Top 24 Human Resources Initiatives for 2021

The new year has arrived and HR professionals are busy preparing their organizations and employees for an outstanding 2021. A few months ago, we sent a survey to the Trakstar user base and posed the question, “What is your top employee/HR initiative for 2021?”

The open-ended question generated a total of 359 responses. Survey participants were mostly from organizations with 1-300 employees and primarily represented the following industries:

  • Nonprofit (14%)
  • Software/IT (13%)
  • Professional services (10%)
  • Financial services (9%)
  • Healthcare (9%)

We compiled the results and identified 302 responses that demonstrate trends within the HR profession. Based on our survey results, here are the top 24 HR initiatives for 2021. 

1. Employee engagement (43 responses)

Increasing employee engagement is overwhelmingly the top priority for HR professionals going into 2021. While many people have their own definition of engagement, we here at Trakstar believe it’s the combination of employee happiness and productivity, driven by intrinsic motivation.

We should note that multiple respondents specifically mentioned measuring engagement with employee surveys as their top initiative. Gauging the intrinsic motivation of the entire workforce is challenging but can be accomplished by sending surveys containing the right questions. 

Additional employee engagement resources:

2. Performance reviews & performance management (35 responses)

A large number of survey participants expressed a desire to improve employee performance reviews and their day-to-day performance management practices. This is an unsurprising trend given that accurately completing employee evaluations is an on-going struggle for many organizations. 

There were several specific responses related to employee performance reviews, including:

  • Finish performance reviews on deadline (9 responses)
  • Improve the performance review process (5 responses)
  • Start a performance review process (2 responses)
  • Automate performance reviews (2 responses)
  • Develop competencies for performance reviews (2 responses)
  • Improve overall employee performance (1 response)
  • Organize performance reviews by department (1 response)
  • Complete all performance reviews (1 response)
  • Integrate core values into performance reviews (1 response)
  • Simplify performance reviews (1 response)
  • Track high performers and under performers (1 response)

The main takeaway from the points above is efficiently and effectively completing performance reviews is a key objective for 2021. 

Additional employee reviews and performance management resources:

3. Employee training & development (30 responses)

Many HR professionals hope to improve their organization’s employee training and professional development efforts in the coming year. Successful training programs improve performance while also boosting employee engagement. Employees get better at their jobs and appreciate having access to free skill-development coursework that will lead to new career opportunities. 

More specifically, five participants mentioned creating clear career development paths for employees and two said they hope to train and promote new managers from within.

Additional employee training and development resources:

4. Employee goals & objectives (21 responses)

Setting employee goals and objectives is another major priority for HR professionals going into 2021. Three respondents clarified they hope to align company and employee goals to ensure every team member positively contributes to the organization’s bottom line.

Goals are the foundation of a successful performance management process. Employees are productive when they know what tasks and projects will help their team succeed. And performance reviews are accurate when raters evaluate employees on clear and quantifiable objectives rather than on generic competencies unrelated to the role.

Additional employee goals and objectives resources 

5. Employee retention & turnover (21 responses)

Many survey respondents said retaining employees and decreasing turnover is their main initiative going forward. Even though the job market currently favors hiring companies, recruiting and training new employees is a costly and time-consuming undertaking.

Employee retention ensures day-to-day operational efficiency. According to SHRM, the average time-to-hire is 42 days, which means progress is impeded for nearly a month and a half while key positions remain vacant. Problems can be avoided and progress will continue simply by retaining talented and knowledgeable team members. 

Additional employee retention & turnover resources 

6. COVID-19 (19 responses)

The pandemic is on everyone’s mind going into the new year, including the HR professionals responsible for the health and safety of their employees. It was certainly the most prevalent workforce trend of 2020 and employers will continue to deal with the new reality going forward.  

Of the 19 respondents who said COVID-19 is their top 2021 initiative, 12 provided the following context:

  • Returning to the workplace (5 responses)
  • Maintaining productivity during COVID-19 (4 responses)
  • Ensuring employee mental health during COVID-19 (2 responses)
  • Avoiding layoffs during COVID-19 (1 response)

Additionally, 11 survey participants said transitioning to a remote organization is their main priority. We’ll cover that topic more in a later section. 

7. Diversity & inclusion (19 responses)

Building a diverse and inclusive workforce is another major HR focus for 2021. Not long ago, the makeup of the staff was hardly a concern for most organizations but it’s now a top priority across the HR profession. 

Numerous organizations attribute their success to the diversity of the people they employ. An inclusive culture improves employee performance, engagement, and retention. And great ideas come from a collaborative work environment consisting of people who have different life experiences and perspectives. 

Additional diversity and inclusion resources:

8. HR software (17 responses)

As technology continues to advance, many HR professionals want to take better advantage of their employee management systems. Some respondents hope to increase both manager and employee participation in their Trakstar performance management solution. Others expressed a desire to integrate their different software or implement a Human Resource Information System (HRIS).

Once the right HR technology is in place, many of the other 2021 initiatives are easy to accomplish. Employee engagement, goals, and performance are measurable with a solution like Trakstar. Employee training programs are seamlessly created using a Learning Management System (LMS). And the hiring process for multiple positions is efficiently managed with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). 

Additional HR software resources:

9. Growth & hiring (12 responses)

Many survey respondents are focused on growing their organizations and expanding their staff in 2021. Organizational growth may be the most challenging initiative on this list, depending on how ambitious the targets are. 

Hiring for multiple positions requires a smart approach. The organization must prioritize the important positions it needs to fill, source a pool of qualified professionals, and effectively evaluate the top candidates. The right hiring decisions must be made for each position so the organization gets the best people in place to achieve its goals. 

Additional growth and hiring resources:

10. Remote work (11 responses)

Due to COVID-19, remote work suddenly became one of the biggest workforce trends of 2020. It will not only continue for the foreseeable future but many organizations have already decided to allow their employees to work from home indefinitely. 

Multiple survey participants specified that they’ll need to develop remote work guidelines and implement new software that will allow for virtual collaboration. Others mentioned they plan to support the mental health of their employees working from home and put measures in place to help them be productive. 

Other 2021 HR Initiatives 

That concludes the top 10 HR initiatives for 2021. Here are other common trends based on our survey results. 

11. Compensation planning (11 responses)

  • A handful of HR professionals plan to ensure fair and equitable pay for their employees. 

12. Employee policies (10 responses)

  • Ten survey respondents need to develop specific policies for their workforce in 2021.

13. Succession planning (8 responses)

  • Some HR leaders plan on identifying employees who will eventually step into leadership roles.

14. Employee health & wellness (7 responses)

  • A few survey respondents aspire to promote health and mental wellbeing in their organizations. 

15. Document employee performance (6 responses)

  • An extension of performance reviews and management, six respondents hope to continuously document employee performance. 

16. New hire onboarding (6 responses)

  • Some survey participants need to improve how they welcome and train new additions to the team. 

17. Employee feedback (6 responses)

  • A group of HR professionals hope to provide better feedback to employees. 

18. 360-degree reviews (5 responses)

  • Five participants plan to incorporate multi-rater feedback into performance reviews. 

19. Organizational structure (3 responses)

  • A set of HR professionals need to reorganize or define the structure of the workforce. 

20. Improve communication (3 responses)

  • A few respondents stated that communication needs to improve among employees. 

21. Define job descriptions (3 responses)

  • Three HR leaders shared that they plan to specify the tasks and responsibilities of every team member. 

22. Lower organizational costs (2 responses)

  • A couple of participants plan to decrease spending in their organization.

23. Develop company culture (2 responses)

  • Two HR professionals will establish a healthy company culture.

24. 90-Day performance reviews (2 responses)

  • Lastly, a couple of respondents will implement performance reviews after new hires have been on the job for three months.

Human resources trends in 2021

There are a wide variety of initiatives HR professionals will focus on in 2021. The overall trend seems to be that organizations will strive to improve the employee experience and ensure productivity after what was a trying 2020. 

From all of us here at Trakstar, we wish you a Happy New Year and the best of luck with your 2021 goals, both personally and professionally. 

Additional resources:



Top 10 Employee Training Initiatives for 2021

As the year comes to an end, HR and training professionals are getting ready to help their employees acquire the skills and knowledge needed to have an outstanding 2021. We recently sent a survey to the user base of our sister company Mindflash and asked what their main employee training initiatives are for the coming year.

We received a total of 195 responses. Survey participants were mostly from organizations with 1-300 employees and primarily represented the following industries:

  • Healthcare (24%)
  • Software/IT (12%)
  • Manufacturing (12%)
  • Nonprofit (12%)

After going through the results, we identified 72 responses that represent trends. Here are the top 10 employee training initiatives for 2021 based on our survey results.

1. Online training (17 responses)

Continuing to use an online training solution or moving all employee training online is the number one initiative for 2021. This is unsurprising since employee training software offers numerous benefits over in-person training for both course creators and employees consuming the content.

Of the 17 respondents, four specified that they hope to streamline the training experience using software. Another four said they want to monitor training progress and learn from the reports their software provides.

2. Improve & increase employee training (14 responses)

Improving and increasing training was the second most popular response in our customer survey. Most of the participants specified they want to take better advantage of their Learning Management Software (LMS) to further their training efforts. 

Multiple respondents want to update training content and create new online courses. Others hope to train a larger portion of their workforce. One respondent said they hope to “become a learning organization.”

3. Compliance & safety training (14 responses)

Fourteen survey participants will focus on compliance, safety, and certification training in 2021. These respondents likely represent the industries where this type of training is especially important such as healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, and food service, to name a few examples.

Employee training software is ideal for compliance and safety training. An LMS provides a detailed record of every employee who has completed their legally or organizationally-required training.

4. Employee training participation (6 responses)

A handful of survey respondents said getting employees to buy into training is their main priority for 2021. Getting employees excited to learn is a common challenge since training is often a secondary concern after their primary job responsibilities. 

Of the respondents who chose this as their main initiative, some specified they want to help employees see the benefits of training. Others mentioned they hope employees take responsibility for training so deadlines are met and the organization achieves its learning objectives.

5. New hire training & onboarding (5 responses)

Welcoming and training new hires is the fifth most popular initiative for the coming year. Sharing the right information with a new employee ensures they’re ready to succeed immediately after joining the organization. 

Onboarding answers all the questions new hires typically have and covers the policies they need to know. When combined with role-specific training, new hires are ready to hit the ground running soon after their start date.

6. Multimedia training (5 responses)

Five respondents will focus on making training materials more interactive and consumable. Research shows that training content delivered in different formats is more effective than a single medium.

Multimedia content generally refers to a combination of video, audio, and written learning materials. Each stimulates different areas of the brain and resonates with people who have different learning styles.

7. Professional development & management training (5 responses)

Another five survey participants will focus on professional development and management training in 2021. Helping employees expand their skills and prepare for future career opportunities improves engagement and leads to a skilled workforce. 

