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Building Engagement to Accelerate Employee Performance

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Building Engagement to Accelerate Employee Performance

San Mateo County Libraries, Calif.

Operations & Management | 2018 | Top Innovator

Innovation Synopsis

The library developed and led a countywide pilot designed to accelerate employee performance and test the success and scalability of replacing the typically performance-damaging, 20th century annual performance review. The new program is a culture-changing, evidence-based, future-focused performance approach, rooted in weekly employee check-ins and continuous data gathering.


Annual performance reviews are a costly and ineffective strategy for improving employee performance and fostering development. Urgent considerations for reimagining employee performance included: the changing nature of our work and the need to be agile, iterate solutions and quickly evolve; the return to an evidence-based development focus and recognition of the importance of fostering talent and increasing employee skills; and the desire to emphasize teamwork rather than isolating individual performance.

Key Elements of Innovation

We made the most of eliminating an incredibly unpopular activity (with employees and managers alike), the annual performance review, to drive the kind of culture change that embraces a future-focused, data-rich, employee-focused environment. Significant work throughout the organization has built a shared understanding, communicated expectations and supported behavior changes that allowed weekly pulse surveys and individual check-ins between employees and managers to be the absolute heart of performance management.

Achieved Outcomes

Results indicate the pilot has been both successful and well-received, providing data for managers to build a high performance culture. We routinely exceed an 80 percent threshold of weekly survey participation, 84 percent of staff meet weekly with their managers (a huge change for us — and a foundational shift in terms of the evidence on employee engagement and performance acceleration), 92 percent of staff now feel comfortable asking for check-ins when needed and 93 percent feel valued at work.