Head over to our on-demand library to view sessions from VB Transform 2023. Register Here
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.
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 more fair, scientific and efficient performance reviews.
VB Transform 2023 On-Demand
Did you miss a session from VB Transform 2023? Register to access the on-demand library for all of our featured sessions.
The round was spearheaded by Spero Ventures, and saw participation from SHRMLabs, Elefund, Gaingels and 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 than 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 and operations at Thoropass, ONA has been a game-changer, helping the company understand not just high and low performers, 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 and 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 large to small, from established longstanding leaders to 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, cofounder and president, 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.
VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.