Reflektive Customer Series: Leading a Data-Driven People Program at Axios Media

Founded in 2016, Axios Media is committed to delivering smart, efficient news worthy of its readers’ time, attention, and trust. Axios has focused on performance management since it was founded, recognizing early on how important it is to grow and develop its employees. Our below Q&A with Hebba Youssef, Director of Talent Management, and Morgan Stanley, Associate Director of Talent Management, covers their data-driven approach to people programs, and why they decided to continue with performance reviews during today’s changing environment.  

Reflektive: Can you tell us about your role at Axios and how you support the company’s performance management programs?

Morgan: Hebba and I both wear many hats but my primary focus areas are onboarding, performance management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). I’ve been with the company since 2017 and have been active in the evolution of our performance management programs. 

Hebba: I oversee the Talent Management function at Axios, meaning my scope of work encompasses every inch of the employee lifecycle. My passion is in learning and development – helping our folks grow and develop in their role, as a manager or individual contributor. My goal is to ensure every employee feels like they have the tools and resources they need to be successful in their role. 

Reflektive: Why did you decide to make a change to your performance management program?

Hebba: Our biggest challenges with our previous platform were: difficulty accessing and utilizing data, minimal ability to customize our review cycles, and our staff did not enjoy using it! Employee experience is everything to our team; so, if our folks didn’t like the tool, then we needed to find something they would enjoy using that would also result in a better experience for us as admins – which we found in Reflektive.

Morgan: After our first performance evaluation process in Reflektive in July, we received a lot of very positive feedback about how easy the tool was to use and how excited folks were to use this tool versus our old one. 

Reflektive: What drew you to Reflektive?

Hebba:  It was an extensive and thoughtful search that led us to Reflektive! We identified three main user groups –  employee, manager, and admin and – wrote requirements for each group. Our focus was always Audience First: what experience are our users going to have? We then reviewed a large number of platforms and disqualified any platform that did not meet the majority of our user’s needs. We decided to go with Reflektive for three key reasons:

  • Product flexibility and breadth allowing us to make the tool impactful for our employees and admins.
  • Ongoing Customer Support Manager support to help us configure a platform that served our organization. 
  • Dashboards and reporting: we were impressed by all the data we’d have immediate access to. 

Reflektive: Can you tell us how you’re using the data from performance programs?

Hebba: I am a firm believer that in today’s world People/HR teams need to be data-driven in their approach to every decision they make; especially when it comes to growth and development. When we were searching for new tools to use, our main focus was ‘can we easily access and use our data?’. The data we get from Reflektive helps us make fair and equitable decisions as it relates to promotions, merit increases, and titling.

Morgan: We use the intelligence platform to confirm each employee has measurable goals that will help guide their performance through the next evaluation cycle and to also confirm each of our employees is receiving monthly developmental feedback and having growth conversations with their manager. I am particularly excited about the new evolutions of the intelligence platform that will make retrieving this data even easier. 

Reflektive: What changes, if any, did you make as a result of COVID-19?

Hebba: We started conversations in April to decide if we were going to move forward with our July evaluation process. We discussed at great length as a team what effects running an evaluation process amidst a pandemic might have on our employees. We concluded that our employees are doing amazing work and deserve recognition for their performance dating back to January 2020 – therefore, we decided to move forward with our review process. We had a couple of manager training sessions before our evaluation season and impressed upon our managers the importance of leading with empathy and grace during their evaluation conversations as everyone has been hit hard over the last few months for many and various reasons. 

Morgan: We talk a lot internally about the need to assume positive intent always and to move through conversations as colleagues with candor and respect. Our performance evaluations are no different — these programs are meant to support and grow our employees. We were pleased our messaging resonated with folks and that we were able to run a very successful evaluation process and provide very worthy promotions and raises this past July. 

We saw a strong completion rate almost all of our employees updated their goals into Reflektive shortly after the review. 

Reflektive: Thank you so much for sharing your data-driven approach and approach to your latest check-in. Last question, how has it been working with your CSM?

Morgan: Our CSM is awesome! She’s been so helpful in answering all our questions, and we have a lot. I know with our CSM, we can always count on a timely response and assistance!