Management training also supports an effective succession planning strategy. Using the 9-box grid, you can identify employees with leadership potential and give them the proper training to prepare for a higher-level role.

8. Remote workforce training (2 responses)

A couple of survey respondents said their main priority for the coming year is to teach employees how to effectively work from home. Helping employees adjust to remote work was one of the biggest HR trends of 2020 and will continue to be important as more organizations go remote indefinitely. 

And naturally, the only way to train remote employees is to provide online courses that are accessible from any computer or mobile device.

9. Process & procedures training (2 responses)

Another pair of survey participants will focus on training employees on their organizational processes in 2021. Many roles have specific workflows that must be followed and employees need to be taught exactly what they entail.

Using an online training solution, you can monitor every trainee’s progress to ensure they acquire the necessary knowledge to effectively do their job.

10. Understand training needs (2 responses)

And finally, two survey participants will focus on filling the gaps in their employee training programs. As we’ve learned from this list, there are various types of training organizations can offer and these respondents will ensure they provide all the right courses to their employees.

A wide scope of employee training courses not only leads to a knowledgeable and skilled workforce. It also results in high engagement and productivity since employees have access to all the information they need to excel at their jobs. 

Employee training in 2021 and beyond

The main takeaway from our employee training survey is that organizations will focus on building skilled workforces in 2021—and will take full advantage of their online training solution to meet their goals. Regardless of what training initiatives you will focus on next year, an LMS will be your key to success. Good luck!

Additional Resources: 


Top Recruiting and Hiring Initiatives for 2021

As 2020 comes to a close, HR and recruiting professionals are busy preparing their organizations for success in the coming year. We recently surveyed the user base of our sister company Recruiterbox to learn what the top recruiting and hiring initiatives will be.

The survey generated a total of 274 responses. Participants were mostly from organizations with 1-300 employees and primarily represented the following industries:

  • Healthcare (16%)
  • Software/Technology (15%)
  • Professional Services (15%)
  • Nonprofit (14%)

We analyzed the results and identified 177 responses that represent trends. Based on the survey responses, here are the top 13 recruiting and hiring initiatives for 2021.

1. Organizational growth (35 responses)

Growing the workforce is the top initiative for next year. After a year where economic progress slowed, many companies are planning on bouncing back and returning to full operations.

Hiring for multiple positions at once is a major undertaking, which is likely why it landed at the top of the list. Achieving company growth objectives requires outlining a hiring roadmap and efficiently sourcing, evaluating, and interviewing candidates.

2. Diversity hiring (31 responses)

Building a diverse team is the second biggest hiring priority for 2021. As companies expand their workforces, they’re planning on bringing on people of various ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and religions. 

This initiative isn’t a surprise since forming a diverse workforce starts with hiring. It requires attracting people with different backgrounds and building an inclusive organizational culture where everyone is welcomed and treated with respect.

3. Employee retention (22 responses)

Even though extensive hiring is the top recruiting trend, there are a number of organizations hoping to do the opposite. Rather than growing the staff, their main 2021 goal is to retain the people they already have.

Unless you’re hiring for a new role, retention is ideal. Employee turnover slows progress as tasks are spread to other team members or go unaccomplished until the role is filled with a new hire.

4. Hire quality candidates (21 responses)

A large number of survey respondents are striving for quality over quantity when it comes to 2021 hiring. With U.S. unemployment high, organizations have the opportunity to bring on talented individuals who are the right fit for their culture and team.

Of the 21 recruiters and HR professionals who said quality hiring is their main initiative, three specified they hope to hire skilled software engineers and two clarified they hope to hire talented sales reps. One respondent specifically mentioned their goal is to “build the perfect team” in the coming year.

5. Improve the hiring process (13 responses)

Hiring efficiency is the main 2021 priority for 13 of our survey respondents. A multi-step hiring process, involving different stakeholders, can take months to complete. However, identifying where candidate movement slows and streamlining the process is a must for the companies hoping to achieve ambitious growth plans. 

Additionally, three respondents specified that they plan to use data to optimize their recruiting efforts. Hiring reports shed light on the bottlenecks that need to be resolved to achieve hiring efficiency.

6. New hire onboarding & training (11 responses)

A handful of survey respondents will be focused on preparing new hires for immediate job success in the coming year. Training and onboarding is an often-overlooked but crucial step to concluding the hiring process.

An effective training and onboarding program makes new hires feel welcome and answers the many questions that come with starting a new job. They get to work knowing what is expected of them and understanding organizational policies and procedures.

7. Employee engagement (9 responses)

While it’s not necessarily a hiring trend, a large portion of our survey participants said improving employee engagement is their main priority for next year. It’s a vague term but usually means having a workforce of happy and productive employees.

Some respondents clarified they need to establish a company culture that promotes engagement. Others said they hope to showcase their culture to candidates during the hiring process and continue the experience through onboarding.

8. Internal hiring & employee training (9 responses)

Nine respondents aspire to promote from within and prepare junior employees for more responsibility. This continues the theme of succeeding with the employees already on staff rather than building a team of external candidates.

Career advancement opportunities and professional development training are excellent ways to boost employee engagement and retention. Team members work hard on a continuous basis if they know their effort will eventually be rewarded with a promotion.

9. Hire for important positions & leadership roles (7 responses)

Some recruiters and HR professionals will be heavily focused on filling important roles on their teams in 2021. 

Hiring for a position crucial to the organization’s operations leaves little room for error. The candidate pool for in-demand positions is often small and requires proactively contacting potential candidates to gauge interest or working with a recruiting agency.

10. Attract qualified candidates (6 responses)

Sourcing the right candidates will be a priority for some hiring organizations next year. Filling the start of the pipeline with people who have the necessary skills and background kicks off a healthy hiring process. The team can then interview and evaluate multiple candidates and find the person who is the best overall fit for the job.

Attracting qualified candidates naturally starts with effective sourcing. Recruiters and hiring managers need to take advantage of the right job boards, as well as accept employee referrals and proactively contact potential candidates.

11. Integrate HR systems (6 responses)

Six survey respondents plan to ensure their various HR and employee management systems are fully integrated in the new year.

The automation features of cloud-based software eliminates busy work for HR teams. For example, a new hire’s details are automatically imported into the performance management software, payroll system, and other solutions when everything is integrated. There is no need for manual data entry, allowing the HR team to focus on more important projects.

12. Candidate experience (4 responses)

Four survey respondents hope to provide a great experience to everyone who applies to their organization. Job seekers often get disheartened by the lack of communication that occurs after applying or interviewing for a job.

Two respondents said they will be more transparent about next steps with candidates and two said they will stay in touch with candidates throughout the process.

13. Better use or implement an ATS (3 responses)

And lastly, three survey participants aspire to better use their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) in 2021. The vast majority of the hiring initiatives included on this list can be achieved simply by taking full advantage of hiring software.

An ATS helps better evaluate candidates and leads to a collaborative hiring process. It also streamlines each step and results in great people being hired for the right roles.

Here’s to successful hiring in 2021

HR and recruiting professionals who participated in our survey will be focused on a wide range of initiatives in 2021 but all share a common goal—build a team of great people who propel the organization forward. 

No matter what you and your team will be focused on, we wish you the best in all your endeavors in the coming year. 


Quantitative Employee Reviews and Performance Management

There is a common saying in business, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Performance reviews are meant to help employees improve, but all too often, an employee leaves their meeting with their manager unsure of exactly how they can get better at their job. This happens because a quarterly or annual evaluation tends to be qualitative rather than quantitative. 

Here is an example many professionals can relate to: They expect their performance review to focus on the work they do every day but are instead evaluated on a series of generic competencies unrelated to their role. Perhaps, they’re rated a “5” on initiative, “4” on accountability, and “2” on communication.

They ultimately receive no actionable feedback and continue to work exactly as they were before. Even worse, they grow disengaged from the poor performance review experience and lack of direction. 

For a long time, organizations had to settle for a qualitative approach since the same review form had to be used for the entire workforce. With a modern performance management system, evaluation criteria can not only be customized for every employee. You also measure their performance on a continuous basis and share objective feedback focused specifically on what they do.  

What is a quantitative performance review?

A quantitative performance review evaluates an employee on measurable factors directly related to their job. This evaluation method removes any subjectivity and allows managers to deliver clear and accurate feedback on what the employee is doing well and how they can improve. 

Quantitative performance management also allows for real-time measurement of an employee’s performance, as opposed to the retrospective nature of a traditional qualitative performance review. 

How to do quantitative performance reviews

Upfronting planning is required to transition from one-size-fits-all performance reviews to role-specific, quantitative evaluations. You need to determine what aspects of each employees’ job will be measured, share those expectations with them, and then create a system for evaluating performance and providing feedback. Let’s explore what goes into implementing quantitative performance reviews.

Start with SMART goals

Effectively measuring performance requires defining clear goals for every member of the workforce. Goals need to be understood by the employee so they know—without a doubt —what is expected of them. The SMART method of goal setting is designed to do exactly that. You can set quantifiable employee goals by following these five points:

  • Specific – Determine exactly what the employee needs to accomplish and the standards their work should meet. If you’re struggling to specify a goal, break it into a series of smaller goals that will result in the bigger objective being met. 
  • Measurable – Naturally, goals supporting a quantifiable performance review process need to be measurable. But even more, they should have definite intended outcomes so success or failure is completely objective.
  • Achievable – Ensure employee goals are the right balance of ambitious yet realistically achievable. They should require the employee to give their best effort throughout the workday without becoming overworked or stressed out.
  • Relevant – Create goals that align with the employee’s skills, experience, and role responsibilities. Employee goals should also positively impact team/departmental objectives.
  • Timely – Set deadlines for every goal. The employee should know what they’re expected to accomplish and when it needs to be delivered.

Employee goals should never be open to interpretation. SMART goals prevent ambiguity so team members focus on the right work and managers and HR can gauge their performance at any time. 

Track goals and deliver frequent feedback

Unlike qualitative performance reviews, managers don’t have to wait until the end of the year or quarter to share feedback with a quantitative approach. They can access the performance management system at any time and see how employees are progressing toward their objectives.

Once SMART goals are set, apply KPIs to the employee’s objectives that provide insight into the headway they’re making. For example, a salesperson might be expected to hit a dollar amount quota over a certain period. KPIs that demonstrate the progress they’re making could be the number of leads they contact, follow-up calls they make, and average deal size. KPIs should be used as an indicator as to whether the employee is on pace to meet their long-term objectives.

Managers can then meet with team members regularly to review these performance metrics. They can have a two-way conversation and learn why the employee may be lagging in a particular area and share feedback that helps them get back on track. They can also learn about any problems outside the employee’s control that may be hindering progress and take steps to resolve those bottlenecks.

When it comes time for the annual or quarterly performance review, the employee will know what to expect. They’ll know if they accomplished their quantifiable goals and won’t be caught off guard by subjective feedback. And instead of reviewing past performance, the manager and employee can proactively plan for the coming review period. 

