Want to jump straight to the answer? The best performance management software for most people is 15Five.
Performance management software helps automate your system of employee reviews, recognition, and growth. It eliminates the guesswork and paperwork by centralizing data on every worker’s goals, accomplishments, and success over time.
You can quickly and effectively recognize top performers, help underperformers improve, gauge workforce satisfaction, and build a motivated and satisfied team. Accomplish all this and more with performance management software.
The Top 5 Best Performance Management Software
- 15Five – Best at Providing Continuous Employee Feedback
- Lattice – Best at Developing and Upskilling Your Team
- Engagedly – Best at Keeping Remote Teams Engaged
- Namely – Best at Combining Performance Management & HR In One Tool
- BambooHR – Best for Managers New to Performance Management
All of the top five excel at automating the employee review process and keeping related data in a centralized location.
Where each tool differs is in how they tackle the biggest pain points a company has when it comes to managing employees and the work they do. Some perform better than others in aspects such as:
- Providing employee feedback
- Setting and managing goals
- Analyzing performance
- Developing and retaining talent
Read on to learn more and find the performance management software perfect for your needs.
15Five — Best at Providing Continuous Employee Feedback
- Weekly reviews included
- Research-based question bank
- Easy to set and modify goals
- Feedback on demand
15Five is a standalone performance management tool designed to help your people quickly master this critical business process. The software helps managers and employees equally well, guiding both through the review process at a variety of intervals.
15Five boasts a colorful, fun, and easy-to-use interface, and is unique among the top five for basing its entire product on positive psychology research. The team behind this software dug into the science of what motivates people and built their software’s functionality around that.
Where 15Five Excels
- Provides continuous feedback – Employees value timely and regular input in order to shape future performance. 15Five makes it easy for managers to connect on a weekly basis, which is the type of continuous feedback that today’s workforce expects.
- Research-backed review questions – 15Five is based on research in positive psychology. The functionality it offers, including a broad question bank for review preparation, is backed by evidence-based methodologies.
- Easy to set and modify goals – Businesses don’t exist in a static environment, and goals are continuously evolving. 15Five makes it simple to set goals and modify them as circumstances change.
Gone are the days when employees have to wait 12 months for feedback on their work performance. Continuous feedback—where employees get real-time information on how they’re doing—is quickly becoming the norm for today’s progressive companies.
15Five puts an emphasis on providing this critical and timely feedback by letting managers customize review schedules down to weekly one-on-ones, as well as monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews. Employees have the chance to submit a written feedback form for each review, which encourages open and honest communication.
Employees can also solicit feedback from managers and peers at any time and incorporate this feedback immediately into their daily work. This eliminates the issue of unaddressed concerns festering for weeks or months.
As one coffee shop manager told us, “The weekly feedback is creating a positive culture here. It is more straightforward and aligned with how we work, which is week-to-week. The written forms also offer a layer of protection for employees to be a little bit more honest about themselves and their team’s performance.”
Employees like the different feedback options, too. “It is not burdensome or time consuming,” one health tech worker told us, “but it does provide you a documentable way to say, ‘Hey, it’s Friday, and these are some of the things I accomplished this week’ for stuff that might not otherwise be captured in the day-to-day busyness.”
While some of the other top five, like Lattice and Engagedly, also offer continuous feedback down to the weekly level, 15Five does it best. Other top five products, including Namely and BambooHR, don’t offer this level of continuous feedback at all.
15Five is also the ideal tool for managers new to overseeing teams.
Rather than having to guess at the best questions for performance reviews, managers can pick review questions from 15Five’s research-backed question bank. They can also develop their own questions or use a combination of both.
For the coffee shop owner, who admittedly doesn’t have a lot of performance management experience, this functionality is invaluable. “I care about my leaders and my team members, but I don’t have advanced knowledge of performance management,” he told us. “It’s nice having the ability to ask questions that I never would have thought of on my own.”
The science-backed nature of 15Five’s question bank is valuable, too.
“One thing I appreciate is the questions they offer are based on research,” another manager told us. “They ensure we’re asking the right questions.”
The only other top five products that emphasize a research-backed focus are Lattice and BambooHR, but Lattice’s functionality doesn’t quite match that of 15Five and BambooHR uses research to limit customization. Neither Engagedly nor Namely mention research at all.
Feedback is just one part of performance management, though. Setting goals is equally as important.
Recognizing that goals evolve as businesses grow and change, 15Five makes it simple to set, modify, and report on goals at all levels and across all timeframes.
Medium- and long-term goals are entered once and can be reported on each week. As company objectives evolve, these longer-term goals can be adapted to align with new objectives and key results (OKRs). This keeps managers and employees on track today and in the future.
“It is easy to stay on pace with quarterly goals and metrics and update goal setting based on OKRs that change on a quarterly basis,” noted a manager at a healthcare company. “It isn’t complicated to build new OKRs, and modify or add goals on a quarterly basis. It is really easy.”
Reporting on goals is easy, too. “I put a set of quarterly goals in, and 15Five allows me to build upon those, report on them, and capture my percentage attained,” another manager told us. “It eliminated me from always having to repeat myself about what an employee is working on, or what they’re doing. That is pretty powerful.”
Another cool feature that 15Five offers is its dedicated manager training programs. Companies can invest in and upskill their managers to reach peak performance with skill-based coaching tailored to each manager’s unique performance challenges.
Specifically, 15Five offers two optional monthly subscriptions for manager training and coaching. Managers can also access a podcast and join a member-only community called HR Superstars. These manager development programs are unique among the products on my list.
Employee recognition is also very easy. The 15Five “high five” concept lets managers give shout-outs about employee wins either directly in 15Five or through an integration with Slack.
“15Five is a nice platform for being able to do high fives with our team,” the coffee shop manager noted.
You get similar employee recognition functionality in some of the other top five products, but not all. BambooHR and Namely put little to no emphasis on employee recognition.
