All organizations need to provide their employees with feedback in order to succeed. The form that this feedback takes can either be informal, such as immediate admonishment in negative circumstances or passing praise for a job well done; or it can be formal, like the annual or bi-annual review.
The latter is a relic carried over from companies of yesteryear but is still the most pervasive method of employee performance evaluation. An overwhelming majority of modern organizations still utilize the annual review as their main source of providing feedback, but a new, more effective method, known as continuous feedback, may soon take its place (or supplement it at the very least). Ensuring your organization and employees are developing the adoption of this innovative solution should be high on your to-do list.
What is Real-Time Feedback?
Real-time feedback is pretty self-explanatory. Instead of only providing employees with a review of their performance once or twice a year, taking up large chunks of time when doing so, real-time feedback aims to inform employees of their performance much more frequently and in smaller time increments.
For example, let’s say Employee A was responsible for putting together a sales presentation in July, only a few days after her mid-point performance review. She knocks the presentation out of the park, and brings in a huge new client for your business. While there may be informal, shallow praise immediately following, in a bi-annual review system Employee A would have to wait until December to get objective, formal feedback on her performance in that instance. If there were any areas in which Employee A’s presentation of the materials could be improved, she has to wait almost 6 months to hear about it. During that time, Employee A may have had other, similar presentations that feedback could have helped her with.
The annual review system stops employees from receiving potentially valuable feedback in time to make effective use of it in most cases, and often any constructive criticism is lost on the incumbent as they have a hard time connecting it back to a situation that could’ve occurred as many as 12 months ago. It’s tough to make a conscious effort to improve in a given area when the suggestions being received are in reference to a circumstance you can no longer recall entirely.
How Can Real-Time Feedback Help?
Trying to pack a multi-hour performance review full of feedback related to specific instances just isn’t feasible. In order for feedback to be effective, the behavior needing to be corrected has to be tied to real-life examples in the very recent past. Telling someone to work on his or her leadership skills is much less effective than providing them with the context of an actual situation that they were a part of and explaining how trying to build leadership skills in certain areas could’ve affected the outcome of that situation differently. In an annual review setting, attempting to call back to specific circumstances is not effective, as the memory of that circumstance has faded and an effective connection between behavior improvements can no longer be tied to it.
Implementing real-time feedback solves this problem. This allows for much more effective retention and meaningful understanding, resulting in an employee much more likely to actually follow through on the feedback. As you continue to do this, it will become the norm and employees will find themselves constantly reinforced to either continue displaying good behaviors or consciously work on areas in which they need to improve. This will lead to a more self-aware and productive employee base, as they’re able to effectively monitor and adjust their behavior as needed.
Avoiding the shift from annual performance reviews to continuous feedback will only serve to keep your employees at a stagnated, less productive level. Not giving them the tools to work on changing their behavior benefits neither your employees nor the organization as a whole. Making an effort to provide your employees with more frequent and specific feedback will help them develop and positively impact the company overall.