| 11 June, 2021 | 7 Min Read

How Google conducts performance review

When it comes to a company's commitment to employee satisfaction and engagement, Google is always on the top of the list. They constantly invent, review and adapt their people practices including the performance review system. And the secret to the high performance of employees at Google is their two-phased annual review.


eviews are the backbone of improvement in any organization. The routine evaluation of employee performance modifies their behavior towards work, hence, boosting the productivity of such an organization. 

Google - the WebMaster, possesses various work cultures that ensure employee satisfaction, and their unique approach to performance review is one to embrace. 

If you’ve ever wondered how Google maintains a positive work environment with ambitious employees all year round. In the book, "Work Rules!," Google's Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock shared some practices on how this iconic tech company curbed its ideas from the primary assessment activities and turned it into a masterpiece for motivation.

Grove HR - How Google Conducts Performance Review


About Google

Over the years, Google has shown exceptional success and growth rates in various countries across the globe. Since its initiation in 1996, the multi-national technology company has successfully launched many products and services, including Google classroom, e-mail, YouTube, Google Maps, and Pixel - Even though they are mainly intentional about providing Internet services.

Today, Google can be considered the biggest search engine on earth with about 139,995 employees and 154 locations globally, being adequately managed.

The work culture at Google is so impeccable that it won them so many awards in the past few years. Only in 2021, Google has won nine awards, with seven of these prizes awarding their excellent work environment; Best Places to Work in Austin 2021, Best Places to Work in Washington DC 2021, Best Places to Work in the Bay Area 2021, Best Places to Work in New York 2021, Best Places to Work in Los Angeles 2021, and Best Global Culture 2021.

Their unique approach – How Google does it

Google adopted an innovative internal grading system known as Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs. These OKRs are not directly related to performance evaluation but to monitor progress and accomplishments.

OKR serves as a management tool for companies, which makes obtaining each set milestone even more possible. Here is how Google makes use of the OKR strategy:

  • Make OKRs publicly available to the entire company
  • Set, reviewed, and revised OKRs quarterly (and annually)
  • Set measurable key results. They serve as quantifiers that indicate when the set objectives have been accomplished.
  • Set OKR at different levels in your company; personal, management, and team.
  • Keeping the number of OKRs realistic is the key to accomplishing your set objectives. Google assigns about 4-6 OKRs quarterly, as it gives the company a clear focus. OKR encourages team effort, as a target from which sub-objectives are curbed, is set annually.

At Google, to assess all employees, an annual performance review cycle is done. This evaluation comes in two phases;

  • A preview, done at the end of the first semester and,

  • A complete review, done between October and November.

The performance evaluation is divided into two different methods: The Self-assessment and 360-degree feedback.


During the self-assessment process, the company is more interested in the results and how they attain them. To get the adequate result from employees, the Managerial team implores employees to evaluate themselves based on five criteria;

  • Googleyness – How well an employee adheres to Google’s values

  • Execution -  How well they can deliver high-quality work without supervision or support from peers and managers
  • Thought leadership – How resourceful an employee could be concerning specific tasks and niches within their area of expertise. Google needs to see how vast employees are in niches, such that they can mentor others in delivering high-quality content as expected, or maybe beyond.
  • Problem-solving skill – how employees apply their analytical knowledge in solving daily challenges within their field.

An employee is expected to assess their skills based on the above-listed criteria highlighting accomplished projects as proof of their abilities. This report is essential for the next step - the 360-degree feedback, where reviewing peers confirm whether the employee had an impact on the completion of the highlighted projects or not. 

360-degree feedback

In eliminating the possibilities of biased performance review in the self-assessment stage, 360-degree feedback is needed. At this stage, the manager reaches out to the employee in assessment, asking them to create a shortlist of peers that can testify to the authenticity of the self-assessment report submitted. 

The reviewing peer assesses the employee based on their strengths, weaknesses, and impact or contribution to the highlighted projects. This way, managers can determine if there have been any omissions or untrue additions to the assessment report.


Right after the self-assessment and 360-degree feedback, the manager drafts a rating for the employee. Google abolished numerical ratings in April 2014, now managers at Google adopt a rating scale as listed below:

  • Needs improvement

  • Consistently meets expectations
  • Exceeds expectations
  • Strongly exceeds expectations
  • Superb

Employees will be evaluated according to this rating scale and given their ratings accordingly. A final draft of performance is only accepted when a group of managers assesses the initial draft. For this process, five to ten managers consider the draft and agree on a suitable rating for each employee. There are no biases or unfair judgments in the calibration stage. Managers are left to perform constructive criticism on the assessment reports, eliminating all forms of favouritism.


The output is the final stage of performance review. It is a meeting held by managers to decide on the results gotten from the evaluation. 

At this stage, two meetings are held far apart from each other, at least a month. The first meeting discusses the impression from peers and managers, with feedback on strengths to maintain and weaknesses to improve on. The second meeting is held to discuss compensation and promotions.

The whole performance review is complete right after the conclusion of the final stage, and it is a wrap for the year.

The key to success in Google’s performance review 

Unlike traditional performance appraisal, Google draws a line between performance evaluation and compensation. The contributory assessment from peers and managers helps employees genuinely reflect on their performance, as they can now see that everyone’s watching.

Google maximizes its resources by giving the employees something in return for their services that are not usually monetary, which is personal development. This way, employees have a drive other than issuing an invoice occasionally. 

By separating the compensation discussion from the performance evaluation, employees can focus more on personal development and impact as much as they pay attention to compensations.   

Grove HR - Laszlo  Bock  quote


How to implement Google’s approach 

At Google,  there are three primary purposes that drive the managerial team to get the best out of all employees on different grounds:

  • Selecting, sourcing, and hiring the best candidates for the job

  • Identifying and duly rewarding top candidates by creating a meritocratic environment
  • On-the-job coaching, training, and 360-degree feedback collection help employees reach their full potential.

To adopt this evaluation structure, here are some steps to take:

1. Introduce employees to the system -  They get to keep their heads up this way and prepare accordingly

2. Make it a collaborative process – Try not to leave any member of staff behind. Ensure they’re all a part of the process.

3. Make peer reviews simple – keep the 360-degree feedback simple and assess based on the employee’s collaborative impact on the project

4. Make the self-evaluation process challenging – don’t ask field-related questions. Test their soft skills and observe how they apply these skills.

5. Entrust the calibration stage to at least five managers for unbiased results.

6. Be ready to compensate duly.

The success of a reputable business lies in the hands of its employees. Properly conducted performance reviews can sky-rocket the progress and productivity of an organization.

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