Finally, among the top five, 15Five gets the most praise for ease of use.
“I’ve been a leader, as well as an individual contributor, for more than 30 years and 15Five is the most intuitive, easy-to-use performance management system I’ve used,” noted one user we interviewed. “It has a lot of surprise and delight factors that make it an enjoyable end user experience.”
It isn’t often that software gets a “surprise and delight” rating by users. Based on our research, 15Five deserves this accolade.
|Allows for continuous feedback||Creates duplicate work at times|
|Research-backed questions||Doesn’t accommodate delays|
|Easy to set and modify goals||Poor array of integrations|
Where 15Five Can Improve
- Replicates work in some situations – 15Five offers some functionality that overlaps with project management, creating extra work for users who manage those tasks in other tools.
- User interface sometimes leads to mistakes – Miss a deadline to fill out a review form? You don’t get much of a grace period with 15Five. It moves on to the next review period whether you’re ready or not.
- Integrations are subpar – You won’t even get an integration option with 15Five’s lowest tier of service. When integrations are included, you’ll only be able to integrate with a few Human Resource Information System (HRIS) products and not much else.
For everything amazing that 15Five brings to the table, there are a few areas where improvements can be made.
One area of annoyance for users has to do with duplicating tasks across their performance management and project management tools. For one user, it was specifically the interplay between Asana and 15Five.
“I think 15Five wants to solve more problems than I want it to solve,” they told us. “With weekly priorities, I do my actual tasking in Asana, But 15Five wants to play that role. And so it creates one more thing we have to do that we also have to do somewhere else. I get a lot of attitude from employees about doing things twice. It feels like 15Five wants you to spend forever in 15Five.”
The obvious way to resolve this would be for 15Five to integrate with project management tools.
Unfortunately, integrations are another weak point for the software.
To date it only integrates with six HRIS platforms: Workday, Namely, Gusto, BambooHR, Rippling, and Sapling. It also integrates with a handful of other tools like Slack, Teams, Google Calendar, Jira, and Salesforce.
This is not a big library of integrations—and you’ll have to upgrade to at least the mid-tier of 15Five service to unlock any of them.
Even for the integrations currently offered, users have a hard time finding value.
“I put in the Gusto integration, and I didn’t really see the value,” one interviewee told us. “Maybe it’s important for somebody else, but it’s not a critical function for me. I don’t find a lot of value in it. I’d love for it to integrate with Homebase or be able to track sales from Square, potentially. But, right now, it just seems like a lot of work for no return.”
The 15Five software is also a bit unforgiving when it comes to unavoidable delays caused by busy workdays.
“If you complete your mandatory pre-review check-in form late,” one user we spoke to noted, “you might end up filling out next week’s form by mistake. The software just advances to the next week when you miss a deadline. That’s happened to me in the past.”
And these seemingly small annoyances can have a ripple effect.
“I’m certainly not going to go back and copy and paste everything into the last check-in, I’m just going to leave it. I don’t have time to deal with that,” the manager noted.
15Five offers four tiers of performance management service. All plans are billed annually; no monthly pay-as-you-go option is available.
- Engage: $4 per user per month – Includes employee engagement insights and outcomes.
- Perform: $8 per user per month – Focuses on performance management for growth. Includes everything in Engage, plus performance reviews, 360-degree feedback, competencies, calibration, a talent matrix, and integrations.
- Focus: $8 per user per month – Priced identically to the Perform package, Focus targets OKR management to help management drive business-critical goals. It does not include Engage package functionality, and instead offers goal setting with OKRs, OKR chart view, and Jira & Salesforce integrations.
- Total Platform: $14 per user per month – You get 15Five’s full suite of performance management offerings.
As noted above, one unique thing that sets 15Five apart is its emphasis on manager development. It offers two optional subscriptions for manager training, plus a podcast and a members-only community called HR Superstars.
- Transform Education: $99 per manager per month – includes on-demand courses, outcome-based learning journeys, actionable practice exercises and reflection questions, live monthly Manager Mastermind sessions, user and course analytics and reporting
- Transform Coaching: Custom pricing – Includes one-on-one coaching, group coaching, and other advanced manager training options
You can give 15Five a go with no obligation when you take advantage of their 14-day free trial. This offer excludes the Transform packages.
Bottom line: For manager development or companies that want to set up their workers for maximum success, 15Five is an excellent choice.
Lattice — Best at Developing and Upskilling Your Team
- User-friendly interface
- Nine-box scatter plot reports
- Great employee growth tools
- Customizable review templates
Like 15Five, Lattice focuses on continuous feedback. However, Lattice chooses to emphasize employee growth and development over the management side of the equation.
Nowhere is this more evident than on the Lattice website, where you’ll find plenty of language like “people managers” and “invest in your people.”
A company’s most valuable asset— its people— is the focus of this software, and they deliver in this regard.
Where Lattice Excels
- Great employee growth tools – Motivating employees and encouraging them to grow into their careers is easier when goals are clearly defined and work towards them is easy to track. Lattice does all of this with ease.
- Customizable review templates – Managers can customize not only by review type, but also by the feedback a manager wants, such as self, peer, upward, or downward. They can also rely on provided review questions or create their own.
- User-friendly functionality – Lattice recognizes that completing lengthy review forms can’t always be done in one sitting. It saves your work as you go, allowing you to thoughtfully approach input for performance reviews.
There’s a huge emphasis on employee development with Lattice, which isn’t surprising given their employee-centric focus. Nowhere is this more evident than the optional Grow package a company can add on to their basic Lattice subscription. Although it costs a bit more, you’ll get a set of features not duplicated in any of the other top five.
With Grow you have the ability to store competency matrices so employees can easily understand expectations for positions. Managers can also assign growth areas, so employees can attain goals and get promoted.
Users also raved about how centralized important performance metrics are, noting that “all the work we’ve done to get to this point is laid out in front of us to look over, recall, and discuss.”
