Reviewing the Review — Performance in the New World of Work

Peer Practices
Written by Linda Luty

Eddie Hightower

SVP, Teammate Services

Caliber Collision Centers

Performance reviews — once a mainstay of nearly all organizations — are themselves under review. The last year has changed how we work, and this year is changing how work is evaluated. Like many processes ingrained in corporate culture and human resource planning, performance reviews are becoming a vestige of a bygone era, leaving many organizations to ask: are they actually effective? 

Last year, Caliber (parent company of Caliber Collision, Caliber Auto Care, Caliber Auto Glass and Protech) took a closer look at their review process to evaluate what was working, what wasn’t, and what is most important to their business moving forward. Their analysis revealed that team members who feel their work delivers on a greater purpose, coupled with feeling supported and seen by their manager and colleagues, perform better. They also realized that if the way in which work gets done is different today, then it should be evaluated differently. These insights, in context of Caliber’s strong company purpose and culture, drove the decision to eliminate traditional reviews. 

“Like many companies, we started to think about the annual performance review process and all of the baggage that comes with it. There are a lot of studies that analyze the discretionary effort, or the effort you get from your teammates when you have an annual performance review approach,” said Eddie Hightower, senior vice president of teammate services at Caliber Collision Centers.

“These studies indicate that, for about the month leading up to the annual performance review date, you have really high discretionary effort because people know their review is coming. Then you have your review and maintain that engagement for about one more month, and then it tapers off for the next ten months,” he continued.

“It Didn’t Feel Right Anymore.”

Eliminating something so central to an organization is a big step, but making the decision to rethink reviews came down to how the process felt, given the changes of the last year.

“It really pushed us to reflect on everything that we knew about our culture, which is all about having leaders who care, and it didn't feel right anymore,” said Hightower. When deciding the future of performance reviews, the Caliber team developed a model that focuses on three key concepts: culture, performance and support.

Knowing that ongoing dialogue contributes to increased development and engagement of their teammates, Hightower’s approach is to check in more frequently and utilize tools to track these conversations once the appropriate cadence is established.

The “Secret Sauce”

The “secret sauce” is, by definition, difficult to articulate. But at the core, it’s established through alignment with what is right and fitting for your organization’s culture. For Caliber, a culture of servant leadership is critical to their success and fits with their higher purpose of ‘Restoring the Rhythm of Your Life.’

“You have to start with what is meaningful to your company. Evaluating what will work for your company, in your culture, and what you are trying to achieve,” said Hightower. “For us, the secret sauce is an engaged, servant leader who is connected with his or her team, fostering a culture of development and caring. That is serving our purpose, serving our teammates, helping them thrive and achieve their full potential,” he said. 

With that in mind, the team decided consistent, ongoing feedback would be the foundation for their performance appraisals.


Caliber is moving from a culture of having “bosses” to a culture of having “coaches.”


Shifting the paradigm to regular check-ins is critical to the success of this model. One important goal of this change is enhancement of teammate experience and increased talent retention. Incorporating recognition into these meetings and encouraging leaders to focus on the human side of their interactions is another meaningful approach which impacts the choice employees make to stay.

With more than 1,200 locations and 21,500+ teammates across 34 states and four lines of business, an initiative like this is complex.

“However, let us look at it a different way. A leader of a shop in our collision line of business typically has around 20 to 22 teammates. That is what they're managing. And so, while you look at the scale of it overall, yes, it can be daunting. But our leaders are responsible for creating an environment at work that reflects our purpose as a company, and part of that is creating growth opportunities and a culture that makes people want to stay at Caliber. That is every leader’s job here,” said Hightower.

Operationalizing Culture

Reframing the conversation in this way has helped leadership at Caliber become laser-focused on developing teammates and to know it pays off in the long-term. With this mindset, the lift isn’t as daunting when you break down the tasks accordingly.

“We call it operationalizing our culture. We begin and end every conversation with our framework, which we call the ‘Caliber Home.’ Picture a visual of an actual home. The roof of the home reflects our purpose of ‘Restoring the Rhythm of your Life.’ Our roof sits on our corporate vision and mission, which solidly is held up by our 4 strategic pillars that reflect how we operationalize and bring our purpose to life. The foundation of our home is made up of our five core values. For each of these values, we have examples of what it means, how those come to life. We expect all our leaders to have performance conversations that ladder up to our purpose delivering through our strategic pillars while embodying our core values. It's always a purpose-led conversation, especially if it's a coaching conversation,” he said.    

Bringing every conversation and presentation back to purpose makes the culture more cohesive and ensures all teammates, leaders and individual contributors are on board with the purpose of “Restoring the Rhythm of Your Life.”

When determining the right approach for your organization, Hightower suggests reflecting on if this change will align with your company culture. It has to feel authentic and organic for it to be embraced.

“We imbue our culture and purpose in everything the company does. These factors are essential. And you must be consistent with it – because, as with anything, the tone comes from the top-down. We are a team, and we all buy into it and live by example. It's an expectation that we are guided by the Caliber purpose and values every day, in all that we do,” said Hightower.

“Be honest with yourself. Can you look around, and look each other in the eye, and say this purpose resonates, and we live it? If you can't pass that test, you might want to rethink if it is the right approach for your company. At Caliber, we have found that a common purpose drives everything.”


Special thanks to Eddie Hightower and Caliber Collision Centers.

by CHROs, for CHROs

Join the conversation with peers in your local CHRO community.