We’re all too busy working on projects to spend time arguing about whether people are low performers, high performers, or rock stars in-the-making.  Right?  Wrong.  You don’t need to run a survey to work out that, when team members get feedback and coaching on their performance, they’re happier and perform better.  But we do, and lack of feedback and coaching is a top pain point.  So taking the time to carefully evaluate and improve team members will ultimately make your ability to execute on your vision that much easier.

Here are some tips to help you set up a performance management process for your team:

1    Be clear about what’s expected
An obvious statement, but how often do we fudge our way through this?  Publish a ladder of levels for UX practitioners, with performance expectations for each level.  AIGA gives you a summary of the various roles, but you’ll need to add detail that’s specific for your org.  Meet (at least) quarterly and set objectives and key results for the quarter based on these expectations and on what your business needs to achieve.

2    Factor in your team member’s career goals
Certainly, work has to get done.  But once you’ve set team member goals and expectations that support the business, you’ll need to factor in what the UX practitioner wants to get out of his/her experience with your org.  Add these goals to the mix of quarterly objectives and key results.  (See Career Development)

3    Get peer and client feedback
It may sound obvious, but when evaluating your team members, collecting data from those who work closely with them is the only way to get rich feedback.  Ask your team members’ peers about their strengths and areas of opportunity.  Be transparent and share everything you get with your team member (and don’t forget to let their peers know that you’ll be sharing the feedback with them).

4    Use a consistent scoring system
Break down expectations into categories based on the predefined expectations (like “quality of work”, “ability to lead projects”, “complexity of projects”).  Taking peer and client feedback, as well as your own observations, score your team members on each category.  Once you’ve done this for everyone at one level, compare scores to ensure that they’re well calibrated.

5    Track results over time
Maintain scores and your notes on team member performance over time in one document.  This will allow you to monitor trajectory and to catch any areas of opportunity that were previously addressed but are creeping back.

6    Delivering the news
Deliver feedback quarterly.  Very important: Write your feedback prior to meeting with your team member, and do so in the context of the expectations and goals that were set.  Having a trajectory of scores will help color your commentary e.g. you’re continuing to improve in this area, but have leveled off in this other area.

AIGA’s list of designer role definitions: http://www.designsalaries.org/definitions.html

Downloads: Performance management tool

  • cosmiquemuffin

    I like having what’s known in the industry as S.M.A.R.T. goals, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. While it makes for a cute acronym, the key ones I’ve found are SMT. The thing to avoid in goals are amorphous clouds like: “Help the Agile team with their current project” and get down to specific-measurable-timely goals such as: “Set up interdisciplinary scrum team, meetings, and shared tracking sheet by end of month”.

    Another helpful technique (if your company allows) is to aim for an average of 70% completion of goals. Comparing a company with 100% completion of goals vs. one that encourages far-reaching and 70% completion as the average, one encourages aiming very low, and the other encourages innovation through experimentation and thinking outside the box.

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About

Margaret Gould Stewart and Graham Jenkin have managed in a range of start-ups and large firms, agencies and in-house. Margaret is currently User Experience Director at YouTube and Graham was an inaugural "Great Manager" award winner at Google and currently works on product and design at AngelList.