Use 15Five to maximize employee performance

As your organization embarks on its journey with 15Five, it's important to identify which of 15Five's three HR outcomes you want to initially focus on driving using the platform: maximize employee performance, increase employee engagement, or decrease regrettable turnover. In this article, we will walk through the basics of employee performance and how to use 15Five to drive performance within your organization.

In this article, you will learn...

What is employee performance?

Employee performance is the manifestation of an individual's strengths, skills, competencies, and motivations in the workplace, resulting in the achievement of tasks, goals, and objectives aligned with the organization's mission and values. It's not only about the completion of specific tasks, but also about how an individual grows, relates to others, finds meaning in their work, and contributes to the greater good of the team and the company. Employee performance encompasses both tangible outputs (like sales numbers or completed projects) and intangible aspects (like teamwork, creativity, resilience, and emotional intelligence).

Performance is an outcome of multiple factors, including:

  • Strengths Utilization: Leveraging an individual's inherent strengths to achieve goals.
  • Engagement: The depth of connection and immersion an employee feels towards their work.
  • Meaning and Purpose: The sense that one's work contributes to a greater purpose.
  • Positive Relationships: Building and maintaining healthy, supportive relationships in the workplace.
  • Accomplishment: The drive towards achievement and the feeling of competence in one's tasks.
  • Learning and Growth: Embracing challenges as opportunities for personal and professional development.

In this perspective, performance is a dynamic, multi-dimensional construct that integrates personal well-being with professional achievement, recognizing that both are deeply interconnected.

For more information about employee performance, check out the section below:

Symptoms of low employee performance

Low employee performance can manifest in various ways depending on the individual, the nature of their job, and the organizational culture. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Falling ratings in reviews: More employees are being ranked as low-performing in performance reviews.
  • Unknown or stalled goal progress: Leaders are either unaware of employees' goal progress, or employees are consistently failing to meet set targets or objectives.
  • Uneven accountability or "fairness issues": Employees are complaining about inconsistent task allocations and perceived favoritism, or are surprised when they're put on performance improvement plans.
  • Lack of goal achievement: Consistently failing to meet set targets or objectives.
  • Missed deadlines: Regularly failing to complete tasks on time.
  • Decreased output: A noticeable decline in the quantity or quality of work produced.

  • Lack of initiative: Not taking proactive steps or showing reluctance to take on new tasks.

  • Avoidance behavior and isolation: Avoiding meetings, skipping team events, or not being available for discussions. Withdrawal from team dynamics, reduced collaboration, or not participating in group discussions.

  • Decline in work quality: Errors become more frequent, and there's a lack of attention to detail.

  • Resistance to feedback: Defensive behavior when given constructive feedback or unwillingness to adapt.

  • Negative attitude: Displaying a pessimistic outlook, complaining frequently, or expressing dissatisfaction regularly.

  • Increased dependence: Constantly seeking help for tasks they should be capable of handling or over-relying on colleagues.

  • Avoidance of responsibility: Shifting blame, not taking ownership of mistakes, or avoiding accountability.

  • Decreased motivation: No improvement in skills or knowledge over time, even with training and opportunities. Lack of interest in professional development, promotions, or additional training.

Why employee performance is important

Maximizing employee performance is a critical outcome for HR leaders to focus on because it has a direct impact on the bottom line. When employees are performing better, the business does better overall — it’s that simple. However, maximizing employee performance also has a lot of secondary effects that positively affect the workplace. For example, when employees are performing well and reaching their goals, they are more likely to feel satisfied and engaged at work, and thus more likely to want to stay with the company. When high-performing employees stay with the company and continue to perform, they fill out a solid internal bench of future leaders if and when the need arises.

How performance relates to other outcomes

Employee engagement Turnover Manager effectiveness
  • Research shows that engaged employees are 17% more productive than their peers. Engaged employees are more likely to work diligently and expend discretionary effort in their jobs, supercharging productivity and innovation.
  • Gallup reports that companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability. They also have 17% higher productivity than companies with a disengaged workforce.
  • Organizations with engaged employees outperform those without by an astounding 202%.