Benefits of quantitative performance reviews

Quantitative performance reviews require more preparation than simply using the same qualitative competencies across the workforce. However, defining SMART goals and KPIs are worth the performance improvements they result in. Let’s explore the specific benefits of quantitative performance reviews:

  • Performance truly improves – The goal of employee evaluations is to improve performance and objective feedback informed by data ensures that happens. 
  • Employees are receptive to feedback – Employees are more open to logical coaching than unclear feedback that has little to do with their tasks and responsibilities. 
  • Employees get the feedback they crave – Contrary to popular belief, employees want to know how they’re performing and how they can improve.
  • Employees contribute to the organization’s success – Relevant goals that align with high-level objectives empower employees to do impactful work. 
  • Goals drive employee motivation – Ambitious goals keep employees focused on the little thing that incrementally leads to success.

All those benefits not only improve employee performance, they also boost employee engagement. Employees enjoy their jobs when they know what is expected of them and how they can deliver work that drives progress for the organization. When employees are engaged, they give their best effort day in and day out.

A complete performance review process

While organizational-wide evaluation forms no longer make sense in the era of performance management software, the general competencies referenced at the start of this article are a nice supplement to include in quantitative reviews. 

SMART goals are an excellent way to accurately measure job performance, however, there is more that goes into being a great employee than simply accomplishing role-specific objectives. Employees need to work together, communicate their ideas, and be an overall positive presence in the workplace. 

Round out performance reviews with behavioral competencies related to the employee’s position. Ask managers to evaluate team members on the progress they’ve made toward their goals and the other qualities that demonstrate job success. By conducting complete performance reviews, you’ll help employees improve in all aspects of their job.

Modern performance management with Trakstar

Trakstar is designed to help organizations measure what matters most when it comes to employee performance. Set SMART goals for every employee, track their progress, and conduct performance reviews relevant to their role. 

You can also use the results of quantitative performance reviews to make data-driven workforce decisions. Perform succession planning, institute performance improvement plans, make fair compensation decisions, and generate reports that help improve your performance management process going forward. 

Request a live demo of Trakstar today!

Hiring and Interview Tips to Increase Workplace Diversity

Inequality in the workplace is well known yet still prevalent. According to Fortune 500 data, nearly three-quarters of business executives in the United States are white men. While getting a great job is hard enough for anyone outside that group, reaching the top of the corporate ladder is incredibly challenging when you consider a stat like that. 

Fortunately, diversity is now a top priority for many HR professionals. It only makes sense that the makeup of an organization’s workforce should reflect society as a whole. 

And forming a diverse team isn’t just the right thing to do, it can also result in business success. People with different backgrounds and life experiences bring unique perspectives to the table. You hear a variety of thoughts and opinions which is where truly great ideas come from. 

This guide will teach you how your company can succeed in attracting a diverse group of applicants and form an interview process that fairly evaluates candidates based on their skills and experience.

Build a diverse candidate pool 

Many companies with homogeneous workforces claim candidates from different backgrounds just don’t apply for their jobs. “We didn’t receive any minority candidates,” they say. “We can only hire people who apply.” 

The problem is these organizations only think about the importance of diversity hiring after the fact. Let’s explore how to attract a diverse group of candidates at the start of the hiring process.

Start with a job profile 

Most hiring managers know what professional background an ideal candidate should have when they set out to fill an open position. However, hiring is a long process and other factors can end up clouding their judgment as time goes on. 

This problem isn’t easy to overcome but creating a comprehensive job profile to consult throughout the hiring process is a good start. Write down the tasks and responsibilities the future hire will take on. Then determine exactly what skills and experience they’ll need to have to be successful. Share this document with everyone involved in the hiring process so the entire team is always on the same page. Whenever there is a critical decision to be made, consult the job profile. 

Be conscious when writing job descriptions 

Once you have a job profile, you can easily convert it into a job description to post on your website and job boards. Just be sure to think about how your word choice can attract or deter certain people from applying. 

It’s obviously important to avoid gender-specific pronouns. Never refer to the future hire as “he” or “she.” Instead, use inclusive language like “the ideal candidate” or “the future hire.” Implying you’re seeking someone of a certain gender is a surefire way to alienate potential candidates and is a bad look in general. 

What is less apparent is how adjectives commonly used in job descriptions have a gender-specific connotation. For example, “assertive” and “determined” are often associated with masculinity, while “compassionate” and “supportive” are considered more feminine. That’s not to say these traits don’t exist across genders but it’s worthwhile to consider if you really need them in your job descriptions.

A better approach can be to keep the language straightforward so you attract people with the right qualifications. Then evaluate soft skills during the interview stage. 

Don’t get caught up in resume details

Resumes are meant to provide insight into a candidate’s background but they often reveal much more about who we are. The extra details can cause biases to occur before a company even speaks with a candidate. For example, studies show that people with uncommon names have a harder time getting hired since some recruiters or hiring managers would rather move onto the next candidate than struggle with pronunciation. In other cases, the year someone graduated from college or the school they attended can lead to ageism or assumptions about intelligence. 

Again, what matters is the candidate’s skills and experience. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if you pronounced their name correctly or consider impressive candidates who have a different level of experience. It can also be beneficial to establish an organizational policy that a candidate’s college has no bearing on how you evaluate them. For example, Google stopped hiring candidates exclusively from top-tier universities after they discovered it wasn’t a predictor of future job success.  

Simply being aware of the biases that stem from reviewing a resume is the first step in combating them. Some organizations even use blind recruitment—the process of removing all identification details from resumes so only skills and experience are displayed. It’s worth considering but requires software or a time-consuming manual process.

Showcase employment benefits and company policies 

Everyone appreciates employment benefits but some people rely on them more than others. Highlighting what your company offers helps attract talented candidates who value more than a paycheck in a job. 

For example, flexible work schedules and parental leave will naturally make your company more appealing to working mothers. Additionally, work-from-home options attract different candidates who live outside of your company’s immediate community. 

However, if you’re committed to diversity hiring, think outside the box with benefits and company policies. For example, some well-known brands make every employees’ compensation details publicly available to combat income inequality. Others allow employees to select what holidays they choose to observe to be more inclusive to people of different religions. Consider what benefits and perks your company can feasibly offer to be a great place to work for every person on your team. 

Go where the candidates are 

Instead of posting a job description and hoping people from all backgrounds apply, ask a company representative to network with different groups of professionals. 

Depending on where your company is located, there are likely professional groups or events that serve specific communities. For example, both the National Black MBA Association and Association of Latino Professionals for America have chapters nationwide. A quick glance at Meetup will help you find events for women and other groups of professionals.

Proactive candidate outreach is one of the best ways to hire great people. You can connect with professionals who aren’t actively seeking a new job and share why your role is a great opportunity. 

Evaluate every candidate equally

Even if your company succeeds in attracting a diverse pool of candidates, it can all be undone with a poor interview process. A well-intentioned hiring manager can still subconsciously favor a candidate who looks and sounds like them. And the interview stage is often when this occurs since there is so much focus on the person rather than what they can do. 

The key is to bring structure to your interview process by ensuring every interviewer evaluates candidates based on their professional qualifications. Here are some ways to form an interview process that values job fit over everything else.

Assemble a diverse hiring team 

Involving multiple people in the interview process brings different opinions to your candidate evaluations. Instead of one person choosing who they like best, a hiring team composed of different people can garner a discussion about who is most suited for the job. 

Most companies do this to some extent. Candidates will meet with the hiring manager and the people who work under them. But the problem with this approach is team members are inclined to agree with their boss. 

Consider going a step further and involving people from outside of the future hire’s immediate team. Ask someone from a different department and the leadership team to also participate and consider how candidates align with organizational values. 

Ensure each member of the hiring team forms an opinion on their own, then get everyone together to share their thoughts.  

Have a consistent interview process 

It’s important every candidate is evaluated exactly the same when interviewed. Even more than preventing biases from occurring, it ensures you select the best person for the job. 

First and foremost, interviewers should ask each candidate the same questions so answers can be compared post-interview. It’s also important the questions focus on the candidate’s professional background and how they would approach the job if hired. Unconventional interview questions rarely offer any insight into a person’s abilities and just muddy the waters when it comes time to select the best candidate. 

It’s also a good idea to provide each interviewer with a short questionnaire to complete after meeting with candidates. Using the job profile you created at the start of the hiring process, list the skills, qualities, and experience required for the role and ask hiring team members to assess candidates in each area. When everyone gets together post-interview, they should talk through their responses and share how they arrived at their opinion. 

Use candidate evaluation exercises 

While interviews are crucial to the hiring process, they don’t always result in the best person for the job standing out. Some people are more extroverted than others and better at communicating their qualifications to a group of strangers. Additionally, if someone isn’t a native English speaker, they may have a hard time articulating what they can do in an interview. 

Requesting candidates complete an evaluation exercise is often a better barometer for assessing job skills. It can be as simple as asking the finalists to complete a short test or sample project that doesn’t take too much of their time. This additional step in the interview process levels the playing field for each candidate and prevents you from hiring someone who exaggerated their qualifications. 

Hire on values, not culture 

Many companies tout the importance of culture when hiring. They want to bring on people who are not only talented but also fit in with the wider team. Interviewers are often asked to consider if they would want to go to lunch with the candidate or hang out with them on the weekend. 

However, those questions can stifle diversity. Even an open-minded team member will tend to gravitate toward people they’re comfortable with rather than someone from a background they’ve never been exposed to. 

A company culture should be built on values. Your organization should define the important points each employee must keep in mind as they go about their job. Those traits, combined with skills and knowledge, will help you discover a great addition to make to your team.

Make your organization an inclusive place to work

There is a lot that goes into building a diverse workforce and it all starts with the right hiring process. It sounds simple but making a concerted effort to attract a diverse pool of candidates and conducting bias-free interviews will gradually lead to a workforce of people from a variety of backgrounds.

Conducting Employee Check-In Meetings (Includes an Employee Check-In Template)

Modern performance management goes beyond the occasional performance review. Today’s organizations ensure managers and direct reports meet regularly to discuss priorities, challenges, and how the employee can improve their approach to work. Check-in meetings are usually conducted weekly but can occur every two weeks or monthly, depending on the role.

A check-in shouldn’t just be a quick recap of what the employee is working on. That isn’t a productive conversation since the manager assigned the employee’s tasks and is working closely with them every day. 

A check-in should instead focus on everything impacting the employee’s job performance. They should feel comfortable sharing any challenges they’re facing or ideas they have for accomplishing their objectives. And the manager should share feedback that will help the employee get even better at what they do.

These types of conversations are expected in an employee-manager check-in. Managers aren’t surprised when the employee mentions a problem they’re facing and employees aren’t caught off guard by feedback. It’s the perfect forum to have a candid discussion about performance. 

Why are employee check-in meetings important?

It can be challenging to implement organizational-wide check-in meetings. While some managers are happy to meet with direct reports, others are busy and struggle to schedule meetings for everyone they oversee. Some managers try to consolidate check-ins into a weekly team meeting but those get-togethers serve a different purpose. 

