Button is a New York based technology startup that helps mobile apps work with one another seamlessly. Mobile apps seeking users can partner with mobile publishers on Button’s platform to increase distribution.
Stephanie Mardell started as Button’s first HR hire in 2014 and has helped manage the company’s growth from 14 people in 2014 to over 70 full-time employees today. Prior to Button, Stephanie held HR recruiting leadership roles at Airtime and Square after starting her career as an executive recruiter.
Stephanie Mardell joined Button to lead people operations as employee number 14. This is considered very early for a startup’s first People Operations hire. Many companies wait until they approach 50 employees before hiring the first HR person since that’s when a lot of employment laws take effect.
But people operations at Button is responsible for a lot more than just compliance. “Our CEO and founding team were so committed to the growth and development of employees that they wanted to bring someone on pretty early to help jumpstart that programming,” Stephanie explains. “Even in the early days, we were committed to studying SMART goals and studying OKRs, having alignment from the company level to the team level to the individual.”
Stephanie didn’t have a problem running performance reviews when the company only had 20 people. Back then she could get away with putting together a manual solution: “I got really good at Google Form add-ons and Google Apps scripting to create a performance management process with Google-App-scripting duct-tape.”
The problem with manual solutions is that they become harder to manage as you add more people, and thus more stress, to the system. “When you get to 30 or 40 people, that manual process started to grow from two hours, to three hours, four hours, five hours,” says Stephanie, adding, “It quickly became unscalable.”
As the company approached 50 employees, Stephanie and the Button team made the decision to start looking for a tool. They needed a solution that could grow with the company and make the entire performance review process “easier for everyone, not only for the People Operations department, but easier for our managers and employees as well.”
The Button team viewed the platform selection process as an opportunity to crystalize how they do performance management and approached the search thoughtfully. “We evaluated pretty much every performance management tool that exists.”
“We had so many different requirements for the tool that we easily knocked out 99% of them because they didn’t have the customizations and the features that we needed,” explains Stephanie.
Performance management and goal setting has been fundamental to how Button operates and the overall growth of individual employees. Stephanie shares, “We follow the standard best practices: weekly 1:1s, company-wide OKRs every quarter, and have teams set goals that are aligned with company goals, and have individuals set goals that are aligned with team and company goals.”
Button needed a tool that supported full 360-degree performance reviews with self-evaluations, peer reviews, manager reviews, and upwards feedback. The tool also needed to allow for custom visibility levels. Transparency, “being able to speak boldly and honestly, and being able to provide thoughtful and useful feedback” is a core value at Button. The team needed a solution that could let managers see reviews from their teams and for peers to see feedback from each other.
Lattice made it onto Button’s evaluation list as a “new and emerging tool” to review and quickly moved to the next phase.
Design and ease-of-use helped Lattice win over the Button team. The team “loved Lattice’s user experience and usability, being able to have split-screens and the ability to customize the transparency” says Stephanie, adding, “Our CTO and our VP of Engineering came from Google where they had their own internal performance management system and I think it was something our team was used to having.”
Implementing Lattice turned out easier than expected. Stephanie used Lattice’s HRIS integrations to import the company’s entire org from Button’s HRIS, BambooHR, into Lattice and she was able to set up reviews “within a couple hours.” Stephanie muses, “Lattice was almost too easy, like ‘What am I doing wrong?’ This can’t be that easy to set up and administer.”
Stephanie informed the rest of the organization about what to expect and then launched the review cycle. “I didn’t have that many questions from our team. They got in and they were able to easily figure out what they needed to do on what timeline and complete what they needed to complete.”
Furthermore, Stephanie felt well-supported during the entire process. “The customer support team at Lattice was always available within an hour to answer any questions that I had from an administrative standpoint or even questions from our hiring managers.”
The end result for the performance review cycle? “We had a 100% completion rate, on-time. Prior to implementing Lattice we had a 75% completion rate.”
Button runs a 6-week performance review cycle with specific steps assigned to each week or two-week blocks.
The goal for the the first week is for all employees finish writing their own self-evaluations. Employees and managers also need to select and approve peer reviewers for the peer review phase.
The second week is dedicated to writing peer reviews and upward feedback for managers. These steps must be completed before managers can write their reviews.
Once self-evaluations, peer reviews, and upwards feedback from direct reports have been submitted, managers can use all of the available information to craft employee evaluations.
The final two weeks are set aside for managers and direct reports to hold their formal 1:1 performance review conversations.
Stephanie used Lattice’s reporting dashboard to monitor the review cycle and move people through the process. “I was able to track the progress of every person and every team within Lattice and that’s something that I was not able to do in Google Forms. I was able to automatically remind people and nudge them to complete their reviews.”
Lattice’s ease-of-use also helped increase completion rates according to Stephanie. “I think it was because people truly enjoy using this tool. They enjoy the user interface, the simplicity. Everyone at Button loves the Lattice platform.”
Beyond getting a 100% review completion rate and finishing on time, Stephanie adds that, “The other big return on investment has been employees being able to revisit feedback at any time and use Lattice as their dashboard for personal growth. It’s a place that they can continuously return to and set their own goals and track their own progress.”