Human Resources

Facebook likes continuous feedback

Facebook is the world’s largest social network. In fact, if Facebook was a country, it would be the world’s biggest by population size. Currently there are around 1.5 billion active users on the platform. In order to sustain this population, Facebook needs to attract the best talent the tech industry has to offer. As of 2014, Facebook employed 10,000 employees, garnering an overall employee satisfaction score of 4,7 out of 5 on Glassdoor.com. Eric Schmidt described it as one company “driving innovation and growth in the tech industry”. With its unique set of management practices, Facebook went from college dorm room to the most dominate social network in less than five years. How do Facebook’s talent management practices  make it possible for them to achieve this type of productivity?

The writing on the wall

Apart from the fact that employees receive things like free ice creams, cookies and any tech gadget their hearts desire, Facebook is a firm believer of transparency. An open floor plan encourages sharing and collaboration. According to the case study penned by Dr. John Sullivan, the company clearly believes in openness, as there are no locked doors, and ‘meeting in progress’ signs, you would typically find  in other offices. This belief of ‘transparency’ is clearly reflected in the way the company  evaluates its employees.

Employees have two performance appraisals every six months. A online application gives employees the ability to constantly give and receive feedback. The formal review then uses the results of these  frequently occurring feedback interactions. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, the purpose of the conversation is to understand the employee's motivations and growth opportunities. According to Lori Goler, Facebook’s VP of people, the most important aspect about the feedback process is that it should never be a surprise. Employees should be well prepared before having a performance review with their managers. During the performance review, employees are provided with success metrics which quantify their results.

According to Molly Graham, a software engineer at the company:

“They call it the Performance Summary Cycle. There is a two week period where employees solicit peer feedback (usually 3-5 peer reviews), write a self assessment, and write a manager assessment. Managers then read all the peer feedback and the self assessment and determine a "Performance Assessment" or rating of the employee's performance over the last six months as well as whether or not it is the right time to promote the employee.”

Managers are your facebook friends

Another business practice that makes facebook different is the fact that the company does not believe in promoting employees to managers. Employees know that they don’t need to be managers in order to be successful. She explains:

“Facebook is a strength-based organisation and that means that leaders find what employees excel in and place them in those roles [...]The most important thing is that we choose managers who want to be managers”

Becoming a manager is seen as a ‘lateral transfer’. In other words, movement to different teams with no pay rise or additional duties. As a result, there is very little incentive to move away from technical work, unless the desire is strong enough to make a difference. However, when an employee chooses to become a manager, Facebook will coach them for four months. After this, they are given an external ‘strength’ couch. What's more, employees are continuously encouraged to give their managers feedback about the way in which they lead the team around them.

Holes in the wall

However, Facebook is not all about the land of milk and honey. A simple search on Glassdoor will give you some of the problems the company is trying to resolve. One problem, which seems to crop up time and time again, is work/life balance. Every year Glassdoor conducts a survey to determine which companies are good at maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and every year Facebook has gotten progressively worse. In 2011 it ranked 7th, in 2012 it ranked 26th and in 2015 it ranked 29th. In fact, the number one complaint is the long working hours facebook expects its employees to work. In a report, conducted by Accenture, millennials said the key determinant for a successful career was a healthy work/life balance. The report goes on to say that over half the employees interviewed had turned down job offers because of the impact it may have on their personal time. Adrian Lajtha, Accenture’s Chief Leadership Officer, said that:

“Today’s professionals strive to find the right balance. Leading companies will have to find innovative ways to help them develop, grow and thrive in their own personal capacity.”

In order for Facebook to maintain its status as Glassdoor’s ‘One of the World’s best places to work’, the company will have to adopt strategies that encourages personal time and allows employees the freedom to take time off when they please. Companies such as Linkedin, Zappos and Patagonia are all striving toward a culture which encourages employees to take personal time off when they need it, avoiding burn-out. Facebook would do well to understand these business practices.

While Facebook explicitly says it does not use stack ranking in the traditional sense, i.e. ranking employees on a bell curve, it does use the system to determine its high performers. As Molly Graham says:

“Facebook has guidelines on what percentage of employees should be at each level. The curve exists to ensure that extraordinary performance is rewarded (The distribution is such that only 2% or less of employees are given the highest rating every cycle) and that if hard conversations need to happen, they happen.”

Conclusion

It’s evident that through feedback, Facebook remains one of  the world’s best place to work. Employees feel comfortable with management. In 2013 it was listed as the No.1 place to work because employees are challenged everyday to do their best. Managers truly believe in Facebook’s mission to make the world more open and connected. Impraise, a Y-combinator backed startup believes that, through continuous feedback, employees are nurtured to grow into their strengths  and continue improving/developing. What’s more, managers have a better understanding of their workforce and how they can improve themselves to create a work environment which supports personal development. Encouraging feedback fosters an engaged workforce, because people will invariably want to strive towards something greater than an income or bonus. This will become evident in the millennial generation and generations to come.