Employee check-ins provide the opportunity to have a continuous, long-term conversation about performance. Managers ensure their direct reports are focused on the right tasks and giving their best effort. Now let’s explore how these conversations benefit employees and the organization at large. 

Employees want frequent feedback

It’s easy to assume people don’t want to be told how to do their jobs. But the truth is, employees want feedback from their manager—and they don’t want to wait until a formal performance review to get it. 

Even the most confident professional might stop and wonder if they’re doing everything they can to succeed at work. It’s natural for people who care about their jobs to think, “Am I helping my team and employer succeed?” “Does the work I do matter?” “Am I growing and on track to accomplish my career goals?”

According to Harvard Business Review, 72% of employees said they thought their performance would improve through corrective feedback from their manager. Managers can put an employee’s mind at ease and help them reach their full potential, simply by taking the time to meet and share feedback. 

Check-in meetings boost employee engagement

Engagement is unlocked when employees are happy, productive, and, of course, motivated. 

It’s easy to try to motivate employees with high pay, bonuses, or even fear of being reprimanded. However, that approach has diminishing returns. Employees will only work hard for short spurts and they’ll rarely feel compelled to go above and beyond.

Continuous productivity is achieved through intrinsic motivation—or doing a job that results in personal fulfillment. Employees want to feel like their work matters and is appreciated by their employer. A LinkedIn survey found that 69% of employees said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.

In addition to frequent feedback, managers can use check-in meetings to acknowledge what the employee is doing well. The combination of praise and coaching helps team members see that their manager cares about the work they do, increasing their motivation, productivity, and job satisfaction all at once.   

Employee check-ins build toward better performance reviews

From an organizational perspective, regular check-ins improve performance management. Managers already know where their direct reports are striving to improve, making it easy to complete an accurate performance review that resonates with the employee.

According to, 89% of HR professionals believe frequent performance conversations are more effective than yearly or biyearly performance reviews. Many of the disadvantages of formal employee evaluations can be resolved through regular performance check-ins. Let’s explore how check-ins build toward better performance reviews:

  • Managers document performance over time – Managers can note the main takeaways from each check-in meeting. When it comes time to complete a formal review, they’ll have a detailed record to consult.
  • Employees are prepared for their performance review – Employees usually dislike performance reviews because they don’t know what to expect. However, they’ll have a good idea of what they’re going to hear after months of check-in conversations.
  • Employees are already striving to improve – Employees go into their performance review already working on improving in the right areas. The meeting isn’t a retrospective of what they should have done better but rather an opportunity to discuss the progress they’re making.
  • The performance review conversation is more productive – Since there is no need to recap the previous review period, the conversation can focus on the future. The manager can set new goals for the employee and discuss a strategy for how they’ll accomplish them in the coming months.

When conducted correctly, regular performance check-ins benefit everyone involved. Employees get the feedback they want, managers ensure they’re focused on relevant tasks, and performance improves across the workforce. 

Employee check-in tips for managers

It’s up to managers to ensure check-ins happen for every direct report and focus on all things performance. They’re responsible for setting the meetings and guiding the conversation in the right direction. Here are a few tips that will help managers conduct effective employee check-ins. 

Schedule recurring meetings

Consistency is key when it comes to getting the most out of employee check-ins. They must occur on a set schedule since one meeting builds on the last, creating an on-going dialogue about performance. 

The simple act of scheduling recurring meetings on both the employee and manager’s calendars ensures check-ins don’t fall off the radar. Even if things get hectic, both parties are committed to getting together. The manager can ask if the challenges the employee was facing are being resolved and discover if performance is improving based on their recent feedback. 

Give the right feedback

Some managers are easy-going and don’t like giving much feedback. And others are too tough on employees and feel like they always need to be coaching.

As we’ve mentioned throughout this blog post, employees want both praise and feedback. They crave validation that they’re doing their job well and also want to learn where they can improve. The employee check-in meeting provides the perfect opportunity for managers to step back and provide a fair assessment of the employee’s recent job performance.

That said, it’s important managers be empathetic and consider everything that is impacting the employee’s ability to do their job. Listen to their concerns and help them overcome the issues they’re facing while also providing the feedback they need to hear. 

Help the employee grow

Since the purpose of check-ins is to create an on-going dialogue, employees should gradually progress from one meeting to the next. They should leave a meeting ready to incorporate the feedback they received into their work. 

Revisit the main takeaways from previous meetings in each check-in to determine if the employee is acting accordingly. Discover if their performance is improving and they’re growing as a professional.

Be sure to document the topics covered in each check-in so you know where to pick up in the next meeting. The goal is to look back after a few months and see that the employee has made significant progress.  

Keep it private

Employee check-ins should always be one-on-one meetings. Weekly team meetings are great for discussing collaborative initiatives and giving public praise for a job well done.

However, it’s not appropriate to be critical of an employee around their colleagues. And naturally, employees might not feel comfortable voicing their concerns in a group setting. Those conversations need to happen in a closed-door meeting. 

Even though it can be challenging to find time to meet individually with every direct report, an effective check-in meeting is well worth the time. The employee will leave motivated to do great work and appreciate that their manager made the effort to help them improve.

Prepare employees for their check-in meeting

While managers are tasked with leading check-in meetings, the employee needs to come prepared to discuss what is on their mind. Asking them to answer the three questions below will reveal how they’re feeling about their performance and overall job satisfaction. 

How successful was your week? What worked? What didn’t? Please elaborate.

Start with a question that gives the employee the opportunity to share the accomplishments they’re proud of, as well as any struggles they’re facing. Their manager can acknowledge their great work while also learning what problems need to be fixed. 

To what degree do you feel empowered to do your job? Please elaborate.

Now go deeper with a question that gets to the heart of intrinsic motivation. The employee gets to share if they feel they’re trusted to act on their great ideas. The manager will learn if they need to allow the employee to work with less restriction or give feedback that will help them prepare for more responsibility. 

Do you feel like your work is making a meaningful impact? Please elaborate

Finally, discover if the employee is fulfilled by the work they’re doing. The entire workforce should contribute to the organization’s success so make sure each person is seeing the fruits of their labor. Similar to the last question, this one also helps gauge intrinsic motivation. 

Employees should answer these questions before every check-in meeting with their manager. Download our free employee check-in template that employees can fill out prior to their one-on-one.

Employees can also answer these questions in Trakstar Engagement. Responses are shared with their manager in the performance management solution and saved on their employee profile, creating a detailed record of every check-in meeting. Request a live demo to learn more about Trakstar!


Employee Performance Reviews in a Flat Organizational Structure

Creating a performance review process is straightforward in most organizations. Managers are responsible for completing evaluations and meeting with direct reports to share results. There isn’t any friction as long as performance management best practices are followed. After all, employees expect feedback from their manager.

At least, that is how it works in a traditional top-down organizational structure. There are multiple management levels so most employees report to someone one level higher in the hierarchy. 

But what is the best way to conduct employee performance reviews in a flat or horizontal organizational structure? 

What is a flat organizational structure?

Flat organizations have little-to-no management levels. All employees are on the same level of the organizational chart and usually report directly to the CEO. There are no middle managers who report to senior leadership while overseeing junior employees.

The flat organizational structure is most common in young startups and small businesses. Some founders do make a conscious decision to have a flat organization but it usually occurs organically when a small team of specialists come together to pursue a business idea.

Advantages of a flat organizational structure

While flat organizations are rare, they do offer a handful of advantages over the common hierarchical structure:

  • Employees have a sense of ownership – Team members drive organizational success. They’re responsible for contributing to high-level goals rather than doing menial tasks assigned by a manager. 
  • Employees are engaged Employee engagement is the intersection of happiness and productivity. And employees check both boxes when they’re able to produce meaningful work.
  • The organization attracts top talent – Ambitious professionals jump at the opportunity to have the freedom to work with little restrictions. Organizations with flat structures tend to attract and retain top performers. 
  • Employees can pursue their good ideas – The term “middle management” has a negative connotation because it’s often where projects are delayed or changed. Employees in flat organizations can act on their good ideas without approval from a manager. 

Disadvantages of a flat organizational structure

The reason flat organizations are rare is because they come with multiple disadvantages that hierarchical structures just don’t have:

  • There is no one to hold employees accountable – Even if employees work hard, they need to produce work that drives progress for the organization. It’s often managers who define strategy and ensure direct reports focus on relevant tasks. 
  • It’s not sustainable as the organization grows – Middle managers become necessary as the workforce expands. Junior employees need direction from someone who understands the organization’s goals and processes. 
  • It’s susceptible to conflict – There is a risk of conflict between team members when there aren’t defined reporting lines. One employee might believe they are in charge of work that is actually owned by someone else. 
  • It puts a lot of pressure on the CEO – The person at the top of the org chart has plenty to do besides oversee every employee. Delegating people management to other leaders becomes inevitable as the staff grows. 

Tips for employee performance reviews in a flat organization

Perhaps the biggest challenge in a flat organization is creating a process to ensure every employee is meeting expectations. The person who sits at the top of the org chart puts a lot of trust in their employees but should still take time to evaluate performance. Let’s review how performance reviews can be conducted in organizations where employees don’t have a traditional manager. 

HR and the CEO should lead the process

The performance review process should always be overseen by human resources and executed by individual managers. In the case of a flat organizational structure, the CEO will need to assume the manager role for every employee review.

Depending on the number of employees, that could be a lot of work for an already-busy CEO. In that situation, human resources should create a basic appraisal form to lessen the burden and ensure every employee gets a fair evaluation. There is no need to overdo it, especially since employees are accustomed to working with little oversight. 

Use goals to inform employee performance reviews

Employees should always have goals that drive their performance. Defining individual objectives is even more important when team members don’t have a manager assigning projects and sharing frequent feedback.

Goals also remove the guesswork when completing an employee’s performance review. The CEO can consider if the team member has met their objectives or is making significant progress toward them. If an employee isn’t on pace to hit a target, the CEO should consider why. Is it a performance issue or have shifting priorities and other external factors affected where they devote their time and effort?

Take advantage of 360-degree feedback

You can take a lot off the CEO’s plate and ensure everyone gets an accurate evaluation by using 360-degree reviews. Typically with the 360-degree format, employees are reviewed by their manager, peers, direct reports, and colleagues from other departments. It’s simpler in a flat organization. All the employees who sit on the same level on the org chart evaluate each other.

360-degree feedback is an excellent way to supplement the primary performance reviews completed by the CEO. It brings in the perspectives of the people employees work alongside so evaluations are accurate and thorough. Employees in flat organizations often collaborate on a daily basis so it only makes sense to ask their peers if they’re a solid team player. 

Employee performance reviews are a must in flat organizations

Flat organizations are a unique alternative to the typically org chart consisting of multiple management levels. While employees are empowered to manage themselves, it’s still important to step back and evaluate performance from time-to-time. Ensure every employee has clearly-defined goals and is giving a consistent effort to deliver outstanding results. 