One user called out how performance reviews went from haphazard to helpful after implementing Lattice.
“Prior to Lattice, feedback was vague and the path to career growth was never fully understood,” she noted. “Now I have a clear track and feedback to follow towards a raise or promotion, and I understand the areas where I need to grow.”
Employees particularly love Lattice’s user interface.
“It’s clean. It’s colorful. It’s simple,” one tech company employee told us. “It doesn’t look old-school. It looks modern. I want to go in there, get review feedback done and submit it.”
When it comes to inputting data that requires a lot of time and thought, Lattice makes that easy, too. It allows employees to save work as they go, letting them come back as and when they have time.
“I have never seen something so simple and straightforward to be able to input whatever you need to input as you have time,” an employee in the mortgage lending industry noted. “Knowing I don’t have to sit down for an hour and make sure everything is finished in one shot is a relief. I can pause and pick up later.”
Other products in the top five, like Namely, also offer a “save as you go” feature, but Lattice is the only product that had users raving about that feature specifically.
But Lattice doesn’t stop with making things enjoyable for employees. Managers like how flexible Lattice makes the performance review process.
There is a large library of review templates that cover the most common review types, including 1:1, quarterly and annual. Managers can also choose from templates based on the type of feedback they want, like self-assessments, peer reviews, and upward and downward feedback.
The templates are fully customizable and let managers choose a hybrid of packaged templates and customized ones. This flexibility makes Lattice ideal for both experienced and inexperienced people managers.
And the customization is appreciated by employees, too, especially when it comes to offering their take on how things are going.
Discussing her team’s weekly review process, one interviewee called out how easy it is to share thoughts in both directions.
“The feedback we’re able to give our manager at the bottom of the review form is great. We tell them if they need to support us better or that they’re doing a great job,” she noted.
Like 15Five, Lattice provides a bank of standardized questions to pick from. However, Lattice’s offerings are only available in the higher tiers of service.
Finally, Lattice understands the value of data and ensures that managers have the tools they need to efficiently manage employee performance. This includes easy-to-understand reports.
One such report is the nine-box scatter plot to present employee data. This graphical representation tracks and measures employee performance over time and gives managers the ability to quickly identify high and low performers with just a few clicks.
It’s very shareable information that is easily digestible at every level of an organization.
15Five and Engagedly offer similar functionality, and BambooHR offers a very scaled-down version of this. Namely doesn’t provide any visualized version of employee performance.
|Focused on employee growth||Excessive notifications|
|User-friendly design||Lackluster integrations|
|Customizable review templates||Ineffective training for new managers|
Where Lattice Can Improve
- Notifications are excessive – For a tool so focused on employees, Lattice stumbles when it comes to the user experience with notifications. Whether there are too many or they’re difficult to modify, users called this out more than once.
- Lackluster integrations – Lattice doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on integrating with other tools, especially when compared to its closest competitors on this list. In particular, there’s no ability to integrate with sales tools.
- Ineffective training for new managers – Lattice puts the emphasis on employees but skimps in some areas when it comes to managers. A number of users we spoke to noted difficulties in onboarding members of their management teams.
Employees were united in their criticism of Lattice’s notification feature. Complaints ranged from too many messages to unusual requirements in order to turn off notifications.
“Lattice will prompt me to update a goal from the previous quarter, even after I have updated it,” one user explained. “I suppose it will ask me to keep updating the goal until I end it. However, ending a goal makes it disappear from my profile, while I want goals from previous quarters to still be visible on my profile.”
Unnecessary notifications extend to future goals, too.
“Occasionally goals set into the future will prompt repetitive automated messaging from Lattice to update a goal where it may not be warranted,” another user noted.
For an employee-centric tool like Lattice, the user experience is surprisingly weak in this regard.
Another area where Lattice lags behind is integrations with other software. It doesn’t offer a lot of human resource information system integrations, listing just four compared to 15Five’s already-short list of six. And there is no option to integrate with CRM or sales software at all, not even when you upgrade to a higher tier of service.
This is an oversight that frustrates managers and employees alike.
“Our customer-facing employees’ performance is measured through data from Salesforce, Qualtrics, and SurveyMonkey,” explained one manager we spoke to. “That data would be great to integrate into their performance reviews, but we can’t automate any of it with Lattice right now.”
Employees concur that the lack of integrations makes streamlining their data difficult.
“I wish there were some integrations that would allow me to submit samples of work or output of productivity tools into the platform to further capture the value-add of my contributions throughout the year, “ one tech worker noted. “For example, let’s say I just fixed a major bug in our app. Wouldn’t it be great if I had the ability to take a screenshot, and upload it via Slack into Lattice, so for my next 1:1 I can review it with my manager, and also have it in the system as a record I can look back on?”
Finally, Lattice isn’t great at getting new managers up to speed quickly or confidently. Users at the manager level unanimously felt a system as robust as Lattice should dedicate more time to better training.
“There are so many features that it’s difficult to learn all of them,” one manager noted. “I feel like I still don’t know everything the software can do. A simplified tutorial would be helpful.”
Another manager also wished there was better onboarding and training, and feels like she “keeps discovering new features by accident.”
Some users think there just might be too much functionality.
“There are growing pains and compliance issues internally to use this product to the best of its ability,” another manager noted, suggesting that perhaps there could be a Lattice Lite to start out new users with the basics before introducing full functionality.
Lattice has more streamlined pricing than 15Five, offering three basic tiers of service plus an optional Grow package.
- Performance: $9 per user per month – Includes 360-degree and manager-led performance reviews, custom question templates, performance reporting & analytics, OKRs and goal management, 1:1 agendas and tracking, real-time feedback, weekly manager updates, and integrations.
- Performance & Engagement: $12 per user per month – Includes everything from Performance, plus employee engagement and pulse surveys, a research-backed question bank, engagement reporting & analytics, real time pulse insights, historical benchmarks, connected engagement and performance insights, science-backed survey templates, performance & engagement training, and regular business reviews and engagement consults.
