Performance Management

Cornerstone Performance Management Best Practices for Growing Organizations

woman typing on laptop
woman typing on laptop

Alexis Higgins

Alexis Higgins is a Consultant at Educe and has over 5 years of experience implementing Talent Management Systems for…

Attracting and keeping talent continues to be an obstacle for many organizations today. A critical aspect of employee retention is modern performance management, and we’ve previously discussed best practices for Building a Best-In-Class Performance Management Strategy.

However, bringing your performance management strategy to life requires the right talent management technology to be in place. In this post, we’ll discuss best practices for growing organizations looking to implement a new system or enhance the functionality of an existing Cornerstone Performance Management module.

Consider Your Organization’s Performance Management Maturity

The Cornerstone Performance Management module supports five key areas of focus: Goals, Development Plans, Competencies, Check-Ins, and Performance Reviews. In alignment with a Best-In-Class strategy, it is important to recognize where your organization exists in its Performance Management maturity (New Customers or Advanced Users) and to adopt the right tools and practices accordingly. Having a change management plan, along with internal change champions, is vital to your Performance Management strategy and technology adoption success. Establishing a plan, including a feature, functionality, and business process roadmap can aid in determining what is achievable in the short-term and what is best left for the mid or long-term.

New Customers of Cornerstone Performance Management

When transitioning from a paper process or an in-house system to Cornerstone Performance Management, it can be tempting to want to implement all features at once. However, it is important to recognize your organization’s functionality needs versus functionality ‘nice to haves’. This is where having a plan and a roadmap plays an integral role in setting tangible expectations for what is achievable within your organization’s project timeline.

That said, below are best practice recommendations for maximizing the Cornerstone Performance Management module features in an initial implementation.


Goals can be leveraged to measure employees professional and personal development goals for the quarter, year, or other defined period. Goals are integral to connecting overall company strategy to the efforts and focus of your employees.

As a new customer, it is recommended to keep goals simple to enhance user buy-in. Build a Goal Library with populated goal templates for users to easily pull from and customize, as well as an easy goal creation workflow that simplifies the approval process between employees and their managers.

Development Plans

Development Plans are a fantastic way to encourage professional development and employee ownership of their own development path.

To get started using this feature, create templates geared towards specific user groups with preconfigured objectives (measurable actions taken to support the development plan).These templates can then be pulled by an individual employee or pushed out by their manager.


Does your organization have a standard set list of skills or attributes that employees are measured against? If so, these are competencies, which can be brought into Cornerstone OnDemand and used to rate employees either through related functionalities such as competency tasks and observation checklists, or within the Performance Review process.

If your organization is already widely using competencies, migrate them over to Cornerstone Performance Management and leverage them accordingly. However, if your organization is still in the process of crafting competencies, it would be wise to wait on implementing this feature until your competencies are finalized and a corresponding communication plan has been developed.


Performance Check-Ins support informal, ongoing performance discussions by providing an agenda and helping to schedule conversation dates. Check-Ins can be driven by employees or managers, respectively.

  • If your organization is already practicing informal performance conversations, Check-Ins are a wonderful tool to use when tracking these conversations and any action items that result from these discussions. Cornerstone Performance Management comes with several Check-In templates which can be customized or used out-of-the-box.
  • If your organization is new to this practice but would like to make a shift to continuous performance management, begin by using one template. Empower your management team to use the tool and template to schedule and hold these conversations. Keeping the template simple will encourage user adoption.
Performance Reviews

Cornerstone allows for the creation of standard reviews, which are pushed out by administrators. Standard reviews often account for tasks such as a 90-day, mid-year or annual review. The Performance Management module also offers off-cycle tasks, which can be pulled on an ad-hoc basis for matters such as a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). A significant feature within Performance Reviews is the system’s ability to incorporate other features of the module, such as Goals, Development Plans, and Competencies.

As a new customer, if your organization is satisfied with your current processes, a plug-and-play approach can be used to mirror your current review process in Cornerstone. However, this is also an opportune time to rethink practices and determine if your Performance Review process is aligned with employee needs and previous feedback. Take into consideration the design and workflow offered within Cornerstone to determine if rethinking ratings, weightings, other review standards, or the overall process in still in line with your company’s long-term strategy or if your business process should be updated.

Advanced Users of Cornerstone Performance Management

If your organization is well-established in its use of Cornerstone Performance Management, and has a high adoption rate amongst employees, you may be ready to consider enhancements to the Performance module features or processes that you are using. By elevating your existing performance management practices and expanding performance tools, employees will better recognize your organization’s commitment to their individual growth.

In addition to the functionality described above for New Customers, there are additional best practices to consider when enhancing your organization’s Performance Management framework. Consider the following:


Goal alignment can be incorporated into your current system setup to ensure that all employees in a team, department, or company are working to achieve similar goals. This allows employees to see how their individual efforts contribute to the overall success of the company by creating a hierarchy of goals. In connecting with greater alignment, Company goals can be created and made visible to all employees on their own goals page as a consistent way to view and connect individual goals to the overall vision and strategy of the company.

Development Plans

If your organization is also leveraging Cornerstone’s Learning Management module, linking learning management offerings to development plans is a fantastic way to bridge the cross-module divide while furthering the impact of your company’s learning offerings.


Using well established competencies within Performance Reviews and tasks is a valuable way to enhance your organization’s existing competencies. Additionally, if you have the Learning Module and would like to connect your Learning Catalog offerings to Competency ratings, this is a great opportunity to further bridge your modules. If your organization is also exploring Cornerstone Succession, competencies are a key piece in providing an additional data point on which to measure employee’s development and help with succession planning.


One way to enhance Check-Ins is to give employee’s more ownership in driving the discussions and leading the conversations. Updating related permissions and communications to encourage employees to own their development is vital to increased Check-In adoption. Goals and Development Plans can also be pulled into Check-Ins, which is a valuable way to foster ongoing performance discussions while also providing the platform to connect these discussions to other areas of an employee’s growth.

Performance Review

Consider ways to enhance your performance reviews. For example, perhaps goal ratings and competencies ratings are already part of your process, but you want to enhance the review by incorporating goal planning for the following year into the review process. 360 reviews are another great Cornerstone feature, especially if your culture can support extending performance review feedback to colleagues and other related employee relationships.


There are endless possibilities for how to adapt the Cornerstone Performance Management module to support the realization of your organization’s performance management strategy. Keeping it simple, yet impactful while maintaining your organization’s performance standards and vision is the best way to begin the journey, and a journey it is. Your use of the Performance Management module will change with the growth of your organization as well as the evolution of your employees’ needs. However, continued evolution of your performance management process demonstrates your company’s commitment to its employees, resulting in better engagement and ultimately, improved employee retention.

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