and negative

With constructive feedback, your focus should be on helping the employee improve their performance and work on their areas of development.

However, simply pointing out their weaknesses or negatives in their performance will not help. You need to also talk about some of the positive aspects of their performance and how those qualities can help them absorb and implement their constructive feedback. 

6. Be empathetic

Emotional intelligence is extremely important when delivering constructive feedback. You cannot be apathetic towards your employee when delivering the same. Put yourself in their shoes to choose your phrases carefully. We will share some examples in the next section. Also, use your EQ to read the situation when you are delivering the feedback. If you see that the employee is getting uncomfortable, take a pause and comfort them first. Read their gestures and body language to ensure that the employee is not feeling attacked. 

7. Don’t make it personal

Like it or not, constructive feedback involves pointing out one’s weaknesses and areas of improvement. However, you should refrain from equating the performance of the employee with his/her personality or whole self. For instance, if someone misses deadlines, encourage them to be more organized or prioritize important work, than labeling them as a procrastinator. 

8. Encourage response from the other side

While you are delivering the constructive feedback, you have to make sure it is a dialogue.

The idea is to give the other person enough room to share their side of the story.

Try to understand whether or not they agree with your feedback and how they perceive the same. They may share the lack of support or resources, which have resulted in a weak performance. Be open to some reverse feedback as well. Again, your EQ must be at play here. If your employee has an outburst, or reacts negatively, you need to stay composed and calm them down. 

9. Discuss potential solutions

Once you and your employee are aligned on the areas of improvement, the most important part of constructive feedback is to provide adequate solutions to address the performance challenges. Don’t give abstract or vague solutions like be punctual if the employee misses deadlines. Rather, give very specific and action oriented solutions which are directed towards a particular outcome. The idea is to collectively understand the cause of the weak area of performance and use concrete solutions to remedy the same. 

10. Create a time bound action plan

Now that you have shared some potential solutions, you must revise the top action items with your employee to avoid any confusion. At the same time, you should focus on creating a time bound plan with key milestones to ensure that development is taking place. Summarize what was discussed and how you will proceed from there. Best is to set up a date to review the progress to ensure constructive feedback is paid heed to. 

Read our article on Start Stop Continue Feedback to give action oriented feedback

20 Constructive feedback examples 

Here are top 20 constructive feedback examples that you can use during your next conversation. To make your constructive feedback more effective, we have also illustrated examples of what you should steer away from.

1. Communication skills

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I would really like to know how you have progressed on the tasks assigned to you last month. It would be ideal if you could share a progress update on what has been achieved with a small summary of challenges/ support needed at the end of every week to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You have not kept your team updated about your work, this is highly unprofessional.

2. Attention to detail

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I was going through the work you submitted last week and I can see you have put in a lot of effort. However, I could see that there were some small errors and inaccuracies in the report across multiple sections. I believe that if you proofread your work thoroughly before turning it in, it will reduce the number of iterations and improve your quality of work. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You seem completely distracted as you have been submitting flawed and below average work, this will not be tolerated. 

3. Time management

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I understand that you are working on multiple projects, however, you need to ensure that the most important projects are not overlooked and their timelines are not missed. Therefore, I would suggest you create a list of tasks you are working on and check with the respective reporting managers on the priority and set clear expectations to ensure that no deadlines are missed. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You have missed your deadline again, it seems like you are not serious about you work. 

4. Goal achievement

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I see that you have been able to achieve only a part of the goals that you set out for this year. Maybe you were trying to spread yourself too thin. I would suggest you reduce the number of projects you are working on and ensure that the goals you set you are able to achieve. Furthermore, you must be vocal about the support or resources you need to achieve your goals. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

Are you even serious about your work, your level of goal achievement indicates otherwise. 

5. Absenteeism

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I see that you have been taking some time off lately, without any prior intimation. Let’s try to understand if there is a particular reason for the same. We can work on your schedule to make it more flexible. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You have been missing all meetings lately, this tardiness is not appreciated. 

6. Problem solving

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I see that you are excellent at execution of ideas. However, I believe that you need to focus more on coming up with solutions on your own. I would suggest participating more in the brainstorming sessions and coming up with solutions. Try to think on your own, before you reach out to others with the problem.

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You lack any problem solving capabilities, and will be stuck to execution for the rest of your career.

Wrapping up

Constructive feedback is integral to organizational success. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Always use facts and examples to deliver constructive feedback
  • Don’t forget to differentiate between positive and constructive feedback
  • Make sure you have practical tips or suggestions 
  • Leverage specific constructive feedback examples for specific performance problems, instead of being vague

Related Reading

50 top 360 degree feedback question examples

150 performance review phrases

min read

How to Use Performance Management Cycle for High Performance Teams

While performance management has been a key priority for organizations, for a long time, year end reviews were considered to be the most effective way to facilitate the same. However, recently organizations are observing a shift towards continuous performance management with an introduction of the performance management cycle. This article will focus on different aspects of the performance management cycle and how it enables unlocking the potential of high performance teams. 

What is a performance management cycle?

Before going into the diverse aspects, you should first understand what a performance management cycle essentially is. If you have an idea of what continuous performance management is, you’re already a step ahead in the understanding. Performance management cycle primarily is a way or a model in which you evaluate or focus on the performance of your employees throughout the year. The idea is to break down the different elements of employee performance into different stages and focus on them consistently. It starts with setting goals and ends with rewards for a job well done, which leads to setting of new goals and the performance management cycle resets.  

Understanding 4 stages of the performance management cycle

While you may want to divide your performance management cycle into any number of stages, mostly there are four stages. 