- Enterprise: A customized solution for your business at a customized price – Includes onsite executive training, custom implementation plans, custom product solutions, and other benefits.
- Grow Add-On: $3 per user per month – Includes tools for maximizing employee growth, like competencies, growth plans, growth areas, career tracks, and 1:1 and review integration.
Lattice requires a minimum annual agreement of $4,000. For very small companies with just a few employees to manage, this may make Lattice a more prohibitive option than its competitors.
There’s no free trial with Lattice, but you can sign up for a demo in return for providing your email address.
Bottom line: For companies focused on employee growth and building a skilled and motivated workforce, Lattice is an excellent solution.
Engagedly — Best at Keeping Remote Teams Engaged
- Encourages employee engagement
- Robust recognition & rewards
- On-demand employee feedback
- Built-in LMS
When your team isn’t all in the same physical location, staying connected is difficult.
One manager we interviewed confirmed this.
“Our office space is not all together,” she noted in our interview, “and we only gather as an entire company maybe once a year. So, engagement is a big piece to keep people connected.”
Engagedly offers multiple ways for people to stay connected, no matter where they’re located.
Where Engagedly Excels
- Encourages employee engagement and socialization – Staying connected is important for any business, but even more so for companies with distributed workforces. Engagedly makes this a priority.
- Robust recognition and rewards – Not every employee is an extrovert, ready to put themselves out there with colleagues. Engagedly encourages interaction with awards that inspire interaction and recognize great performance, even for the quiet people.
- On-demand feedback – Forget waiting for a performance review to solicit feedback from managers and peers. Engagedly lets employees request feedback anytime and from anyone. Users value this additional feedback to help shape their performance.
Whereas 15Five focuses on manager training and Lattice highlights employee development, Engagedly puts its performance management emphasis on employee engagement and connection.
Engagedly brands itself as a “people enablement platform” and lives up to that claim.
The platform’s employee social feed allows company leaders to share big and small wins with the whole team. Employees can like and comment on these posts. The feed is also where teams can collaborate, share ideas, ask questions, and solve problems together.
“There are a lot of opportunities to build communities and internal sub-groups from the employee social feed,” the marketing manager of a large tax firm told us. “People enjoy using it, seeing anniversaries, birthdays, or other notable information, and liking it or commenting on it.”
There’s also an idea tool that lets employees crowdsource ideas via a post. Colleagues can upvote or downvote ideas, which brings the most innovative solutions to the top.
These additional communication channels are important for remote teams that lack regular face-to-face contact. It promotes team spirit even when the team is dispersed. As another interviewee confirmed, Engagedly makes “everyone feel more connected.”
Engagedly also stands out from all the other top five products in how it recognizes and rewards employees. High fives are nice, but Engagedly goes way beyond that and awards points and badges for every employee interaction on the platform. Whether they’re liking, commenting, or learning, employees have endless opportunities to be recognized and rewarded.
One manager explained how her company uses Engagedly’s reward system.
“We do monthly challenges,” she told us. “December’s Monthly Challenge at the company is Festive Photos. Everybody posts pictures, sharing whatever they’re doing for the holidays. And they get points for each picture they share.”
Managers can also reward employees with praise and badges for exceptional performance. Optionally, the company can choose to monetize these rewards, which lets employees cash in their points for products in an Engagedly rewards catalog.
This is the only top five tool that offers this type of tangible reward.
“We chose to enable the reward catalog,” another manager explained. “So if you post, you get 50 points, which is equivalent to five bucks for us. Employees can cash in their points for gift cards or donate to charities too, which is another option in the catalog.”
On-demand employee feedback is another place where Engagedly excels. Among the top five, only 15Five and Lattice also offer this feature. Engagedly is the singular product where employees raved about it, though.
“It’s great,” one employee noted. “If I do something notable, I can request feedback on it right away, and it will be in my profile. Then my boss will see it, and she can incorporate it into my future reviews.”
There are a few other Engagedly wins that bear calling out. They offer a robust learning management system (LMS) that caters to both managers and employees. It includes professionally produced videos with global language support.
The LMS also offers compliance training and industry-specific libraries of materials. All types of businesses benefit from this feature.
Employee onboarding is also a unique Engagedly feature among the standalone performance management tools on my list. Neither 15Five nor Lattice build this into their functionality.
With Engagedly, human resources can share new employee documents like benefits summaries, policies, and handbooks. For any business not quite ready for an all-in-one HR solution like BambooHR or Namely, this is a nice extra that only Engagedly includes.
|Encourages employee engagement||Unimpressive user interface|
|Robust recognition and rewards||Limited focus on 1:1s|
|On-demand employee feedback||Goal setting is not streamlined|
Where Engagedly Can Improve
- Unimpressive user interface – For a tool so focused on people enablement, the user experience with Engagedly is unintuitive and difficult to navigate. This is true for everyone using the tool, managers and employees alike.
- Limited focus on 1:1s – While Engagedly does allow managers to schedule 1:1s, it doesn’t tie in supporting documents to the event. Managers have to manually organize that information.
- Goal setting is not streamlined – Even if you have identical goals for multiple employees, Engagedly doesn’t make it easy to transfer these goals across employee files. It also struggles a bit tying together individual goals with OKRs.
For a tool that puts such an emphasis on people enablement, Engagedly misses the mark when it comes to offering a user experience on par with 15Five or Lattice. Users complain that the interface is not intuitive and hard to navigate.
“A lot is lacking when it comes to functionality that is usually standard on other platforms,” one manager noted. “There’s no ease of reporting, and the user interface is not very intuitive. This makes it harder to train employees and requires a lot of guidance.”
An employee concurred, noting that “the interface is not user-friendly. It looks pretty confusing at first, and it’s quite hard to navigate the site.”
