How Oyster meaningfully empowers and retains a fully distributed team across 70+ countries

April 11, 2023

About Oyster
Headquarters: Fully Remote
Industry: Human Resources Tech
Company size: 650 employees

Oyster was founded with the mission of making global employment accessible to everyone. Recognizing that most tech or startup jobs are limited to people in certain wealthy cities, they set out to help companies expand teams across borders. As they’ve helped prominent companies hire, pay, and care for talent around the world, they’ve seen exponential growth of their own. Since their founding in 2020, Oyster has expanded to nearly 610 employees across 70+ countries at the close of Q1 2023. 

As the company scaled, Oyster sought to implement objective, transparent performance management and career development practices. An exhaustive, dissatisfying search for solutions left them with no options that aligned with their mission—until they found Pando. When Oyster started partnering with Pando, Chief Workplace Officer Mark Frein had a simple reason why—it was the only solution that fully supported the company’s philosophy of transparency and equitability of rewards. 

Challenge: Ad hoc performance management did not align with Oyster’s mission or support talent needs. 

Prior to partnering with Pando, Oyster did not have a leveling structure or a means to evaluate staff against role-specific competencies. Frein noted that performance management was ad hoc. This lack of structure meant it was possible for bias to creep in and made it harder to maintain trust.

Recognizing these issues, leadership wanted a platform that could solve these challenges going into the review cycle. Talent had clearly demonstrated a strong interest in more robust career development. Thus, Pando was adopted as the solution that could accelerate business outcomes and mitigate risk.  

Solution: Shift to a continuous feedback model and create transparency around rewards. 

Of all the shifts that Pando created within Oyster, Frein said the most important one is tied to the promotion process. After implementation, the baseline requirement for promotion eligibility changed. The case—complete with achievements, feedback, and competency progression—needed to be built over time in Pando’s system. This necessitates a body of proof to showcase readiness and helps the business avoid promoting people before they’re ready. 

Pando assessments capture on-going evidence of performance

Frein pointed out that Pando stood out because it’s built on the premise of continuous feedback as opposed to formal, cyclical performance reviews. Not only is the premise unique, but the actual experience is as well. As for the adoption, an average of 700 pieces of feedback were given over a 6-month ramp period as of the end of Q1 2023. Mark says,

“Adopting continuous feedback systems can be very daunting. HR professionals often embrace the philosophy behind such systems, but implementation falls flat because there aren’t structures to enable the work. Pando is the first solution I’ve seen that makes it not only practically possible but a great overall user experience.”
An average of 713 pieces of feedback were given over a 6-month ramp period as of the end of Q1 2023.

Result: Continuous performance management model sparks high engagement in career development. 

Pando’s system prompted unprecedented employee engagement with career development at Oyster. People began taking ownership of their progress, and there was genuine excitement going into performance management review cycles. This level of engagement naturally supports performance, productivity, and trust throughout the organization. Frein said that in his ten years of running performance management programs, he has never had this level of interest and attention from leadership. 

The system also helped managers avoid the pile-up of performance management work that comes with annual or bi-annual reviews. Frein said managers evolved in how they think about performance management. It went from a tedious task that happens once or twice a year to an iterative process that happens all the time. Continuous career progression frees up valuable managerial resources. It makes employees feel more supported. It cultivates a culture of high performance. It mitigates regrettable attrition. All sides of the business benefit. 

Building a diverse and inclusive workplace requires empowering and supporting people to ensure that they thrive in their roles. The structure of Pando’s system allowed Oyster to align holistically with this mission and, by extension, cultivate impactful business outcomes. Mark concluded:

"Pando offered us the opportunity to implement a performance management and career development system that aligned with our mission more closely than any other system available. So beyond any single OKR, it is a mission and impact case for us with Pando.” 

Mark Frein is the Chief Workplace Officer at Oyster, a global employment platform that makes it possible for companies everywhere to hire talent anywhere. Mark specializes in distributed workplace and organizational culture and is a seasoned workplace leader in the SaaS startup space. He has spent the last decade helping venture-backed startups build out their people teams and is passionate about creating vibrant, engaging workplace communities.