Drive employee performance with 15Five



Before we begin, it's important to note that the feature benefits listed below are not guaranteed. The benefits you get out of 15Five are correlated to how successfully a feature is rolled out, as well as the effort and buy-in of your team. With the right plan, your team can leverage the features below to drive change and help you reach your outcome.

To increase employee performance, we recommend utilizing one of the following action recipes. An action recipe is a combination of 15Five features that, when combined, can pave the way for increased performance within your organization.


How these features impact performancce

"Top priority" OKR

15Five's Objectives feature provides a framework for setting, tracking, and aligning goals, enhancing clarity and focus towards achieving desired outcomes. OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results, and is a framework for defining and tracking business objectives and outcomes. A "top priority" OKR is a measurable goal, co-created by an employee and their manager, that's focused on the employee's top priority.


How Objectives drive performance

  • Classic research shows again and again that goals are extremely effective at increasing motivation and performance in organizations— outcomes that impact your organization's bottom line.
  • When employees "do less and obsess," as is the case when setting a "top priority" OKR, they're enabled to work better and achieve more.
  • Research shows employee productivity increases by 56% on average when managers are involved in helping employees align their goals with the needs of the organization or overall company purpose. When employees work with their managers to both create Objectives and then align them with the organization’s mission and top priorities, productivity and engagement soar. 
  • Objectives help employees clearly understand what's expected of them at work, supporting psychological safety. Psychological safety is proven to lead to better decisions and better performance.

How to successfully co-create a “top priority” OKR

  • Let your team member lead the conversation. People buy into goals more when they co-create them.
  • Ensure that the “top priority” really is the “top priority.” Most people struggle with prioritization. Make sure that the top priority is obviously aligned with your organization’s priorities.
  • Start with the objective. What does the individual want to accomplish in this timeframe? Why?
  • Explore key results. What are the specific, measurable, and actionable outcomes associated with the objective?
  • Double-check that it resonates. Ask the employee, "Does this OKR resonate with you? Is there anything you would like to adjust? Does this feel challenging, yet achievable and enjoyable?"

  • Refine and repeat the double-check. Document the OKR in 15Five. Discuss the OKR in your weekly 1-on-1s. Recognize wins and progress, explore challenges together, and provide redirection as needed.



We recommend that employees update the status and progress of their objectives on a weekly basis in their Check-ins and that managers discuss goal progress during 1-on-1s. 

Examples of top priority OKRs

Software Engineer:




Additional resources

Weekly 1-on-1s

15Five's 1-on-1s feature is designed to help you get the most out of your meetings. Using our guided structure, it’s easier to focus on priorities, challenges, and progress so everyone’s aligned, motivated, and engaged.


1-on-1s are weekly 30-45 minute conversations that are held between a manager and direct report. Effective 1-on-1s include relationship building, dialogue about goal progress and growth, feedback that includes appreciation and redirection, and agreements about who will do what by when.

How 1-on-1s impact performance

  • 67% of employees report working harder for a manager who cares about their growth as a professional, but less than half say they have never had a conversation about their career vision.

How to hold a great 1-on-1

  • Be present. Let the other person know you will be taking notes. Don’t multitask: it’s obvious when you’re reading another email or message.
  • Honor your agreements to support your team’s performance and engagement, as well as build trust.
  • Be consistent. A consistent structure is the foundation of an effective 1-on-1. We recommend that managers use the following structure for the conversation:
    • Relationship building: Make time for connection. Ask a genuine, "How are you?” and "What’s top of mind for you?"
    • Goal progress: Check in about the progression of OKRs and goals. Ask, "What’s going well?" "Are you facing blockers, such as any input or decisions you need from me?" "How can I best support you right now?"
    • Feedback: Share recognition regarding wins and progress. As needed, share redirection and help your direct report prioritize what's most important.
    • Agreements: Agree on what action items should be completed before the next 1-on-1. Action items can be assigned to either 1-on-1 participant using 15Five's 1-on-1 agenda.