To be fair, we have heard from long-time Engagedly users that things have been slowly improving in this regard. Even so, to compete with the likes of 15Five or Lattice, Engagedly should offer a seamless experience out of the gate.
Similarly, weekly one-on-ones are the heart of continuous employee feedback, and ensuring that managers have all relevant information at their fingertips for every one-on-one meeting is a key part of making these reviews efficient and effective. This is another area where Engagedly is weak.
Unlike both 15Five and Lattice, Engagedly doesn’t store notes, offer a question bank to guide conversations, or allow for adding topics to one-on-one agendas. Instead, managers have to manually do these tasks after they schedule the meeting. This makes Engagedly notably less functional when it comes to automating the continuous feedback loop.
Likewise, the managers we spoke to told us they struggled when it came to setting goals in Engagedly.
As one manager reported, “We cannot copy goals from one user to another once the goal is created and assigned.” To work around this limitation, the manager had to manually enter the same goal for each team member.
This need for manual entry leads to potential mistakes and potentially inconsistent goals.
Engagedly also has difficulty tying goals to objectives and key results. As another manager explained, “We wanted to process our OKRs in Engagedly, but the way we wanted it was not possible. They looked at processing differently than we did.”
A manager at a different company experienced similar frustrations, noting “the goals module was meant to be used for OKRs, but it needs some work. It is confusing and not intuitive to use.”
Finally, much like the other two standalone performance management tools on the top five list, Engagedly isn’t big on integrations. Like Lattice and 15Five, Engagedly focuses on integrating with popular human resources information systems and not much else.
For businesses already using ADP, BambooHR, Namely, Paylocity, or Personio, this isn’t a problem. However, if you use something else, integrating Engagedly into your existing platform won’t be easy—and may be impossible.
I’d love to share first-hand information about Engagedly’s pricing with you, but I can’t. They don’t put any pricing information on their website.
To get current details on how much Engagedly costs, you’ll have to request a free demo—and give up your name, email, phone number, and company name to do so.
My team did some internet sleuthing to find out more about Engagedly pricing and packages. They uncovered the following from third-party sources:
- Employee Engagement – $2 per user per month – Includes employee social feed, rewards and recognition/shout outs, gamification for rewards, and idea generation tool.
- LMS Lite – $2 per user per month – Includes eLearning, gamification for learning, and knowledge sharing platforms.
- Performance Management – $5 per user per month – Includes performance appraisal, 360-degree reviews, 1:1 feedback, peer praise, goal management, employee profile management, and employee social feed.
- Performance and Learning – $6 per user per month – Includes Performance+, rewards and recognition, employee referral platforms, and tools for survey building and idea generation.
Something that may be important for some businesses is that Engagedly reserves the right to set a monthly minimum cost of between $100 and $200 for each customer. As with Lattice, for companies with very small employee counts, this may be an overly expensive tool.
And you won’t find any free trials here, either. Just the option for a free demo.
Bottom line: For any company that wants to maximize engagement among a dispersed workforce or foster a positive company culture through rewards and recognition, Engagedly is an obvious choice.
Namely — Best at Combining Performance Management and HR In One Tool
- Set weighted goals
- Easy new hire onboarding
- 360-degree employee management
- Total review customization
One of two all-in-one HR tools on this top five list, Namely positions itself as the best solution for the advanced demands of mid-sized businesses (25 to 1,000 employees). Namely’s focus is on helping managers deal with the challenges they face.
Performance management is just one small part of their overall offerings, making it something of an apples-to-oranges comparison to the standalone performance management products earlier on this list.
However, Namely can be a great solution for businesses that want full HR management and need some performance management functionality thrown in, too.
Where Namely Excels
- Open-ended performance review customization – Managers have almost limitless opportunities to customize the review experience for their team members. For experienced people managers, this flexibility is great.
- Ability to set goals and assign weights to each – Not all goals are created equal and Namely makes it easy to segment your goals and assign them appropriate values. This is helpful for large organizations with a multitude of diverse goals.
- All-in-one tool for 360-degree employee management – As workforce numbers grow, the ability to have all employee-related information in one place is paramount. Namely does a great job of keeping employee records consolidated.
When it comes to performance evaluations, Namely gives managers the ability to fully customize the review experience. Managers can create review documents that meet their specific needs.
They can choose from many different review types and ask as many questions as they need in the review. This is in stark contrast to BambooHR, the other all-in-one HR tool on my list, which pre-defines the number of questions a manager can include in a review—a limitation put in place based on BambooHR’s own best practices research.
“BambooHR literally only allows you to have five questions because, according to their research, you shouldn’t have more than that number of questions in your performance review,” one senior HR manager told us. “Well, I want and need more than that.”
While managers without much experience might value the hand-holding of BambooHR, experienced people managers prefer the Namely approach.
“I want to shape the review process, not have the performance management tool shape it for me,” another experienced manager told us.
Another win for Namely is how users can set and weight goals. This is a unique feature among the top five list. Namely allows users to weight goals by percentage, descriptions, or stars. For experienced performance managers, this is a big distinction that lets them go deep with goals and analytics.
“The goals can be weighted appropriately,” we heard from one manager. “That’s something that’s really important to me, because some goals should only be worth 5% and others might be 50%. And that information flows into your performance review, and may affect your performance. So I really appreciate that depth.”
Again, inexperienced managers may not need such granular details or even understand how weighted goals work, but for skilled performance managers, this is a really valuable feature. This speaks to Namely’s goal of helping companies with experienced managers.
Since Namely is an all-in-one HR tool, it isn’t surprising that you can find all facets of employee management there. Within Namely, HR, payroll, benefits administration, talent management, and reporting are all neatly tied together.
This gives managers a 360-degree view of every employee. No hopping among different tools to get all the information you need to holistically manage employees.
As one manager noted, “From an HR record standpoint, having onboarding, salary history, title histories, org charts, and all those things in one place is very convenient.”