How to Create Employee Engagement Surveys (Includes 18 Example Questions)

Today’s leaders understand that productive employees will only take their organizations so far. It’s the employees who are productive and happy who go above and beyond. The act of doing their jobs is fulfilling so they continue to deliver outstanding results, day-after-day. 

In the simplest terms, employee engagement is achieved when team members check both the happiness and productivity boxes. However, it’s easy in theory, difficult in practice. Not only does everyone have a unique experience at work. New challenges emerge all the time that can shake the resolve of even the most focused employee. And few people feel comfortable speaking out about the problems hindering their productivity and happiness. 

It is up to HR and organizational leaders to keep their fingers on the pulse of engagement across the workforce. That can be accomplished by regularly surveying employees and asking them how they’re feeling. Engagement surveys give everyone a platform to share their thoughts, resulting in a wealth of data that can be used to improve the employee experience. 

In this blog post, you’ll learn what questions you can ask on employee surveys to gain practical, actionable insights into engagement across your organization.

What is employee engagement?

We’ve already established that productivity and happiness equate to employee engagement. But before we get into the process of building surveys, let’s first explore the three pillars of employee engagement—mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Once you understand each, you’ll be able to see the value in the different example questions we share. 


People enjoy doing work they have an aptitude for. We like taking on challenges that excite us and can be solved using our personal skills and knowledge. We also appreciate our jobs when we feel like we’re growing and gradually improving at our specializations. 


Employees give their all when they’re trusted to take their own approach. There are always certain results they’ll need to deliver and processes they’ll need to follow but professionals value the freedom to come up with their own ideas and work with little oversight. 


Everyone wants to do meaningful work. When an employee sees their effort really does lead to organizational success, they feel good about themselves and continually give their best effort. 

Employee engagement survey questions

The combination of mastery, autonomy, and purpose unlock employee engagement. At first, these three tenants may seem too theoretical. You might be thinking you can do everything in your power to create a positive work environment but there are always going to be employees who don’t feel completely satisfied with their jobs. 

The key is to ask pragmatic survey questions based on employee engagement drivers. Allow employees to respond anonymously so you capture their authentic thoughts and feelings. Then analyze survey results and determine what changes your organization needs to make to boost employee engagement. 

Employee engagement foundations

Your employee engagement surveys should first and foremost cover the basics. Here are three questions you can start with to get an initial insight into engagement in your workforce. 

Do you have access to the tools and resources to do your job well?

An employee cannot truly master their job until they’re given everything they need to succeed. This question will help you learn if employees are well-equipped to produce meaningful work. 

Do you feel empowered to make decisions regarding your work?

Ensure your managers trust their team members and allow them to act on their ideas. If you bring on talented people and allow them to work autonomously, you’ll have a team of high-performing, happy employees. 

Do you understand how your work contributes to the goals of the company?

Every employee deserves to see the fruits of their labor. If you find employees don’t know how their work impacts their team or the organization, it might mean they don’t have clearly-defined role objectives they’re striving to achieve. 

Employee engagement and team effectiveness

Like any team, organizations are successful when people come together and support each other. Effective collaboration is a key component to employee engagement so consider including the following questions on your engagement surveys.

Do you feel comfortable openly sharing your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas? 

Every employee, regardless of their position on the org chart, should feel comfortable contributing to discussions in the workplace. Everyone involved in collaborative projects brings unique skills and knowledge to the table and should be welcomed to participate in strategic planning. 

Do you and your team members hold yourselves and each other accountable for results? 

The employees who make up a team are all working toward a common goal. It’s crucial everyone consistently gives their best effort and collectively stays focused on long-term objectives.

Are your team’s efforts and achievements recognized in a timely and meaningful manner? 

Positive recognition goes a long way in keeping employees motivated. Ensure your employees feel that their team’s wins are acknowledged by organizational leaders so everyone is excited going into their next big project.

Employee engagement and personal work and outcomes

Now let’s transition for team effectiveness to exploring engagement on an individual level. The questions listed below will help you learn if employees feel they’re in a position to do outstanding work and reap the personal benefits that come from it. 

Are you able to utilize and develop your full range of skills, expertise, and experience?

An employee is able to master their role-specific tasks when they’re empowered to use all their talents. You never want to hold a great employee back so make sure they’re able to use everything in their toolbox. 

Do you have the freedom to choose tasks that will help you reach your goals?

This question gets right to the heart of the autonomy aspect of engagement. Discover if your leaders are setting appropriate objectives for their direct reports—and trusting them to develop their own strategy for accomplishing them. 

Do you believe there is a clear path for development at the company?

Everyone hopes that the hard work they do today will result in career advancement down the road. Your organization won’t be able to promote every successful employee but they should at least feel like they’re acquiring new skills and gaining valuable experience.  

Employee engagement and organizational direction

Employees are consistently engaged when they believe the organization is heading in the right direction. Here are a few questions that will help you learn if your leaders have shared a clear strategy with your staff and talked to each employee about the role they’ll play in it. 

Are you confident the company is moving in the right direction?

Get right to it and find out if your employees believe in the big goals everyone is striving for. This is a heavy question but you cannot truly achieve organizational-wide engagement until every team member buys into the mission. 

Do you feel company leadership welcomes questions and concerns?

If you want employees to commit to long-term plans, leaders need to be receptive to what is on their minds. Employees should feel comfortable asking for clarification or voicing reasonable concerns about departmental or organizational strategy. 

Do you feel company leaders communicate a vision that motivates you?

Engaged employees understand the purpose of the work. Leaders should always present a strategy that includes goals for every employee so they get excited to do work that truly matters. 

Employee engagement and management

An employee’s job satisfaction is heavily influenced by the relationship they have with their manager. These questions will help you learn if employees believe their bosses put them in a position to be successful: 

Does your manager set clear expectations and optimal challenges and provide timely and actionable feedback?

In order for an employee to master their job, they need to know exactly what they’re expected to achieve. They should also be challenged at work and receive guidance from their manager that helps them deliver the greatest possible results. 

Does your manager allow you to work free of “micromanagement” (getting involved in details that should be handled at other levels)?

Micromanagement is the antithesis of autonomy. Managers should assign tasks and share feedback but trust their direct reports will properly act on the direction they receive. 

Does your manager know what matters to you and how to best support you?

Every employee has their own temperament and approach to work. Managers should form a bond with the people they oversee and tailor their leadership approach to each direct report’s personality.

Employee engagement and organizational culture

A lot of organizations talk about culture but many struggle to truly create a transparent and supportive work environment. Here are a few questions that will help you learn if your leadership team needs to do a better job making the culture defined on paper a reality:

Does company leadership share an appropriate amount of information and knowledge to enable you to make decisions about your work?

We’ve touched on this theme in other questions but it’s worth noting again. Mastery stems from understanding so ensure employees know what the organization’s mission is so they can produce impactful results.

Are there avenues for you to explore new ideas and collaborate with teams at work?

Employees become disengaged when they’re prevented from acting on their great ideas. Ensure employees can experiment with different strategies and are able to work cross-functionally with other departments. 

Do you believe company leadership contributes to an open and trusting environment?

The people at the top of the organization set the tone for the employees who look up to them. People will grow to love their jobs when they see senior employees leading with kindness and compassion. 

Employee engagement survey tips

Employee engagement surveys are great for learning how your employees are feeling, in general. You get a bird’s eye view of happiness and productivity across the entire workforce so you can identify major areas of strengths and weaknesses.

However, engagement surveys are only part of the equation. You should also ask questions unique to your organization and strive to measure engagement down to the individual employee level. And once surveys are complete, you need to act on the results you gathered. We’ll conclude with a few bonus tips for measuring and improving employee engagement.

Analyze engagement survey results

You’ve sent your engagement survey and now the responses are rolling in. You’ll likely see some trends immediately but don’t arrive at any major takeaways until you’ve analyzed the data collected. Here are a few tips for learning from your survey results:

  • Segment results by mastery, autonomy, and purpose – The three example questions in each section of this article each relate to mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Ensure you keep responses aligned with the question’s purpose so you can identify where exactly improvement is needed. 
  • Drill into the results – Don’t just do a surface-level analysis of your engagement survey results. Explore the responses to each question and segment data by different variables like groups or time periods. 
  • Consider the response rate – The percentage of employees who chose not to respond to an anonymous engagement survey is a telling statistic. It’s fair to assume those employees are disengaged, especially if your survey was easy to complete and multiple reminders were sent.  
  • Continue to analyze engagement over time – The more surveys you send, the more engagement data you’ll have. Use your growing sample size to continuously gain insights about engagement in your workforce. Also, look for signs of improvement after you’ve implemented changes based on the results of earlier surveys. 

Conduct ad-hoc surveys

The example questions shared in this blog post are applicable to any organization. They are a great starting point for learning about mastery, autonomy, and purpose in the typical job experience.

However, every organization has unique factors that influence employee engagement. For example, changes to the leadership team or organizational structure may leave some employees wondering how they’ll be impacted.  But even something as small as introducing a new employee benefit can affect engagement. 

Always take the time to create a quick ad-hoc survey whenever you’re curious how employees feel about a certain topic. You can ask them to rate their satisfaction on a numerical scale and provide any additional thoughts that are on their mind. You’ll come away understanding if your organization took the right approach to implementing changes that influence the employee experience.

Measure employee engagement on the individual-level

Organizational-wide engagement surveys are an excellent way to get broad insight into employee productivity and happiness. 

That said, every employee has a completely different experience at work. Every role has different challenges and every person deals with them in their own way. You might assume it’s not possible to respond to every employee’s concerns. However, these issues can be resolved in check-in meetings between employees and managers—provided the discussion goes beyond what the person is currently working on. 

Asking individual team members to complete a short survey before their check-in meetings helps managers know what topics need to be discussed. The following questions get to the root of employee engagement on the individual-level: 

  • How successful was your week? What worked? What didn’t? 
  • To what degree do you feel empowered to do your job? 
  • Do you feel like your work is making a meaningful impact?

Like the other engagement survey questions, these questions focused on mastery, autonomy, and purpose. They ensure employees have meaningful conversations with their managers so they leave check-ins feeling good and ready to work.

Create a strategy for improving engagement

The results of an engagement survey are ultimately meaningless if your organization doesn’t act on them. Even more, employees will wonder why they were asked to provide their thoughts if the leadership team wasn’t going to do anything with them.

After survey data has been analyzed, the next step is to develop a strategy for improving employee engagement. For example, if you learn leadership hasn’t properly communicated the organization’s direction, the solution could be as simple as hosting more all-hands meetings. You might also find that too many employees don’t feel they have the opportunity to share their thoughts, which could mean managers need to be trained on how to create open lines of communication.

Once you have a plan for boosting engagement, share it with your team. Get everyone together and present the survey results, major takeaway, and the organization’s strategy going forward. By simply communicating the organization’s commitment to do better, employees will feel good about their work situation because they know you have their best interests at heart. 