Additional resources


15Five Check-ins replace status reports with quick employee feedback through a few questions, taking 15 minutes to fill and 5 minutes for managers to review.


Check-ins help keep people focused on what matters most by prompting them to regularly update priorities, share goal statuses, celebrate wins, and discuss challenges. They're also a great tool to help managers understand how to best support people and progress by enabling more frequent and continuous feedback and coaching.



Check-ins and 1-on-1s should be used in combination on a weekly basis. Check-ins are often due on Fridays, with managers providing feedback on check-ins on Monday and having 1-on-1s on Tuesdays.

How Check-ins impact performance

Check-ins are a form of continuous performance management— an approach to employee appraisal and development where feedback, recognition, and discussions related to performance are ongoing and frequent, rather than being limited to traditional annual or semi-annual reviews. Embedding regular Check-ins in your work culture can have a major impact on employee performance.

  • Research shows that continuous performance management makes employees more competitive and engaged, enhances leadership development, supports higher transformational change, and contributes to higher levels of organizational performance.
  • Less than half of respondents in a 2022 workplace survey agreed that managers at their organization are effective at assessing the performance of their direct reports. (SHRM)
  • Organizations that effectively practice performance management are 1.3x more likely to have higher employee productivity.

The anatomy of a Check-in

By default, Check-ins contain the following sections. Whether or not these sections appear and how often they appear can be adjusted on a company-wide, group, or individual level.

  • Pulse: In each Check-in, the Pulse question asks employees, “How did you feel at work
    this week?” on a 1-5 scale.
  • Objective updates: Employees are asked to update their objective and key result progress in each Check-in. This practice is intended to keep employees connected to their long-term priorities and allow managers to support their team members.
  • Priorities: The "Priorities" section of Check-ins allows employees to set and track their priorities over time, providing visibility into progress and helping managers to identify areas where they can provide support.

  • Customizable questions: Organizations can add tailored individual, group, or company-wide questions to Check-ins to suit their unique needs and culture, ensuring that conversations are relevant and meaningful. 

  • Give a High Five: The "High Fives" section of Check-ins allows employees to provide instant peer recognition, improving team communication while boosting morale. Managers can also give high fives as they review their direct reports' Check-ins.



Managers should review Check-ins prior to 1-on-1 meetings. When you review check-in responses, add items to your 1-on-1 agendas (remember you can add private items), comment, react, and give high fives.

Additional resources

Transform group coaching

15Five Transform offers on-demand training and live coaching that's designed to help managers think as leaders who take action to keep their teams motivated, engaged, and thriving— leading to powerful business results. We use a blended learning solution in which managers learn best practices and share knowledge, practice the new skills and behaviors in a supportive learning environment, and get the resources they need to go out and apply these skills day-to-day in the flow of their work.


Group Coaching is a series of private, 60-minute group coaching sessions with our certified in-house coaches, delivered to cohorts of up to 10 managers every month. Live coaching is only available in our Transform Accelerator pricing plan. It provides a safe, shared space to explore challenges and opportunities while maximizing the opportunity to level-up support, connection, and understanding across teams.

Coaching is focused on outcomes and the following content: Making 1-on-1s Meaningful, Manager as Coach, Feedback for Appreciation, Feedback for Redirection, Goals & Priorities, OKR Basics & Building, Building Strong Relationships, Strengths & Career Vision.

How group coaching impacts employee performance

  • Managers influence performance, engagement, and retention. Even though the evidence about the importance of effective management is overwhelming, the vast majority of managers don’t receive the technology, education, and coaching they need.

  • Give managers the skills to remove roadblocks and get the most from their team. Through Transform, managers develop problem-solving and decision-making abilities. They can identify and eliminate obstacles that hinder team productivity, fostering a high-performance culture within the organization.
  • Managers help people set goals, make progress, feel appreciated, grow, and succeed. Education helps your managers help their people using short, actionable lessons including the following. Managers should complete one relevant course every 2 weeks.