Employees also find it great to have things in one location.
“We have the organization chart there. We have our annual reviews there. We have all of our banking information for our paychecks,” one employee told us. “And it’s super easy to just navigate to that and update it in Namely. That was something that was a billion clicks away in our old system. Namely’s become a hub for us, and that is definitely something I really like about it.”
|Open-ended review customization||Frustrating customer support|
|Set and weight employee goals||Few recognition or rewards tools|
|360-degree employee management||Limited performance analysis|
Where Namely Can Improve
- Customer support is a challenge – Namely isn’t great when it comes to customer service. Their ticket system is a source of frustration among customers, and their staff’s knowledge is called into question, too.
- Scant feedback, recognition, or rewards – Owing to its focus on the management side of operations, Namely doesn’t put much emphasis on boosting employee morale through recognition and rewards or providing regular feedback.
- Limited employee performance analysis – If you are a data person and want to dig deep into the metrics surrounding employee performance, Namely might leave you disappointed.
Even the best tool will falter if its customer service is below par. Users we spoke to encountered challenges when they reached out to Namely for help.
“I get a new customer service person every few months, and often feel like I know the system more in-depth than they do,” one senior HR manager explained to us. “I understand that someone can’t be an expert in all things, but I still have expectations for customer service.”
Users also dislike the newly implemented “ticket and messaging” system, which results in longer wait times to get questions answered and issues resolved.
The same HR manager told us, “I have a lot of back and forth with the tickets. It ends up being way more back and forth, when I just feel like asking ‘Who’s an expert in this particular part of the tool? Just let me talk to them.’”
If employee feedback, recognition, and rewards are important to your company, you might feel limited by Namely. It just doesn’t put much emphasis on encouraging continuous feedback for employees or making it fun to recognize and call out employee success.
There is a newsfeed, which functions a lot like social media with likes and comments. But, beyond that, there isn’t much else. All the standalone products offer far more employee recognition options.
Likewise, if you want a tool that makes weekly check-ins easy and productive, this is not the best tool. Namely won’t easily let you customize down to weekly reviews. All the standalone tools on my list are better options.
Finally, one other area where Namely is weak is in analyzing employee performance. While Namely does offer analytic tools and graphs that show employee attrition, diversity, and salary, it doesn’t offer a way to easily view high and low performers. No scatter plot charts here.
This is important information for many managers to have on hand, as it helps them quickly identify employees ready for promotion and those who need a little extra help to succeed. The three standalone products on this list do a far better job at this than Namely does.
This is another product on the top five that doesn’t give out pricing information. You’ll first have to jump into the “free demo” loop to find out how much Namely will cost for you.
But they are at least more forthcoming with their various tiers of service. As you would expect from an all-in-one HR tool, their packages are HR-focused:
- HR Fundamentals – This is the basic package where everyone starts. If you want bare bones HR help that includes performance management, this might be all you need.
- HR Complete – This is an add-on to the required HR Fundamentals package. The functionality here turns Namely into a full-service human resources information system.
- Enhanced Services – This includes managed payroll and managed benefits. Namely will manage both for you.
My research team did some hunting to find third-party info on pricing and discovered that Namely generally costs around $12 per month per employee for the HR Fundamentals basic package.
Other sources indicated the per employee per month cost ranged from $12 to $30, depending on the package you select.
There’s no free trial here, but you can get a free demo after you give them your email and name.
Bottom line: For larger companies or teams with experienced people managers, Namely is a rock-solid choice that delivers all-around HR functionality with built-in performance management.
BambooHR — Best for Managers New to Performance Management
- People management simplified
- Robust reporting and analytics
- Excellent customer support
- Confidential employee input
BambooHR is another all-in-one HR product that integrates performance management functionality. In this regard it is quite similar to Namely, but where it differs is in its focus on small businesses and inexperienced people managers.
BambooHR positions itself as “HR software with heart” and puts the customer experience first. They want to make sure their customers know they care. Based on what we uncovered through our research, that isn’t just marketing hype. It’s really how they operate.
Where BambooHR Excels
- Simplified performance management – BambooHR takes the guesswork out of employee reviews, offering robust templates and parameters to guide inexperienced people managers through the process.
- Robust reports and analytics – Even inexperienced managers can quickly and easily find and generate reports with BambooHR, and those reports are easily understood across all levels of the organization.
- Excellent customer support – Fast and efficient help is just a phone call away, and customers feel supported and cared about whenever they reach out. Solutions are provided quickly, too.
BambooHR takes the guesswork out of performance management, which makes it the ideal tool for inexperienced managers and small companies in the growth phase.
Employee reviews are the heart of performance management and BambooHR walks managers through this process with ease.
Bamboo limits review questions to five predefined options, all of which are based on BambooHR’s research into the psychology behind performance management. Managers can choose to add three questions of their own.
One senior manager who has used BambooHR for years recalled the introduction of performance management, noting “when Bamboo announced performance management, they pushed it really hard. And they also talked about the research that they did. Reviews don’t need to be very long. They don’t need to have a hundred questions. Five is enough.”
This regimented approach may be too confining for experienced managers who want more latitude. If you want an all-in-one HR solution or a lot of customization capability, Namely is a better option. But for inexperienced people managers, these limitations are welcome.
“What I like about the performance management functionality is that it’s very simple,” a user new to people management told us. “The questions are just easy things that you don’t really have to think about. But they really capture how you feel. I like that.”
Reporting is another area where BambooHR really has it dialed in. They offer a multitude of analytics reports, including the ability to quickly identify high/low performers. This makes BambooHR more functional than Namely when it comes to reports and analytics.
The people we spoke to raved about the simplicity of reports in BambooHR. No other product on the top five earned accolades like this about reporting or analytics.
