Training Top 125 Best Practice: Performance Coaching at Fisher Investments

The firm’s revised Performance Coaching model ties employee performance to organizational goals and was rolled out in four phases: goal setting, goal check-ins, personal development planning, and end-of-year goal check-ins and planning for the following year.

In the past, formal performance reviews at Fisher Investments took place annually, were backward looking, and completion rates were inconsistent. The entire process needed to be redesigned. To increase consistency and line-of-sight for employees, the firm launched its revised Performance Coaching model, tying employee performance to organizational goals. 

Program Details

Performance Coaching was rolled out in phases: 

1. Goal setting

2. Goal check-ins

3. Personal development planning

4. End-of-year goal check-ins and planning for the following year

To kick-start the process, CEO Damian Ornani broadcast his goals first, and for the first time, employees had complete transparency into organizational priorities. The CEO’s goals are communicated during All-Hands Meetings two times a year, and quarterly progress updates are made to the company intranet page. This allows employees to see how their contributions are affecting the firm’s performance in real time. Goal-setting and check-ins were subsequently cascaded through each role level of the organization, reaching all employees.

One of Fisher Investments’ 2019 corporate goals was to “develop the breadth and depth of our human capital at all levels in order to achieve our growth goals.” A firmwide Human Capital goal was to “focus on refining the quality of performance and development conversations,” including “100 percent of goals cascaded and approved by March 2019, and a minimum of three quarterly check-ins.” 

The Performance Coaching process shifted focus from performance review completion rates to the quality of development conversations. An e-learning tool kit is available to managers,where they can explore six crucial coaching conversations: 

1. One-on-ones

2. Goal setting

3. Performance check-ins

4. Development conversations

5. Recognition

6. Performance Improvement

Employees receive an instructor-led training (ILT) on the full Performance Coaching process, as well as hands-on workshops on SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goal-setting and creating personal development plans. 

In addition to the goal check-ins, development planning discussions are now an ongoing employee-driven activity. With development planning formally embedded in the Performance Coaching process, employees have the power to kick off assessments with their manager on their skills and competencies and development goals any time throughout the year. 

The new process links employees’ individual goals to their business unit, the organization, and the CEO. The process is year-round instead of annual and includes frequent check-ins and ongoing development conversations. 

To keep the firm aligned, each quarter all employees access the firm’s Human Capital Management system and update their goals’ status, details, and milestones. Employees meet with their manager to review their progress, discuss changes, and ultimately mark each goal in one of four statuses: 

  • Behind
  • On Track
  • Ahead
  • Complete

This process reinforces Fisher Investments’ learning and development framework by connecting competency and skill-related training with on-the-job application.


Prior to the new process, 30 percent of employees had completed annual reviews and goal-setting was inconsistent. Following the implementation of Performance Coaching, 99 percent of full-time eligible employees have set goals and 99 percent completed their check-in for the quarter. 

At the mid-year check-in last year, 65 percent of goals were ahead or on track; 11 percent were finished;and 24 percent were behind, on hold, or not started. 

In addition, the first year the program launched, Fisher Investments received a special award for Best Direction from The Oregonian as part its Top Workplaces recognition, based on employees’ feedback. 

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.