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Does anybody like hearing the phrase “it’s performance review season, again”?
In most organizations where this author has ever worked (and he has worked at many), neither managers nor employees particularly relished the process of giving and receiving performance reviews.
Still, many companies insist on them as a way of evaluating their talent and ensuring that high performers are rewarded with promotions or new opportunities, while low performers are identified and put on a path to improvement — or toward exiting the company. Yet, when administered by human beings — be they managers or peers — performance reviews can feel like personal attacks.
But Confirm thinks it has a better way forward. The San Francisco-based startup announced it has raised $6.2 million in Series A funding (and a total of $11.4 million) to transform the performance review process from the ground up, incorporating “Organizational Network Analysis (ONA),” an approach the consulting giant Deloitte describes as “visualizing and analyzing formal and informal relationships in your organization,” as well as generative AI in the form of OpenAI’s GPT-4, to deliver fairer, more scientific, and more efficient performance reviews.
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The round was spearheaded by Spero Ventures, and saw participation from SHRMLabs, Elefund, Gaingels, Black Angel Group, as well as some of Confirm’s existing clients.
Fairness over favoritism
According to Confirm, traditional performance review methods like continuous feedback and 360-degree assessments often muddy the waters instead of clearing them. Confirm is looking to change this by making performance reviews more straightforward and data-driven.
Confirm’s approach measures employee performance by examining how all employees in the company view one another. ONA operates on the principle that performance isn’t an isolated metric, but a network of relationships and influences within the workplace.
In fact, Confirm’s prior research published in Fast Company found that male employees received 25% higher ratings over female employees on average from managers, compared to the network ratings for both groups.
It also offers GPT-4 created drafts of performance reviews customized to each specific employee with input from their peers and managers, auto-generated employee survey results, and auto-calibrated ratings for employees that seek to minimize bias from any one particular manager or another.
A strong early track record
Confirm was founded not too long ago, in 2019, but companies like Canada Goose, Niantic, and Thoropass have already been reaping the benefits of its performance review platform.
Thoropass, for instance, managed to identify and keep all of its top performers during the wave of employee turnover known as “The Great Resignation,” in the late stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Joe Bast, VP of People & Operations at Thoropass, ONA has been a game-changer, helping them understand not just who the high and low performers are, but also who the real influencers within the company are.
The company also earned a “World Changing Ideas Award” from Fast Company, and an HR Tech Award for Best Talent Intelligence Solution from Lighthouse Research & Advisory. It was chosen by SHRMLabs for its 2023 WorkplaceTech Accelerator program, a platform that helps promising startups grow.
What does the future hold for performance reviews?
While every organization from the large to the small, from the established longstanding leaders to the nimble new startups, has its own culture and politics, those shouldn’t really influence performance reviews, according to Confirm’s vision of the future.
David Murray, co-founder and president of Confirm, wants to create “a world where employees are recognized and rewarded for their hard work and positive impact, not their ability to play office politics.”
And in a time where remote and hybrid teams are commonplace, there may not even be a real opportunity to evaluate someone face-to-face. Data-driven performance reviews matter more than ever, and Confirm aims to be the first name you think of when it comes time to do them — hopefully with a lot less dread than before.
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