Managing without performance reviews – and transforming the employee experience.

In 2012, Adobe abolished annual performance reviews in favor of a lightweight approach we call Check-in. Consisting of informal, ongoing conversations between managers and employees, Check-in focuses on the future, not the past, with a goal of inspiring everyone to bring their best to the company.

Discover check-in 1

Why did we adopt this new program?

At a time when we were transforming our business with an innovative new sales model, our stale performance management process threatened to slow us down. Performance reviews took up about 80,000 hours of our managers' time each year, causing a significant drag on focus and productivity. And by stack-ranking employees and rating their skill levels, the reviews diminished morale and motivation, and led to spikes in voluntary attrition at a time when we couldn't afford to lose talent.

Check-ins are addressing these shortcomings with forward-looking conversations that make employees feel valued and supported, and that encourage real teamwork and improved productivity.

What was hard about getting Check-in off the ground?

The biggest challenge involved creating a new mindset. We invested heavily in change management to help our managers take ownership of the process and establish a culture in which employees would welcome and act upon ongoing feedback. Another big challenge was that some employees were initially uncomfortable with the idea of a performance management process that had so little structure and documentation. We also had to build our managers' skill sets around compensation planning for our annual Rewards Check-in process.

With time and training, we've made significant progress in helping both managers and employees become comfortable with Check-in. We continue making investments to ensure that the experience is a great one.

Discover check-in 2
Discover check-in 3

How have we made it a success?

We've learned some important lessons on our Check-in journey. Here's why we think we've been successful: 

  1. We’ve partnered closely with our executive team. Check-in needs to be role-modeled from the top.
  2. We've made big investments in our managers' capabilities and development.
  3. We’ve communicated early and often. We engaged employees in a dialogue before we made the move and we've communicating progress regularly.
  4. We’ve built a centralized Employee Resource Center that has helped us scale the program.
  5. We’ve taken global differences into account, working with legal entities like regional work councils and vetting any concerns early.

What results have we seen to date?

Since rolling out Check-in, Adobe has redeployed the time managers spent administering the annual review process to more impactful Check-in conversations and important business priorities. We saved an estimated 80,000 manager hours spent on the formal review process in the first year of Check-in, and with headcount growth since then, we believe we now save more than 100,000 manager hours each year. We’ve also seen a drop in voluntary attrition and an increase in involuntary departures from employees who aren’t meeting expectations.

Our annual employee surveys also attest to the success of Check-in. Between 2012 and 2015, we've seen a 10% increase in the number of employees who say they’d recommend Adobe as a great place to work, a 10% increase in the number who say they receive ongoing feedback that helps their performance, and a 5% increase in the number who say their managers are open to receiving feedback from them.

Discover check-in 4

Ready to bring Check-in to your organization?

Find information and toolkits to help you get started.

All your Check-in questions answered.

Find detailed information on everything from manager training to performance measurement.


See the FAQ ›