“As a manager, I am always asked five questions about my team by the CEO,” one HR manager noted. “‘How well are they performing? Are they a rockstar or do they need help? What would we do if we lost them? What can they improve on? What do they do well?’ And BambooHR graphs the data on a really beautiful graph where you can see who your rockstars are or who your struggling employees are.”
Her counterpart at a different company concurred. “The reports I could pull were so simple for my CEO to understand,” she noted. “And because we had performance reviews for three or four years, we were able to look back and see the progress of how valued our employees felt along the way, and we could see that progress go up and up. It was easy for me to see results and talk to other managers and the CEO when I was able to pull out this information. Bamboo has incredible reporting.”
If a software tool is going to target inexperienced users, then its customer service has to be top-notch—and BambooHR hits the mark here, too. Users we spoke to were unanimous in their praise of how quickly issues are resolved and the level of care demonstrated.
“Their support was super quick and they helped us with anything we needed,” noted one HR manager. “The implementation was very easy as well. And we had their guidance throughout the process.”
And proving that BambooHR really does care about the people who use its software, customer service extends all the way to the top.
“They used to have a customer conference that we’d all go to in Utah and talk about Bamboo. And when they stopped doing that, I called and I was so upset,” one long-time BambooHR user told us. “The CEO actually called me back and apologized. We had a full conversation. That’s how much they care about their customers and that’s how much they care as a company.”
|Simplified performance management||No continuous feedback|
|Robust reports and analytics||No meeting auto-scheduling|
|Excellent customer service||No tools for employee recognition|
Where BambooHR Can Improve
- No continuous feedback – The ability to provide employees with real-time, regular feedback is limited with BambooHR. There isn’t any ability to set weekly one-on-one reviews, so true continuous feedback is impossible.
- No meeting auto-scheduling – If face-to-face meetings are part of your performance management system—and they should be—BambooHR doesn’t make scheduling them easy. There’s no automation for this basic task.
- No tools for employee recognition – No high fives, no employee social feed, no points or rewards system. With BambooHR, the focus is on understanding and managing performance management.
BambooHR allows for the frequency of reviews to be customized but doesn’t offer functionality for weekly reviews. This is similar to Namely, but quite different from all of the standalone performance management tools.
This reduced functionality restricts the continuity of feedback to longer periods like 30 days, which is not really considered “continuous” in today’s world of performance management. Users picked up on this deficiency, too.
“Continuous feedback would have been really nice,” one former BambooHR user told us.
For businesses that want a truly continuous flow of feedback, an all-in-one tool like BambooHR or Namely isn’t going to be the best choice. One of the standalone options is a better pick.
One other strange omission in functionality with BambooHR is its inability to easily integrate with calendars to auto-schedule meetings. It doesn’t offer the straightforward connections of Lattice and 15Five.
“If I wanted to schedule something, to ensure people met in person so things could be reviewed together, I couldn’t do it with BambooHR,” the former BambooHR user told us.
Likewise, another glaring omission comes in the employee recognition department. BambooHR just doesn’t put an emphasis on building employee morale through public recognition.
There’s no functionality for acknowledging employee success, sharing praise, or rewarding workers for a job well done. No newsfeed, no shout-outs, no high fives. BambooHR’s primary focus is on the management side of performance management.
Every other tool on the list offers something, from the bare bones Newsfeed of Namely to the over-the-top recognition and rewards of Engagedly.
Finally, a word about price. According to the users we spoke with, it can get complicated fast.
“When we first got Bamboo, it didn’t have some of the functionality that it does now,” one manager recalled. “Because we grew with it, they changed their payment models a decent amount. First we got grandfathered in, but then un-grandfathered in, so it was really complicated in terms of how their payments worked. And that was always really difficult to explain to both my CEO and my finance people.”
Confusion over how much a tool costs can be a fairly big deal, especially for small businesses where budget is always a concern. It is difficult to really know if BambooHR has good or workable pricing, since they don’t mention costs at all on their website.
Which leads me to the next section…
BambooHR is another service that hides pricing and requires you to sign up for a free trial to get any detailed information. You’ll have to give up both your email address and phone number to get started.
BambooHR does give information on the packages it offers, though. You can choose from Essentials or Advantage. There are also add-ons for payroll, time tracking, and performance management.
So to use BambooHR for performance management, you’ll have to sign up for the HR side of things and add PM to the mix (for an additional fee).
After some digging, our research team found some third-party information about BambooHR pricing.
- Essentials – $6.19 per employee per month
- Advantage – $8.25 per employee per month
- Performance management add-on – $4.25 per employee per month
This is just anecdotal information, though. You’ll have to sign up for a free trial to find out how much your exact costs will be. The good news is there’s a free seven-day trial for BambooHR.
Bottom line: For anyone new to performance management, BambooHR gets rid of the guesswork and delivers the functionality and guidance you need to succeed.
The Review Process
There were multiple criteria a product had to meet to make it into my Top Five list.
What It Took To Be Included
For any software to make the top list, it had to meet some baseline requirements, including:
- Effective management of the employee performance process: This is a bit of a given, but it is also critically important that any tool makes business life easier. If a tool struggled with a poor user interface or had usability issues in general, it didn’t make the cut.
- Flexible review and assessment frequency: There had to be some room for variation in terms of how often employees could be reviewed. Whether it was weekly, monthly, or quarterly, or another customizable time frame, all the tools have to allow for more than only annual reviews.
- Customizable review and assessment content: Businesses are different and that includes how they review their employees. All my Top 5 picks let managers create at least some customized content and questions for the review process.
The software also had to meet some some additional criteria, like:
- Easy to use for small- to medium-sized businesses: Many of the top five will scale as your business grows, but the focus of this list is on tools that excel for the small business owner.
- Highly rated: My research team combed through public review sites like Capterra and G2 to find out what actual users thought about the products. Only those tools that consistently received the highest marks made this list.
- Established online reputation: To make my list, the software had to be regularly mentioned by users, mainstream product review websites, and other internet sources.