How to get the most out of group coaching

  • Be present. Avoid multitasking. Put away your phone, close out your email, and choose to focus.
    Give yourself and your colleagues the gift of your presence.
  • Apply what you learn right away. If you are learning about meaningful 1-on-1s, attempt to make your next 1-on-1 meaningful. If you are learning about recognition, recognize one of your people that day. If you are learning about redirection, think of a conversation (that you may have been avoiding) and plan to have it within the next few days.
  • Take notes and make notes that are relevant to you, your team, and what you want to accomplish. Actively taking notes connects what you are learning to what you already know, a powerful method that facilitates learning. Track what you are learning and how it applies to one of your team members or a situation you are dealing with will help you learn and remember.

  • Share! Share what you’ve learned, your perspectives, and your struggles. It’s remarkable how often at least one other person in the session is struggling with the same thing you are or needs to hear the insights.

Additional resources

Other notable features to increase performance

  • Celebrate wins and recognize employees with High Fives
  • Foster manager/employee relationships with Best-Self Kickoff
  • Provide constructive feedback on specific projects and tasks with Feedback
  • Provide role clarity and measure energizing work with Career Hub

Use 15Five's HR Outcomes Dashboard to track employee performance

The HR Outcomes Dashboard provides a reliable way for HR executives to consistently capture, synthesize, and present the outcomes they are measuring and working to improve: manager effectiveness, employee engagement, employee performance, and regrettable turnover. This allows HR leaders to show clear and concise data that directly links programs like employee learning and development to outcomes like employee retention, which can, in turn, be connected to business outcomes like customer satisfaction and revenue. The HR Outcomes Dashboard is available in 15Five's Total Platform plan.

Additional resources

Webinars 🧑‍💻
  • High Care + High Performance: How to Balance Both in Today’s Reality (60 min): The demands on HR to care for your people, while staying focused on business results and high performance, have never been higher. HR leaders and managers alike are feeling the stress and pressure of economic changes and budget scrutiny, employee resignations and layoffs, and social justice movements and political angst. As an HR leader, how can you support and take care of your people, while still driving for high performance and business results? Learn how to lead your people through these changing times, and support a team of humans that don’t just survive, but thrive.
  • 10 Proven Ways to Boost Employee Productivity & Performance (60 min): After having weathered the initial COVID storm and fully transitioned into remote work, it is now time to bring the focus back to performance and productivity. Now, more than ever, managers need to become coaches in order to unlock the potential of their people and deliver the outcomes that matter. Join 15Five’s Chief Performance Officer, Jon Greenawalt and Rippling’s Director of Customer Success, Xan Gentile, share 10 proven strategies to effectively increase your team’s performance and productivity.
HR Superstars podcast 🎧
  • Overcoming the Shame Spiral to Unlock Growth (34 min): Sayle Hutchison, CFO of 15Five, is one of the most accomplished CFOs in the software industry, but it took a journey of personal growth to get where she is today. She shares how she’s overcome negative self-talk and shame, developed confidence as a female leader in tech, and committed to creating a life worth living. In this conversation, Sayle unpacks the common obstacles she's seen other high-performing women face on their journey to becoming executives. She explains a concept called the Defeat Triangle and provides tangible steps to overcome it and unlock growth.
  • Unapologetically Human: Embracing Mental Health in the Workplace w/ Walgreens' Holly May (34 min): What responsibility do leaders have in supporting the mental health of their employees? One thing is certain—authenticity and vulnerability play an important role. Holly speaks with Adam about the power of vulnerability and how it can impact employees, improving work relationships and performance.
  • Making Bold Investments in Your People with Auror’s Kirsti Grant (47 min): Kirsti shares the guiding principles that have allowed her team at Auror to create a cohesive and high-performing culture they love. This includes sharing context around every initiative, aligning the team on strategy, and the massive ROI of leadership development.
  • Translating Personal Conversations into Business Results (38 min): Kathleen Ragelis, Head of People at Komodo Health, joins the show to share her experience with the power of vulnerable conversations and how they translate to business results. She also walks us through how to build an environment that balances high-performance with high-care.


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