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How Adobe retired performance reviews and inspired great performance.

People are always asking us about Check-in, the Adobe performance management approach that replaced annual reviews with ongoing dialogues between managers and employees. In the spirit of open-sourcing, we’re  happy to share the story of our journey as well as tools and resources to help interested companies start Check-in programs of their own.

The story of Check-in.

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In 2012, Adobe’s then Senior Vice President of People Resources, Donna Morris, was feeling frustrated with annual performance reviews. The process was so complex, bureaucratic, and paperwork-heavy that it ate up thousands of hours of managers’ time. It also created barriers to teamwork and innovation, since the experience of being rated and stack-ranked for compensation left many employees feeling undervalued and uninspired.

Donna was mulling the issue on a visit to one of Adobe’s India offices when a reporter asked her what was new or innovative in human resources. Even though she hadn’t yet discussed the idea with Adobe’s CEO, her peers on the leadership team, or her own team, she announced, “We plan to abolish the performance review format.” Her revelation made the front page of the Economic Times of India, and a major disruption was underway. She headed back to the U.S. determined to catalyze change and help create something better for Adobe employees and the company as a whole.

Donna and her team solicited feedback from all across the company, and after months of work and many iterations, Adobe introduced Check-in, an informal, ongoing dialogue between managers and their direct reports that has employees feeling more engaged and empowered.

Hear Donna tell the story ›

See Donna's full keynote from the SABA WW2015 event.

Adobe performance management, then and now.

Before: The annual performance review

After: Check-in

Setting priorities

Employee priorities set at the start of the year and often not revisited.

Priorities discussed and adjusted with manager regularly.

Feedback process

Long process of submitting accomplishments, soliciting feedback, and writing reviews.

Ongoing process of feedback and dialogue with no formal written review or documentation.

Compensation decisions

Onerous process of rating and ranking each employee to determine salary increase and equity.

No formal rating or ranking; manager determines salary and equity annually based on performance.

Cadence of meetings

Feedback sessions inconsistent and not monitored. Spike in employee productivity at the end of the year, timed with performance review discussions.

Feedback conversations expected quarterly, with ongoing feedback becoming the norm. Consistent employee productivity based on ongoing discussions and feedback throughout the year.

HR team role

HR team managed paperwork and processes to ensure all steps were completed.

HR team equips employees and managers to have constructive conversations.

Training and resources

Manager coaching and resources came from HR partners who couldn’t always reach everyone.

A centralized Employee Resource Center provides help and answers whenever needed.

Ready to bring Check-in to your organization?

Find information and toolkits to help you get started.

Check-in news and perspectives

“Nearly 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have done away with annual ratings.”

- Cliff Stevenson, senior research analyst, Institute for Corporate Productivity


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