Discover Trakstar Engagement

Trakstar is well-known for our performance management software. We also offer an employee engagement module for conducting different types of surveys and analyzing the results. Let’s take a look at what it includes:

Pulse Surveys

Trakstar includes multiple pre-built surveys that are automatically emailed to your employees each month. Questions are informed by research to ensure you truly tap into mastery, autonomy, and purpose. And automated email reminders encourage employees to participate. Learn more about Trakstar Pulse Surveys

Performance Check-Ins

Request employees complete a short survey in Trakstar prior to check-in meetings with their manager. Answers are shared with their manager so both parties go into the conversation knowing if there are any problems that need to be addressed. Learn more about Trakstar Performance Check-Ins

Custom Employee Surveys

Build and send custom surveys whenever you please, consisting of any question that is relevant to your workplace. Include your preferred rating scale and the option for respondents to provide comments. Learn more about Trakstar Employee Surveys.

Powerful Analytics

All of your survey responses are collected in Trakstar and presented in real-time interactive dashboards. Trakstar Engagement Reporting makes it easy to drill into your results and filter your data by time period or group.

If you want to learn more about how Trakstar can help boost employee happiness and productivity, request a live demo today!

A Guide to Setting Employee Performance Goals

Setting goals is an important activity in any area of life. Whenever we decide we want to improve at something or overcome a challenge, setting goals helps us see how we’ll make it happen.

Any organization with growth ambitions needs to have the same philosophy. Every employee has to focus on work that moves the needle. But to do so, they need to know—without a doubt—what they’re striving to achieve. That’s where performance goals come in. 

What are performance goals?

Using performance goals, organizations set clear objectives for employees. The goals align with their skills and experience and are achievable based on the tasks and responsibilities outlined in their job description.

An employee’s performance goals should also be an extension of a larger group of objectives their team is focused on achieving. The collective contributions of each team member result in departmental goals being met, which in turn, positively impacts organizational goals. 

Once performance goals are set, managers are responsible for monitoring their direct reports’ progress. They should use appropriate metrics to measure performance and meet with their team members regularly to discuss priorities and challenges. Managers should also document performance milestones of the employees they oversee so they have a record to consult when it is time to complete formal evaluations. 

Why are performance goals important?

Setting performance goals for every employee is crucial to creating a comprehensive organizational strategy. Goals define the exact role each employee will play in the organization’s success, increasing the likelihood revenue and other growth targets are met. Let’s review the specific advantages performance-focused objectives offer to employers:

  • Employees deliver impactful work – Everything they do is aimed at accomplishing their goals. 
  • Job success is objective – You can applaud your top performers and help underperformers get back on track
  • Managers effectively lead their teams – They’re able to assign relevant tasks and deliver specific feedback based on performance.
  • Workforce planning is simplified – Leaders identify gaps in their teams and hire based on need. 

Performance goals mean every employee has a purpose. They understand what they need to focus on and get motivated to hit their targets. Let’s explore the specific advantages performance goals bring to individual employees:

  • Their expectations are clear – Employees are never unsure what they’re supposed to work on or if they’re succeeding in their role. 
  • They see their work pay off – Team members can look back and see how accomplishing their goals contributed to larger objectives being met. 
  • They feel a sense of accomplishment – Meeting a goal results in personal fulfillment and a desire to reach even greater objectives. 
  • They receive relevant feedback – Managers provide feedback that resonates with employees because it aligns with what they’re trying to accomplish. 
  • They can work autonomously – Great organizations give employees the freedom to work toward their goals as they set fit. 
  • They have a career development path – Employees who constantly met their performance goals show they’re capable of taking on more responsibility in a higher-level role. 

Setting employee performance goals is a no brainer for any organization with long-term growth plans. Employees come to work laser-focused on tasks and projects that incrementally propel their team forward. 

How to set performance goals

If you want to bring the benefits of performance goals to your organization, you need to take the right approach. In fact, performance goals can do more harm than good when they’re incorrectly defined and implemented. Employees get confused and frustrated when they’re not exactly sure what they’re being asked to deliver. Some may even have a different interpretation of their goals than their manager, which can end up hurting their performance and job satisfaction. 

The SMART goal method was designed to remove the pitfalls typically associated with goal setting. Let’s review each letter that makes up the acronym so you learn how to set employee goals that are understood by every stakeholder:

  • Specific – Goals must always have defined outcomes. The employee needs to understand exactly what they’re being asked to accomplish. 
  • Measurable – Goals must be quantifiable so success is indisputable. We also recommend tying KPIs to goals so an employee’s progress is measurable.
  • Achievable – Goals have to be realistic so employees are willing to buy-in. That said, setting slightly ambitious goals stimulates motivation
  • Relevant – Goals must be appropriate for the employee’s role. They should be able to envision how they’ll accomplish their performance objectives using their skills, knowledge, and experience.
  • Timely – And finally, goals need to come with deadlines. Like the achievable component, deadlines should be tight but not unreasonable. 

If your performance goals check those five boxes, you’ll likely find that every member of your workforce has a crystal-clear understanding of what they’re being asked to achieve.   

Other tips for setting performance goals

Following the SMART goal method is an effective way to clearly-define performance objectives. However, you don’t just want employees to understand their goals. You want them to be enthusiastic about what they’re being asked to accomplish.  We’ll conclude with a few tips for setting performance goals every employee is happy to commit to. 

Encourage managers to consult their employees

It never hurts to make goal-setting a collaborative exercise between managers and employees. While managers will need to assign certain objectives, they should still be receptive to the employee’s questions and feedback. They might find an individual’s goals can be adjusted to better align with the team’s strategy. These discussions also provide the opportunity to define the KPIs that will be used to measure the employee’s progress.

Once the baseline performance goals are agreed on, employees should be encouraged to set their own goals. The manager can present the team’s objectives and the employee can share how their talents can be used to drive progress. The simple act of involving team members in strategic planning helps them see the big picture and get excited to deliver outstanding results. 

Adjust goals as necessary

Performance goals should never be set in stone. As the employee gets to work on their long-term objectives, new challenges will emerge and priorities will shift. You want employees to take changes in stride so be willing to push back deadlines or even redefine goals.

You’ll also find some employees are on pace to accomplish their performance goals with time to spare. In these cases, acknowledge their stellar performance and revise their goal. Ensure their targets are always a little ambitious so they stay motivated and productive. 

Use performance goals as the foundation for employee reviews

Employees’ long-term objectives should be used as the basis for their performance reviews. Instead of asking managers to rate direct reports on a series of vague competencies, evaluate the outcomes of their goals. Managers should also consult the performance-related notes they’ve been documenting so an employee’s evaluation accounts for all their wins during the review period. 

Performance evaluation meetings provide the opportunity to review all the employee’s goals and the approach they took to accomplish them. Managers can go through the goals that weren’t met and share what they believe the employee could have done differently. They should also acknowledge the great effort the employee made to achieve the goals that were met. 

Create a goal-oriented culture

Accomplishing goals doesn’t just stimulate meaningful productivity. It has a positive impact on employee engagement. An employee feels good when they continuously hit their targets and grow to derive satisfaction for the act of doing their job. 

So why stop with just performance goals? Encourage employees to use SMART goals for everything they do. Ask them to go through the process of defining quantifiable, time-bound objectives at the start of a new project. Every team member should always have a clear idea of what they want their work to result in. 

You can also align performance goals with an employee’s career development goals. They can meet with their manager and share the skills they would like to develop and the challenges they hope to take on. Both parties can then create a professional development plan the employee can carry out through the experiences they have in the workplace.  

Experience the benefits of performance goals

Is your organization ready to implement employee performance goals? Trakstar is an online performance management solution that helps employers set and track goals across the organization. Cascade organizational and departmental goals down to individual employees and tailor performance objectives to their role on the team. To learn more, request a life demo today!


Best Practices for Modern Performance Management

For a long time, organizations took a simplistic approach to evaluating employee performance. Once a year, managers filled out the same appraisal form for each direct report and the results were used to determine raises, promotions, and other workforce management decisions.

Employees unsurprisingly grew to resent this process. The annual review had major ramifications but its accuracy left a lot to be desired. An employee’s professional outlook was impacted by the ratings they received on a handful of generic competencies.

As experience with annual performance reviews grew, its other disadvantages became apparent: 

  • Managers tended to recall the employee’s most recent successes and failures while overlooking the ones that occurred earlier.
  • One-size-fits-all appraisal forms failed to result in specific feedback applicable to an individual’s job.
  • The process was reactive and lacked on-going feedback employees could act on in the moment.
  • Employees were the subject of reviews but not invited to participate in the evaluation process.
  • An individual’s evaluation was based completely on their manager’s thoughts and opinions.

Organizations that take a smart performance management approach don’t experience these challenges. They accurately measure the effectiveness of every team member and provide consistent, relevant feedback that helps them improve at their craft. Let’s review modern performance management best practices your organization can experience simply by implementing a solution like Trakstar. 

Provide feedback in real-time

Modern performance reviews can still occur on set dates on the calendar. But feedback should be provided frequently so employees continuously improve in between formal evaluations. 

Each team member should meet with their manager weekly or at least monthly to discuss what they’re working on, the challenges they’ve encountered, and how they’re generally feeling about their job. Encourage managers to document the main takeaways from these meetings so they have a detailed record to consult when completing quarterly or annual performance reviews.

How Trakstar helps: Our note-taking feature allows both managers and employees to document milestones in a centralized solution. We also offer a short questionnaire employees complete before a check-in with their manager to ensure the conversation is productive.

Set employees up to contribute to the organization’s success

Your employees want to do work that makes a difference and you want them focused on relevant tasks. Modern organizations cascade goals, meaning every employee has objectives that contribute to their team’s success, which in turn impacts organizational goals.

Goal setting not only empowers an employee to produce meaningful results. Specific objectives also allow you to monitor their progress and provide specific feedback that applies to their job.

How Trakstar helps: Set goals for every employee in your organization within the performance management solution. Managers can then coach direct reports based on the progress they’ve made toward their objectives. 

Customize performance evaluation forms

It should come as no surprise that an employee’s performance appraisal is effective when it is tailored to their job. If you try to use the same review criteria for every employee, you end up with overly-simplistic forms that fail to account for the nuances of their role.  

Every employee should be evaluated using a customized appraisal form that aligns with their specific job. Use their goals as the foundation for their evaluation, then round out forms with the behavioral competencies that are important to what they do.

How Trakstar helps: Customize employee evaluation forms for every team member. Include individual employee goals, your preferred competencies, and even the rating scale of your choosing. 

Improve performance with professional development training

Performance-related conversations shouldn’t be retrospectives where employees are told what they should have done better. They should receive constructive feedback that helps them gradually improve and grow professionally.

These discussions are an opportunity to take stock of where the employee is at in their career and help them prepare to take the next step. They should work with their manager to create a professional development plan that will be revisited in future performance review conversations and catch-up meetings.  

