Expedia 2017-06-28T22:17:59+00:00

Project Description


Performance reviews and company values are ubiquitous in large companies, but the two often have surprisingly little to do with each other. That’s because businesses rely on performance metrics that measure activity, not outcomes. The performance management system at Expedia Inc., an online travel company with more than 140 travel booking sites in nearly 70 countries, needed a makeover. Ratings were the center of many annual review conversations, and whether a rating was good or bad defined everything for that employee.

After surveying Expedia managers and employees and reviewing industry best practices, senior leaders decided to institute a performance management program based on informal ongoing feedback — positive and corrective — to enable employees to continuously improve, rather than focus on ratings. And more importantly, the company wanted to broaden focus of performance reviews from numerical ratings to company values.

But such a monumental shift required training managers and employees to rethink how to give feedback in specific, actionable language so employees could easily understand what they needed to do. That required training 1,400 managers in five months – a job for Oxygen.


When developing the new performance program and describing competencies, Oxygen and its clients at Expedia envisioned what the company’s values looked like if someone was living them. Oxygen then defined three core competencies of any employee living the values — adding business value, communication and helping the team win.

Successful performance at Expedia was now described as “what” plus “how.” The what was the employees’ goals — business results they were expected to deliver — and the how was productive behaviors aligned with the competencies. Because both determined successful performance and ultimately rewards, it was essential to train managers to coach to both. Individual contributors performed similar exercises in their module, and were encouraged to speak up if they did not get the feedback they needed from their manager. That way they could get the most out of the performance management program for their own careers.

To make the training program most effective, the modules were designed to be learner-centric. Instead of subject-matter experts lecturing to participants, facilitators engaged them to brainstorm and role-play to discover the answers as a group.


An email sums up the impact we made on performance reviews at Expedia: “This was the best review experience ever! It was great to go in not having to think about the rating.”

According to an Expedia employee survey conducted after Oxygen’s work, 61 percent think the program improved the way the company manages performance. Fifty-nine percent said that year’s annual review process was simpler and less bureaucratic than previous years, and 71 percent said it included a good discussion of future-facing topics for the following year — expected business results, competencies and behaviors to continue, stop or start, and development planning.

And perhaps most impactful, 87 percent of employees think the behaviors the company expects from them are aligned with company values and help employees understand how work gets done.

According to Oxygen’s client at Expedia, “This was not straight out-of-the-box management training. We really wanted our managers to become change agents, and they did.”

This case study was adapted from the story about the same engagement as published by Chief Learning Officer magazine.