Fueled is a design and development agency that helps startups and big brands transform their dreams into smartly-built mobile apps that people actually use.
Meredith Flynn is the Director of People Operations at Fueled. She’s responsible for building the systems and processes required to grow, develop, and retain talented team members. She has worked with several big companies in the past, but has recently taken on HR leadership roles at young, fast-growing companies that need to learn how to scale efficiently.
Fueled is a mobile app agency that lives and breathes product development. They work with clients to design and build beautiful, compelling mobile apps that can top the app store charts. The company was fantastic at creating delightful mobile apps, but the team felt like they needed to upgrade their employee performance management process up to their standards.
Meredith Flynn, Director of People Operations at Fueled, needed to replace a manual performance review system with a software solution. Meredith explains, “We had a complicated multi-sheet workbook that included everything from discipline ratings to compensation range spreads—it was complex.”
Each team lead had to make a copy of the file, run a review cycle for their team, complete the spreadsheet, and then turn their version of the file in to the managing director who would reconcile all of the scores and feedback and come up with compensation adjustments and promotions. The end result is that reviews were spread across different files, managers all ran their reviews differently, and it was difficult for the operations team to keep track of everyone’s progress.
Meredith needed an easier way to run performance reviews and automate the data collection, but the team also wanted a solution that was flexible enough to give managers the ability to run their own performance review cycles.
Employee-centric companies like Fueled only hire people they really trust, which means they can give their team the autonomy they need to maximize workplace satisfaction and productivity. Granting autonomy doesn’t work for all roles and industries. But agencies, where people typically work on individual account projects, are usually in a better position to identify and prioritize individual tasks.
Autonomy also extends into choosing when and where to work. Meredith credits Fueled’s “insanely high retention” in part to the company’s flexible work policies: “Our turnover is pretty low. We’re very different from a typical agency. We have genuine work-life balance. We offer flexibility. We have an unlimited vacation policy. We have a flexible remote work policy. We have moved people from office to office to broaden their perspective on the organization. All this contributes to retention and helps makes us different from other agencies.“
Most companies usually choose a software solution that best matches their existing work process, or they adjust their work process to fit in the software. But what happens when the company wants to implement software while they’re still trying out different performance review styles?
Meredith had used other platforms like 7Geese, BetterWorks, and Namely in the past but she knew that she needed a more flexible system.
The Lattice platform offers a customizable performance management suite with performance reviews, real-time feedback, 1:1s, and weekly updates. Admins have the option to enable or disable any core feature and the reviews tool itself can also be customized to handle a variety of performance review styles.
But Meredith’s customization needs went beyond running annual or semi-annual reviews or choosing between 360-reviews or just manager and self-reviews.
She discovered during the evaluation process that she needed a software vendor that could adjust to the workflows her company wanted to test.
When Lattice CEO Jack Altman learned about Fueled’s unique needs, he jumped on a call with Meredith to guide her through the system and see if it could do what Fueled wanted. “When I met Jack, I understood very quickly that he got it. I realized that what was more important to me than a really slick, beautiful UI/UX, was that the platform that we selected was on board with our philosophy in terms of goal-setting and performance management. I connected with him and everyone else I met on the team.”
After seeing the system and speaking with Jack, Meredith and the Fueled team selected Lattice. “We were excited about seeing Lattice grow, being a part of that process, and getting on board with someone that understood our philosophy.”
Lattice helped Fueled set up a review cycle to meet the team’s requirements for manager-run review cycles. “Jack helped us manipulate the platform so that we could give each of the team leads the autonomy to run their own review cycles rather than having the cycle run centrally from people operations.”
How did the manager-run review cycle turn out? “It was a disaster,” Meredith shared.
The company learned that one of the tricky issues with granting employees autonomy is getting them to care about tasks outside of their own urgent work projects. Meredith explains: “There were different levels of interest and engagement and bandwidth. It was too easy for some managers to back-burner it.”
Decentralizing reviews also made it too easy for managers to do it their own way on their own timeline. “I had people that were still writing reviews in Google Sheets and not gathering 360 feedback because they felt it was optional.” Fueled stopped the cycle with only a 30% review completion rate.
Meredith is quick to point out that Lattice was always there to help during the experiment: “The attention that we got from business development and customer success was nonpareil—I had never seen anything like it. I felt very well taken care of and I still do.”
Fueled ran a retro meeting on the manager-led review cycle. Product companies that follow the agile development process run a retrospective meeting or “retro” after they finish a sprint or ship a product iteration. It’s a time to gather together as a team and reflect on what went well, what didn’t work, and how to improve things in the next iteration. During Fueled’s retro meeting, it became clear that full manager autonomy wasn’t going to work for performance reviews.
Meredith made the decision to bring control over performance reviews back into people operations. The team decided on which Lattice features to enable, which review templates to use, and gave clear instructions to the company when they launched the next review cycle.
The difference in engagement in the second iteration was incredible. Managers, for the most part, followed the process and completed their reviews with minimal delay. Individual contributors, who had in the past been asked to do upwards feedback, self-assessments, and peer reviews through a manager’s choice of methods ranging from email to Google Sheets to in-person discussions, reported back to the people ops team that the Lattice process was much more straightforward with easy-to-use forms and a smooth user experience.
Meredith reports that the second review cycle was a strong success achieving a “90% completion rate in just six weeks.” Fueled hasn’t run a retro meeting for its most recent review cycle yet but the team has already identified areas where they can improve communications to keep managers on track and hopefully increase completion rates and reduce cycle time even further.
Not all companies are eager to iterate on internal business processes such as performance reviews, but Fueled is a different kind of company. As Meredith says, “We try to grow not only by growing headcount, but also by developing skills, becoming more agile, being careful with the partners that we choose and with the projects we take on. We’re a product company. We try a lot of different things.”