How Trakstar helps: Track employee development goals along with each team member’s role-specific objectives.

Tie performance to compensation and succession planning

From an organizational perspective, the goal of performance reviews is to identify who is succeeding and who is underperforming so you can act accordingly. But to do so, you need to effectively evaluate every team member’s performance. 

Since modern performance management practices accurately gauge how each employee is doing at their job, you can confidently base workforce management decisions on evaluation scores. HR and leadership teams should use the results to take a methodical, data-driven approach to compensation and succession planning.

How Trakstar helps: Define performance evaluation score thresholds employees need to surpass to be eligible for a pay increase. You can also ask managers to complete a questionnaire focused on if a direct report has earned a raise  

Additionally, managers evaluate each employee’s leadership potential (along with their performance in their current role). Every employees’ scores are displayed in a scatter plot graph known as the 9-box grid which can be used for succession planning.

Optimize performance management

Performance reviews are no longer a formality everyone begrudgingly participates in once a year. Modern performance management is an on-going process meant to promote employee productivity and happiness.

Forward-thinking organizations are constantly striving to improve how they evaluate employee performance. They use the large amount of data made available to them to make smart decisions based on evaluation results and refine the review process. 

How Trakstar helps: Generate various reports you can use to optimize your performance management process. You can identify rater biases, view performance improvements over time, and compare evaluation scores, to name a few examples. 

Make employees evaluators 

Employees are not only receptive to evaluations when they’re invited to participate in the process. Evaluations are more accurate when they include input from multiple people.  

With a modern performance management approach, employees are asked to review themselves and their teammates. Self-appraisals give an employee a voice in their review and help the manager identify where they are already striving to improve. 

And 360-degree feedback widens evaluations to include the different people an employee interacts with while doing their job. A variety of perspectives counters any biases and flaws in a manager’s review, making for more precise scores. 

How Trakstar helps: Collect self-appraisals from every employee and form a 360-degree feedback process that includes multiple raters evaluating colleagues on relevant competencies.

Ask employees how they’re feeling

Employee productivity and happiness go hand in hand. A person who loves their job gives maximum effort and delivers outstanding results. And they feel good knowing their work has a positive impact on the organization. 

Gaining insight into employee engagement is challenging since team members won’t openly talk about negative workplace experiences. Sending anonymous surveys containing the right questions helps your organization learn how to create an environment that maximizes both employee performance and happiness.

How Trakstar helps: Discover how your employees are feeling with our pre-built surveys that measure engagement in a variety of areas or by creating a custom poll on any topic relevant to your organization. Results are collected in Trakstar and easy to understand with our powerful analytics and real-time dashboards. 

Modernize performance management in your organization

If your organization is serious about employee performance and engagement, it’s time to evolve past occasional reviews and implement the best practices outlined in this article. 

Trakstar will help your organization modernize its performance management process. Request a live demo today!


Introducing the Best Version of Trakstar (Yet)

Today, we’re excited to announce that Trakstar will have a new and improved look. Our customers will enjoy all the great performance management features they know and love, organized in a modern, simple, and clean interface and navigation. 

Here is a preview of the improvements you can expect to see the next time you log in to Trakstar.

A simplified navigation

Trakstar administrators and managers will be greeted with a simplified global navigation. You’ll notice menus take up less space on your screen and have a cleaner design so it’s easy to locate the feature you’re looking for. 

An intuitive manager dashboard

The Trakstar manager dashboard has been redesigned to better serve managers with multiple direct reports. It’s now easier to locate and navigate to an individual employee’s performance evaluation. And a new dropdown menu allows you to seamlessly jump to a specific section of a review.

Managers will also notice “action items” displayed next to a direct report’s name on the dashboard. They can click through to the employee’s evaluation and resolve outstanding tasks so nothing falls through the cracks. 

A new timeline displayed on each employee evaluation

Trakstar users will find a new performance evaluation timeline on each employee’s profile. If your organization has multiple steps in its reviews, you can see where each employee is at in the process. The timeline helps you identify bottlenecks and get a sense for how your team is progressing as a whole. 

Managers are also now able to navigate from one employee profile to another, without needing to return to the main dashboard. The ability to move between profiles and view timelines helps managers ensure every direct report is evaluated in a timely manner.

If you have any questions about the changes to the Trakstar interface, contact your account manager or our support team

If you’re not yet a Trakstar customer but want to learn more about our performance management solution, request a live demo today!

Stack Ranking: Should Your Organization Use it in Employee Evaluations?

Using stack ranking, every employees’ performance review score is ordered and grouped. The group with the highest scores are deemed top performers. These are the employees who consistently exceed expectations and deliver better results than their peers. The largest portion of employees fall into the middle group and are considered adequate at their jobs—neither overly succeeding nor failing. And the group with the lowest scores are identified as under performers, who prevent the organization from operating at full capacity. 

Stack ranking provides a big picture overview of performance across your workforce. You can use the data to inform compensation and succession planning. It can also be used to reassign employees, implement performance improvement plans, and, if necessary, terminate under performers.

However, being over-reliant on stack ranking is widely considered to be an outdated and overall negative performance management practice. In this blog post, you’ll learn how stack ranking came to be, why it fell out of favor, and the role it plays in the modern employee evaluation process. 

The history of stack ranking

Stack ranking was popularized in the 1980s by General Electric CEO Jack Welch. GE managers were initially asked to rate their direct reports on a 1-to-5 scale. However, it resulted in the classic problem of managers overwhelming scoring employees a “3” (commonly referred to as the central tendency bias). So Welch responded by implementing a “20-70-10” stack ranking system. 

Using this version of stack ranking, managers were required to group 20 percent of their direct reports as top performers, 70 percent as adequate performers, and 10 percent as under performers. The top performers were rewarded with promotions, raises, and bonuses, while the bottom 10 percent were unceremoniously fired without being given an opportunity to improve. The performance management practice became known as “rank and yank” within GE.

Despite the harsh management philosophy, GE thrived under Welch’s leadership. The company increased in market value from $12 billion in 1981 to $410 billion in 2001 when he retired. Today, he is remembered as one of the greatest business leaders ever and countless executives try to emulate his management style. 

Stack ranking became widely used in the 1990s but its disadvantages became apparent. Years after Microsoft adopted the practice, a Vanity Fair profile described an unhealthy culture with dissatisfied employees and workplace politics. Employees were reluctant to collaborate out of fear that a colleague’s failure would reflect poorly on them. The profile also included anecdotes about employees taking credit for other people’s work and talking down about their peers behind closed doors. Stack ranking created an environment where everyone in the organization was jockeying for a favorable position against each other.

Microsoft abandoned the practice in 2013. It’s still used today by some organizations but others like Ford, Goldman Sachs, Adobe, and even GE all fall into the camp of companies that no longer use stack ranking.

Problems with stack ranking

There are obvious problems with stack ranking like employee performance being driven by fear and self-interest. The practice also doesn’t mesh with modern workplace cultures that value employee engagement, transparency, and collaboration. 

Let’s take a deeper look at the concept and explore some of the other disadvantages it presents.

Employees become risk-averse

Most managers encourage employees to step out of their comfort zones and take ownership of work no one is responsible for. However, that can be a gamble when employees are evaluated with stack ranking. Taking a chance and failing could be detrimental to the employee’s career so it is often safer for them to focus on the work they’re familiar with.  

Promotions can lead to failure

Stack ranking can deter top performers from wanting a promotion. If a great employee fears they’ll struggle in a new role, they can conclude they’re safer where they’re at. Especially, if that position is known to have a high turnover rate. 

Employees exit on their own

Managing with fear just encourages employees to seek new opportunities at organizations with healthier cultures. Eventually, you’ll have to fill the positions that were vacated by low performers who were terminated and the talented employees who left on their own.

Trouble attracting new employees

As if high turnover wasn’t a big enough challenge, attracting qualified replacements is also difficult with a negative culture. In the era of social media and Glassdoor, employees can share their bad experiences online, discouraging talented job seekers from applying to your organization.

Can lead to workplace discrimination

The idea behind stack ranking is organizations make difficult choices based strictly on evaluation scores. In reality, the practice opens the door for biases to influence workforce management decisions. A handful of well-known companies have faced discrimination lawsuits because of the fallout from stack ranking. 

Employees get forced into performance categories

No organization has a perfect 20-70-10 balance of top performers, adequate performers, and under performers. The ones that follow such parameters force managers to make tough—and sometimes unnecessary decisions—on who gets rewarded, who can continue as is, and who faces serious consequences. 

Leads to operational issues

When organizations face high turnover, operations slow down when key positions are vacant. A sparse team can hinder a manager’s performance, who is included in the employee rankings like everyone else. If they’re motivated by self-interest, they may try to hire a replacement as quickly as possible, instead of taking the time to find the best person for the job.

When to use stack ranking

Even though stack ranking is ripe with disadvantages, it does have a place in performance management when used correctly. Segmenting employees by their performance review scores can help HR and leadership make fair and reasonable workforce decisions. Let’s review to properly use stack ranking after an evaluation cycle is complete:

  • Conduct compensation planning – Top-performing employees should be rewarded with raises if it’s feasible for the organization. Pinpointing the employees with the highest evaluation scores makes it easy to allocate compensation increases. 
  • Determine promotions Similarly, top performers should be given more responsibility to go along with their raise. However, promotions should be based on current performance and potential to do more so use a 9-box grid to help with succession planning
  • Create employee training programs – Top performers have knowledge and skills that should be shared with their colleagues. Stack ranking helps you determine who can create employee training programs that will elevate the performance of entire teams.
  • Retrain underperformers – While it’s harsh to terminate under performers based on a single performance evaluation, stack ranking does help you uncover who needs additional guidance. You can provide them with education that will teach them a better approach to their job. 
  • Identify trends in the organization – Performance, good or bad, isn’t always solely on the employee. Stack ranking can be used to identify entire teams that are either exceeding or falling short of expectations.  

Stack ranking fosters negativity across the organization when it’s used as the centerpiece for performance reviews. However, organizing employee scores is beneficial for completing post-evaluation action items, provided you don’t go too far with the results.

A modern approach to performance management    

Stack ranking is a great way to get a quick glance at every employees’ evaluation score. However, it shouldn’t be the main driver of workforce planning. You should have a comprehensive performance review system so you accurately gauge how each employee is doing at their job and can help under performers get back on track. 

We’ll wrap up with some quick tips for modern performance management:

  • Set measurable employee goals – Assigning clear, measurable goals for every employee helps them understand exactly what they should focus on and guides their performance evaluation.
  • Collect multi-rater feedbackCollecting feedback from the different people an employee works with prevents biases from influencing their final evaluation score.
  • Provide employees frequent feedback – Encourage managers to meet with direct reports regularly to talk about what they’re doing well and where they can improve. 
  • Be aware of employee engagement – Engaged employees are consistently productive so always consider if your organization is doing everything it can to help team members meet their full potential. 
  • Use PIPs when necessary – A performance improvement plan (PIP) can be used to get an under performer improve before you take the drastic step of termination.

