Patagonia's progressive approach to performance management

Patagonia Uses HighGround to Align Its Performance Management to Business Values

Patagonia takes a progressive approach, from the way it runs its business to its commitment to environmental issues. Unfortunately, its performance management process didn’t reflect who they were as a company and the values most important to its employees.

The Challenge

Patagonia’s existing performance management tool simply digitized the paper and file system made popular in the Industrial era. Once-a-year reviews weren’t adding any value, and the technology was cumbersome and difficult to use, creating a significant administrative burden for internal resources. Overall the process was slow, arduous and not aligned with Patagonia’s celebrated culture of being unconventional.

The Solution

Patagonia wanted a new process that reflected who they were as a company and the values most important to its employees: transparency, collaboration and improvement. From that, it established a new mission for performance development – to improve employee performance through effective goal setting that leveraged the crowd.

“The beauty of HighGround is that information goes straight to the employee. Once you hear from the crowd, you begin to see trends. Now the conversation employees have with their managers at the end of the month is really different, and the manager’s role becomes a true coach versus just rater/evaluator… That’s the future of conversations — people are empowered with data they didn’t have before.”

– Dean Carter, Vice President of Human Resources, Patagonia

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To achieve this mission, Patagonia enlisted HighGround to help them achieve four main goals:

  1. Realize its data potential. Patagonia wanted to arm HR with data uncovered from the platform to ask more relevant questions and drill down into performance-related metrics.
  2. Democratize performance. Employees needed a real-time view of their performance vs. a long, subjective annual review that looked backward, covering issues out of context and oftentimes beyond repair.
  3. Incorporate social to leverage the crowd. With multiple data points from peers, managers or even customers, managers would see a more balanced picture of performance.
  4. Simplify the process. HighGround’s clean, intuitive design could be used without training. After all, if no one was using it, there would be no activity to manage and measure.

The Results

COMPASS, powered by HighGround, is Patagonia employees’ personal device for improved performance every day. The program leverages the science of objectives and key results (OKRs) to help employees set goals, promotes a growth mindset by treating development as a regenerative process and taps into the power of the crowd through HighGround’s social functionality.

Some early successes include:

  • The check-in conversation is overwhelmingly preferred by employees to the traditional performance review.
  • Transparency is being embraced, with 98% of personal goals visible to the organization.
  • Feedback is being shared openly and frequently, with an average of four comments per person, with managers leading the way.
  • Employees that received higher bonuses this year were more likely to have asked for feedback and completed a check-in.