Traditionally, performance feedback has been given in structured reviews occurring either annually or just a few times per year. Instant communication is more ubiquitous than ever and younger workers not only expect rapid feedback, they also want it to be continuous. Asking employees to wait for an annual conversation to receive performance feedback creates frustration and anxiety. It also dramatically delays the resolution of issues, creating productivity bottlenecks due to the extra hours spent writing, receiving, or delivering annual self-assessments and reviews. Many well-known firms like GE and Microsoft are moving away from the annual review and embracing more ongoing, fluid feedback processes.
Consider the benefits
Infrequent conversations about performance can lead to pent up anxiety for employees and reduced opportunities for managers to hone their feedback delivery skills. A recent study by TriNet found that 64% of millennials feel blindsided by their performance reviews while 59% report frequently feeling that their manager is unprepared to deliver feedback. When feedback becomes a routine and organic part of communication between manager and employee, everyone has the chance to become more comfortable with the process.
When an employee is not meeting expectations, both the individual and the business will benefit from swift resolution of issues. Product and service life cycles are shorter than ever and unexpected competitive threats demand pivoting at lightning speed. Once thought to be solely the domain of software companies and nimble startups, the agile workforce model is gaining traction in larger organizations eager to shed bureaucracy. Continuous communication is a cornerstone of this model and allows for real-time problem solving.
Beyond the business benefits, employees can feel better knowing their growth is a priority every day, not just once or twice a year. Established companies like Adobe are singing the praises of the continuous feedback model which encourages managers and peers to share feedback regularly, resulting in a robust 360-degree view of performance throughout the year. Incorporating feedback into everyday life rather than reserving it for a month or two out of the year creates a feedback-rich culture, normalizing the process and stripping it of any gloom and doom.
5 Steps Managers Can Take To Normalize Employee Feedback
- Frequent one-on-ones. Quality matters but quantity is just as important. Regular communication (weekly or bi-weekly) keeps the momentum going around crucial performance milestones and ensures that issues don’t fester. It also helps employees feel that their work is visible.
- Connect and build trust. Make one-on-ones a comfortable place for employees to surface challenges and ask for help. Provide critical feedback in private and be sensitive to timing. For in-person meetings, strive to keep cellphones off the table and make eye contact. For video or phone calls, close screens that might be distracting.
- Keep feedback on the agenda. Cloud-based tools like Google Drive make it easy to store one-on-one agendas and notes for easy reference. Employees and managers can collaborate on custom agenda items but also should set aside time to review key topics every session, like business and personal goal status updates from the employee, feedback from the manager or peers, and issues requiring manager support.
- Coach. Managers need to be listening and engaged in order to identify opportunities to coach. This means not just passively listening to status updates, but rather asking probing questions to help employees flesh out ideas and problem solve. Managers can gently guide the conversation to ensure that the time is optimized.
- Celebrate Successes. Feedback is not to be confused with criticism. Giving regular feedback means celebrating big wins as well as identifying areas for improvement. Lots of positive feedback is critical for employees to continue on an upward trajectory whereas a little constructive feedback goes a long way.