A stack ranking-focused evaluation process comes with too many downsides. Following the tips above promotes a healthy workplace where your employees are happy, productive, and receptive to the results of their performance review.

Creating the Right Employee Evaluation Rating Scale

At the heart of every organization’s employee review process is the rating scale. It’s the medium in which managers and other raters express how well an employee performs at their job, conducts themselves in the workplace, and embodies the organization’s values. It also provides a system for quantifying evaluations and generating data for succession and compensation planning.

Most HR professionals put a lot of thought into the competencies included on employee appraisal forms but too many overlook the rating scales that accompany them. The wrong scale can cause raters to misunderstand their scoring options and allows biases to creep into the evaluation process. The result is inconsistent and inaccurate evaluations which naturally hurts employee engagement and morale. 

But the right rating scale leads to every employee getting the recognition they deserve. They learn where they’re excelling and where they can improve. In this blog post, we’ll cover all things employee evaluation rating scales so you know what to consider when building a scoring system for performance reviews. 

The five-point rating scale has its shortcoming

Let’s start with the five-point rating scale since it has long been the default method for formally evaluating employee performance. It’s simple for raters to complete and allows HR to tally up a final score for each review.

The problem with the five-point scale is it lacks context. For example, each rater can have a different idea of what a “3” means on a competency like communication. It gives them too much latitude in how they interpret scoring options and opens the door for these common rater biases:  

  • The leniency bias – Some raters don’t want to be too critical so they give every employee “4s” and “5s.”
  • The central tendency bias – Other raters veer toward the middle, giving employees mostly “3s” with a couple of higher and lower scores mixed in for good measure.
  • The strictness bias – And then there are the raters who believe a “5” means perfection and gravitate toward the lower end of the scale on each competency. 

When each rater takes a different approach, evaluations land all over the map. Some employees get good marks that overstate their performance while others are told they’re underperforming in every area. And in the case of the central tendency bias, the employee doesn’t receive any actionable feedback at all. 

And if your organization uses multi-rater feedback, an employee’s scores on a single competency can end up not making any sense. When each rater gives a different score, it’s confusing and frustrating for the employee and the HR team member tasked with recommending next steps. 

Use a semi-quantitative scale with rating titles

A quantitative scale is still necessary, raters just need to know what each option means. A five-point scale that includes titles (e.g. “not effective,” “minimally effective,” “effective,” “highly effective,” “exceptional”) provides the context that a pure five-point scale lacks.

Whereas a “4” is easy to check without much thought, a title of “highly effective” means the employee is truly making a difference in that area. It encourages the rate to think before they choose a score. They may conclude the employee is doing a fine job but not necessarily exceeding expectations, so an “effective” score is correct.

A semi-quantitative scale also makes for productive conversations between the manager and employee. When the manager thinks through their ratings, they can later convey that feedback to the direct report when they sit down to go over the review results. They can say, “here is what you can do to get a ‘highly effective’ or ‘exceptional’ grade next time around.” 

Achieve proper spread in your rating scale

With Trakstar, you can customize rating scales to your organization’s liking. You can create specific titles that match your organizational values or the specific competencies employees are evaluated on. 

The key when determining rating scale titles is to achieve proper spread—or distinction from one scoring option to the next. Remember, the goal is to provide context so raters need to have a clear understanding of each option on the scale or they’ll end up making their own assumptions. 

You can achieve spread by providing additional information with each scoring option. For example, the title “not effective” could include a description of “below minimum job requirements” while the title “minimally effective” is described as “barely meets job requirements.” These extra details remove the guesswork and help raters provide accurate scores. 

Using Trakstar, you can customize the descriptions at every level of a rating scale. Our team has also created a library of 100+ fully built competencies and rating scales you can use to quickly create detailed evaluation forms.  

Other best practices for rating scales

We’ve covered that a semi-quantitative rating scale consisting of titles and descriptions will help result in accurate employee appraisals. But what else is required to create the best possible scoring system? Let’s conclude with some quick tips for creating effective rating scales:

  • Assign values to each rating scale option so evaluation scores can be calculated. We recommend using increments of 20 on a five-point scale to ensure even scoring with the highest rating option valued at 100.
  • Include a “not applicable” (NA) option for competencies that don’t apply to every employee. You never want factors that are irrelevant to an employee’s job to influence their final evaluation score.
  • Feel free to use different rating scales that are appropriate for each competency. For example, a straightforward “yes” or “no” option might be called for at times. In the case of goals, a scale of “not started,” “in progress,” and “complete” may make for better measurement. 
  • In addition to providing descriptions for rating scale options, explain what each competency means. This is especially important for behavioral competencies that aren’t quantifiable.  

Rating scales are only part of the equation

The takeaway of this blog post is rating scales matter—a lot. However, many factors go into making a successful employee appraisal process. Trakstar will not only provide you with an industry-leading solution for tracking and measuring employee performance. We also have a team of experts who will help you build a great evaluation process from rating scales onward. 

Ready to learn more? Request a live Trakstar demo today!

Introducing the Trakstar API


Today, we’re excited to announce a new feature that will help our customers get even more out of our software—the launch of our Application Programming Interface (API).

Using our API, Trakstar can communicate and share details with your other employee management and HR software. Automating data entry frees you to use Trakstar to focus on what matters most—providing performance appraisals that help your employees reach their full potential. 

Ready to connect to your favorite HR tools? Contact us to learn how to get started.

How our API works

Your organization has multiple systems that hold employee data. Manually inputting information into each system is tedious and time-consuming. And there’s the risk of inputting incorrect data or forgetting to update a particular system. 

Our API automatically syncs information between Trakstar and any connected system. Employee details like first and last name, email, manager, and employee number are pushed to or pulled from Trakstar.

Even more, our API helps your organization act on the information collected in employee performance appraisals. Your other HR systems can read details like self-appraisal score, manager score, completion date, and more.

Our API in action 

Connecting Trakstar with your other software offers numerous advantages. Let’s review some specific use cases so you can see exactly how beneficial our API will be for your organization:

  • Employee appraisal scores in Trakstar can be pulled into your HRIS and used for compensation planning. See who are your top performers and reward them so they continue to deliver outstanding results for your organization. 
  • New hire details added to a connected system automatically flow into Trakstar. There is no need to log in and create new employee profiles. 
  • Profiles for employees who are promoted or change jobs are automatically updated in Trakstar. Your employee performance management software will always reflect your actual org chart. 
  • You’ll have peace of mind that employee details are accurate, correctly formatted, and current in Trakstar and connected systems. 

Get up and running with the Trakstar API

Our API can be implemented within Trakstar but software development knowledge is required. Check out our support article that provides step-by-step instructions for granting your system administrators API keys. You can then provide your development team with our technical API Documentation that outlines everything they need to know to sync Trakstar with your other systems

If you encounter any problems as you set up the API or have questions before you get started, please contact us at

If you’re not yet a customer but want to learn more about Trakstar, request a live demo today!

Evaluating Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in Employee Performance Reviews

Think about your favorite people you’ve worked with. Yes, they were good at their jobs but that is probably not why you remember them so fondly. In all likelihood, it was the attitude they brought to work every day that stands out. Great colleagues are friendly, supportive, encouraging, and an overall positive presence in the workplace. 

Unfortunately, people aren’t formally taught how to be great colleagues. It takes years of life experience and self-awareness to learn what we can do better when working alongside others.

Using a modern performance review process, your organization can assess employees on a wide range of factors, including emotional intelligence (commonly referred to as EQ). The evaluation and ensuing conversation between employee and manager help each team member learn how they can improve at conducting themselves in a professional setting. 

The profile of an emotionally intelligent employee

Most of us intuitively know what emotional intelligence is. We’ve seen the full gamut of how people handle their emotions and understand there are right and wrong ways to express our feelings. 

But before we move forward, the official definition of EQ from Psychology Today is worth getting familiar with:

“Emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least three skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same”

The workplace presents challenges we don’t experience in other areas of life. And given that our jobs take so much of our time and energy, we must remain level headed when things get tough. Let’s apply the three factors in the above definition to common work experiences and build a profile of an emotionally intelligent employee:


When a bout of stress inevitable hits an employee, they must stay composed and do whatever stress relievers work best for them. They should also work to resolve the source of the stress by effectively managing their time or discussing priorities with their manager. And if they see a teammate is having a hard time, they should offer a helping hand. 

Feedback acceptance and delivery

A great employee is open to how they can improve at what they do. They take feedback to heart and try to incorporate it into their work. And effective managers know how to deliver feedback in a calm and straightforward way, using examples to support their claims.


No one does their job perfectly. Employees should accept when they failed to reach a goal and avoid making unreasonable excuses or blaming others. They should also commit to learning from the experience and make strides to do better next time. 

Workplace presence

Regardless of their place on the org chart, employees should be friendly and supportive to everyone they work with. That means treating colleagues with respect and collaborating with others to accomplish common goals that help the organization succeed.


Emotional intelligence doesn’t mean unrelenting positivity. Things go wrong at work and employees should notice issues and resolve them with tact. That might require having tough conversations in a calm yet direct manner. 

Personal growth

Self-awareness and a desire to grow are cornerstones of EQ. Employees should already have an idea of how they can improve at expressing their emotions and interacting with others during challenging situations. 

Integrating EQ into employee performance reviews

Evaluating employees on imprecise factors like emotional intelligence requires a delicate approach. We recommend using a documented, HR-lead performance review process where employees are evaluated on a range of competencies, including the following EQ-focused criteria: 

  • Communication – Assess an employee’s ability to voice reasonable concerns or have other challenging conversations in a healthy way. 
  • Collaboration – Ensure employees are willing to work with direct team members and colleagues from other departments to accomplish broad organizational objectives. 
  • Attitude – Evaluate how receptive employees are to direction and feedback, as well as how they deal with stressful situations. 
  • Interpersonal skillsEven though you have introverted employees, make sure team members are kind to each other and make the workplace a pleasant environment. 
  • Culture adherenceIf you have specific organizational values, consider how well employees embody each one. 

Additionally, you should create an employee performance review process that emphasizes emotional intelligence. The points below will help you evaluate EQ from all angles: 

  • Consider 360-degree evaluations – Collect feedback from colleagues, direct reports, and other people each employee works with so you get a thorough assessment of their EQ.
  • Use self-assessments – Ask employees to evaluate themselves so you learn if they’re aware of their emotional strengths and weaknesses and what personal strides they’re making.
  • Praise EQ like you would job performance – Instead of only calling out great work, also publicly recognize when employees navigate tough situations or go out of their way to help a colleague. 

Bring emotional brilliance to your workforce

The simple act of including EQ factors in your performance reviews will help each employee consider if they’re the best person they can be in the workplace. They’ll see your organization values emotional intelligence as much as job performance and will harness all their feelings into productive and supportive energy.