I also did not include any software that was primarily focused on business performance management. The tools you see here are exclusively focused on employee performance.
Who We Interviewed
Once the list of possible top software candidates was whittled down, my research team identified actual users of each tool, confirmed identities on LinkedIn, and spent two weeks conducting 20-30 minute interviews with them.
It wasn’t enough to simply read reviews in public forums. We wanted to speak to the people in the trenches, the employers and employees tasked with using performance management software every day. Actual users are in the best position to call out marketing claims that fall short and praise what makes each tool great.
Interviewees came from a variety of industries and held diverse roles. In exchange for them sharing their time and valuable insights with us, we compensated each person we spoke to.
What I Learned Choosing the Best Performance Management Software
The people we interviewed confirmed some basic themes uncovered in our research. There are four key pain points that users want performance management software to solve.
Weekly Feedback Beats Annual Feedback 52 to 1
Providing employees with performance feedback just one time a year, usually at their annual review, is an ineffective way to assess an employee. With this model, managers usually end up basing their review on things that happened in recent memory. Big wins from many months earlier often go unrecognized, which disadvantages employees.
Employees also lose out when it comes to improving their performance in a meaningful way. A cumulative year of underperformance is much harder to correct than addressing and correcting issues in real-time.
Continuous feedback, delivered via weekly one-on-ones and bolstered by additional feedback like self-assessments, feedback on demand, and 360-degree reviews, is the key to keeping employees engaged at performing at their highest level. It also reflects the reality of how many companies actually operate.
As one manager who uses 15Five noted, “The software is creating a culture of weekly feedback and straightforwardness in short bursts of time. It mimics how we actually work here.”
All the top five offer 360-degree review functionality, but 15Five and Lattice tick the most boxes for one-on-ones, self-reviews, feedback on demand, and customized review frequency. Engagedly is nearly as robust, falling short only with limitations on one-on-one reviews. Neither Namely nor BambooHR offers a true continuous feedback loop. If continuous feedback is critical to your business, the standalone tools are far superior to the all-in-one offerings.
Better Goal Setting And Tracking Helps Everyone Score
Goals are essential to help employees optimize their performance. Without them, nobody knows what they are working towards. This goes beyond setting just individual employee goals.
Being able to set goals at the team and department level, as well as company-wide, and tying in individual goals helps establish priorities, explain the relevance to individual performance, and measure progress.
“We have cascading goals across the organization, then team-level goals, and then individual goals aligned to the team goals,” one HR manager using Namely told us. “The goals are transparent throughout the whole organization and everybody can see everybody else’s goals.”
A Lattice user on the employee side concurred, noting that “it has been really helpful…having it all in one place makes measuring your performance to goals easy.”
Workers also feel more empowered and understand how their individual roles contribute to the company’s overall success. This leads to more employee satisfaction and longer retention rates.
“Using goal setting as an opportunity for transparency really helps motivate people on your staff. People want to learn and they want to grow,” a manager using Engagedly told us. “You give them those opportunities to see what you’re doing. They take it and run with it.”
All five products allow for goal setting and goal tracking, but Namely and Engagedly offer extra functionality, allowing you to weight goals differently according to priorities.
15Five, on the other hand, offers less robust goal-setting options, and at least one user felt like goal setting in the tool “felt a little bit clunky.”
Who Are Your Top Performers? (and Who Aren’t?)
Separating top performers from underperformers via performance analysis is a key part of effectively managing and growing a solid workforce. It helps you quickly identify workers with leadership abilities and address performance issues elsewhere.
As a BambooHR user in an HR role told us, “The tool graphs who your rockstars are or who your struggling employees are. We would look at that graph and see who was in the bottom quadrants. We would either try to create a performance plan for them or, if it’s the second or third time they’re in that quadrant, recognize they’re not a good fit for the company.”
15Five offers an advanced version of the graphs BambooHR provides, and also allows managers to see high, medium, and low performers. Engagedly and Lattice offer 9-box scatter plot grids that let managers see performance and potential at once.
Of the top five, Namely offers the least analytics for performance management. They take a more HR-focused approach and include things like analytics on headcount, attrition, salary, turnover, and diversity.
If You Develop Them, They Will Come (and Stay)
Keeping your best employees doesn’t happen by luck. It requires companies to offer engagement, recognition, and career development to their best talent.
The best ways to do this is through:
- Rewards and recognition
- Clear and defined job descriptions and core competency identification, so employees can easily see a career path.
- Career planning and coaching
- Employee surveys and polls where issues are identified and action can be taken
Employees that feel valued and see a future with a company are less likely to leave.
Employee recognition is one big way to make employees feel valued. This recognition is made easier with performance management software or the tools it integrates with. The recognition goes in every direction, too.
As a Lattice user on the employee side notes, “We have a Slack integration and I jump in and leverage that shortcut to praise and provide encouragement to my teammates.”
Managers enjoy the convenience, too. “I thought the shout-out option was really awesome because you could put it on the Slack channel and call it a high five,” a 15Five user who manages a team told us. “You could track those and recall that information at performance review time.”
Employee surveys are another way to engage employees and ensure they feel heard and valued. One Engagedly user embraces this feature, “We do surveys all the time. Different types to avoid survey fatigue. The information we get is very helpful.”
All the tools in the top five do a great job at offering employee engagement surveys, but Engagedly is the clear winner when it comes to employee engagement. It allows employees to connect with each other, earn badges and rewards for their performance and engagement.
15Five, Lattice, and Namely also offer various recognition tools, either on their own platform or via integrations with Slack. BambooHR is the only tool that doesn’t offer any employee recognition tools.
The Top Performance Management Software in Summary
Performance management software is an excellent addition to any company’s toolkit. With it, you can efficiently manage employee work, create a positive company culture, and help your top performers grow into future leadership roles.
Easy to use, effective at analyzing key data, and great for growing a workforce with a longevity mindset, performance management software is something every business should embrace.