The first stage, at the very beginning of the performance management cycle, focuses on creating a plan for the performance ahead. The idea is to have a clear understanding on what your employee must achieve and how you will eventually review and evaluate them. During the planning stage, you and your team member, collectively should:

  • Set SMART goals of OKRs based on the performance expectations
  • Have clear KPIs or metrics which you will use for performance appraisal
  • Clarify how individual goals or OKRs contribute to organizational vision

Thus, the planning stage of the performance management cycle sets the tone for the year ahead and ensures there is clarity at all levels. 


Once the goals have been set in the planning stage, you enter the monitoring stage of the performance management cycle. This stage essentially focuses on ensuring that things are moving as planned. The idea is to ascertain that your team members are more or less on track for specific milestones outlined as a part of goal setting. Additionally, this stage will help you address any performance challenges that you may observe, sooner than later. Monitoring stage includes:

  • Regular one-on-one meetings to review performance so far
  • Providing feedback to your team members on what you think has been going well and what needs to improve
  • Relooking at goals in case they are behind or ahead of schedule in terms of achievement
  • Understanding the kind of extra support or resources your team members might need to improve their performance
  • Having candid conversations with your employees on wellbeing, professional development objectives, and other factors which may impact performance, morale and engagement 

The monitoring stage essentially focuses on tracking the performance of your employees against the set goals to provide constructive feedback and help them perform better. 


The third stage of the performance management cycle comes into existence towards the end. It involves reviewing the performance and providing ratings based on the established KPIs and metrics. While this is the formal review process, if you have been constantly monitoring the performance of your employees, this will essentially be a consolidation of all the reviews and feedback shared overtime. While delivering performance reviews, ensure that you:

  • Shed any performance review biases that might come your way, including primacy effect, recency bias, halo/horns effect, etc. 
  • Give your employees concrete examples and facts to support your review, rather than being vague and ambiguous
  • Should try to get 360 degree feedback and review for your team members
  • Answer some of the following questions to create an informed review:
  1. Did the employee achieve the goals set out?
  2. What were the key enablers in their achievement?
  3. Did you observe growth in the employee during the performance management cycle?
  4. Did the employee share any concerns, and were they addressed?

Since you have been connecting regularly with your employees, the reviews will not come as a surprise to them, but will help you monitor the trends of their performance and guide the next stage for the employee’s professional growth. 


Finally, the rewarding stage in the performance management cycle acts as a culmination to one cycle and sets stage for the commencement of the next. The objective is to take into account their performance over the performance management cycle and create a culture of rewards and recognition to celebrate and appreciate high performance. Some of the quick ways to reward your employees include, giving them:

  • Healthy increments and promotions
  • Public appreciation through social media, company intranet
  • Bonuses and other incentives
  • Rewards like vouchers, gifts, etc. 

This stage is important to make your employees feel valued and motivate them to keep the performance going. It will also push average performers to step up their efforts and enable you to create a high performance culture. 

Why is a performance management cycle important?

Now that you understand the various stages of a performance management cycle, let’s quickly look at why the performance management cycle is important for your organization. It will help you:

  • Clearly define goals and expectations from your employees to drive directed performance.
  • Keep your employees engaged. When you constantly connect with your employees for 1-o-1 meetings and consistently take interest in their performance improvement, they are likely to feel engaged, satisfied and motivated.
  • Address performance challenges preemptively and provide your employees with corrective actions, resources and support to bridge performance issues.
  • Retain talent as employees who feel that their performance is being valued and receive regular feedback tend to stay longer at an organization. 

Top 4 ways in which performance management cycle leads to high performance

In addition to the above mentioned benefits, a performance management cycle can help you build a high performance culture in a number of ways. Some of the top aspects include:

Clarifies KPIs and metrics

What constitutes high performance can be abstract. For some, closing 5 deals can be high performance, for others, it might be closing 15. Planning stage in the performance management lifecycle will help your employees understand what constitutes high performance and thus, proceed towards it. 

Boosts recognition

A key part of the performance management cycle is the rewards and recognition. When employees feel their performance is being valued and recognized, they tend to double up their efforts, leading to a high performance team.

Facilitates communication and feedback

Monitoring and tracking followed by 1-o-1 conversations can help you communicate with your employees regularly. Not only will you track their performance, but will also listen to their concerns or challenges and offer them feedback. Such conversations and feedback have a positive impact on performance, leading to a high performance culture. 

Ensures appropriate training

One of the foundations of high performance is enabling your team members to undergo the right training. Performance management cycle can help you understand which training is important for your employees at which performance stage, realizing high quality results. 

Top tips for managers for effective performance management cycle

As a manager, there are several ways in which you can unlock the true potential of a performance management cycle. You are one of the key stakeholders who plays an important role in every stage of the cycle. Here are a few tips that can help you augment the effectiveness of the performance management cycle:

  • Invite employee participation and make the OKR setting process collaborative and action oriented
  • Provide constructive feedback to your employees, instead of being too sweet or too negative
  • Help your employees access the right resources and training they need to meet their goals
  • Give your employees a safe space to share their concerns and challenges
  • Don’t micromanage your employees in the name of monitoring
  • Be open about relooking at the goals in case of a misalignment as you move along the performance management cycle

Benefits of using a performance management tool

A performance management tool can significantly help you streamline your performance management cycle by offering the following benefits. 

Performance snapshots

Get automated performance snapshots of your employee’s performance over the 9 box grid to track performance trends over time and provide reviews without recency bias.

1:1 conversations

Leverage guided templates with AI based suggestions for your 1:1 conversations with employees during the monitoring stage based on performance over time. Receive suggested talking points for goal-centered conversations.

Compare performance

Look at historic feedback to see improvement in performance and compare performance over time. You can also compare performance of peers over specific parameters. 

Related Reading

How to create a high performance culture using OKRs

7 steps to effective performance management system

12 common performance review biases to avoid

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