If you’re an informed, strategic HR professional (which, if you’re here, then you must be) you’re well aware that traditional annual performance reviews are rapidly falling out of favor within many companies. Reserving feedback for one session per year is silly—as silly as asking sports coaches to meet with their teams only once per season. Managers and HR specialists are beginning to realize this, and they’re switching over to the frequent feedback model of performance management.
What about your organization? If you or your management team are still on the fence about using frequent feedback in performance management, read on. We’ll tell you the three biggest reasons your employees are going to love the change.
Imagine the last road trip you took with friends or family where someone else was giving you directions. If it was a new destination, you might have made a wrong turn or missed a freeway exit along the way. But it was an easy correction to make as soon as the navigator let you know your mistake. Now imagine if that person waited an hour before telling you that you’d made a wrong turn. By then, you’d be miles and miles off course, and making your way back would be much tougher (not to mention how annoyed you’d be).
When we navigate down the road, we need consistent reminders and directions to reach our destination. It’s no different for an employee coming into work each day to accomplish personal, team, and company goals. Managers are the ones in your organization with the complete roadmaps. If they aren’t able to share that information until months after an employee has veered off course, what hope does that employee have of finding the way back?
Employees want feedback on an ongoing basis while they’re trying to stay the course. In fact, according to an original BambooHR survey, 51 percent of non-management and non-HR employees prefer to receive feedback as they complete projects or in casual, convenient one-on-ones with their managers (as opposed to only 18 percent who prefer annual performance reviews). Your team members will be happy to know when they’re on the right track, and when they need a course correction.
When so much pressure rides on one performance review at the end of the year, we fall into fight-or-flight mode. Employees and managers alike prepare to defend their point of view. Even a small piece of negative criticism can spark a fire. Your organization will never improve if that’s the only environment in which your people exchange feedback.
When feedback is offered consistently, the environment around it becomes more casual, relaxed, and open. It turns into part of the regular workflow, so criticism doesn’t hit like a ton of bricks, and praise isn’t a rare prize to be won. Plus, with all the practice, both employees and managers will get better at offering and receiving feedback that is specific, helpful, and tactful. Soon, performance management will be a positive practice among your workforce instead of a high-pressure, guns-blazing event to end the year with a bang.
It’s simple math from here: relevant + constructive = actionable. When employees get feedback that’s specific and related to recent work, they can act on that feedback. It’s impossible for them to change what happened earlier this month. But they can improve what’s going to happen in the next few weeks.
When they only get year-long snapshots of their performance, it’s difficult to focus on making real improvements. There’s simply too much on the to-do list, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. It’s also much easier for a manager to be vague with feedback when there’s such a large time period between reviews—and vague feedback is virtually useless.
Grant Wiggins, educator and author, explains, “Thus, ‘Good job!’ and ‘You did that wrong’ and B+ are not feedback at all. We can easily imagine [employees] asking themselves in response to these comments, ‘What specifically should I do more or less of next time, based on this information?’ No idea. They don’t know what was ‘good’ or ‘wrong’ about what they did.” Breaking the year up into smaller, more manageable periods of time (months, quarters, etc.) will allow managers to get specific with their feedback and help employees move forward with a definite plan of action.
Employees across industries and organizations have spoken: frequent feedback is the way to go. When managers provide consistent, valuable feedback, employees will respond by making consistent, valuable improvements to their performance. So be a good coach, and give your team what they need to excel. It will be a win for your entire organization.