Unlocking the potential of your workforce requires an agile approach to performance management. Due to the expectations of employees today, as well as the work experience being offered by forward-thinking competitors, it’s no longer enough for businesses to rely on traditional appraisal methods. For modern managers that want to drive enhanced performance within their organisation, this is where continuous feedback comes into play.
What is continuous feedback?
Continuous feedback, in the context of HR, is a strategy whereby an employee’s performance is monitored on an ongoing basis, via frequent catch ups with their line manager. This doesn’t mean they’re constantly being interrogated or micromanaged. It’s more of an informal conversation for them to discuss any issues they’re facing, put measurable goals in place, and ensure they have a personal development plan that fulfils the aspirations of both the individual and the company.
This type of performance review essentially makes the process more flexible, so that there’s no breakdown of communication. With more clear and consistent touchpoints, it becomes easier to gauge progress, course correct quicker, and tweak goals where necessary (rather than pursuing fruitless or rigid activities for long stretches of time). It ultimately forges a stronger relationship between the manager and employee who can then sing from the same hymn sheet.
Continuous feedback vs. traditional performance management
Continuous feedback is a far-cry from the way things used to be done. Traditional performance management would typically involve some form of annual or bi-annual performance review, with a more structured/formal approach and far less contact.
With such infrequent appraisals, employees are less likely to receive feedback, positive or constructive, in a timely fashion. This can lead to them feeling disconnected and lacking awareness around the progress they’re making at work, and in their career. However, the continuous approach to performance management tends to have the opposite impact, empowering people so they can adjust in real time and maximize their personal and professional potential.
In terms of the communication style, traditional performance management has often been a top-down philosophy, with limited opportunities for two-way dialogue or clarification on how to hit targets. It would usually be delivered in a formal setting too, most likely in person. In contrast, continuous feedback looks to build transparency and teamwork between both parties. It can take place via a channel that is comfortable and convenient for everyone.
The benefits of continuous employee feedback
As we’ve touched upon, continuous performance management can be incredibly advantageous when used in the right way. Some of transformative benefits include:
Enhanced employee performance
Dynamic performance management tactics allow for proactive course corrections, resulting in increased productivity and effectiveness. Employees and managers alike don’t have to wait until an arbitrary date to give/receive feedback or voice concerns.
Managers will already have a keen eye on the output of their team. If there are inefficiencies that can be attributed to a specific person or process, and there are mechanisms in place for this to be fed back constructively, this will benefit the whole team. It prevents problems from escalating and festering too, enabling employees to get the support they need quickly.
Continuous feedback fosters a sense of involvement among employees which subsequently generates engagement. When receiving ongoing recognition and support, they’ll likely feel their manager values both their work and wellbeing. This feeling of being valued can serve as inspiration for them to excel within their role. Gamification can be a powerful source of motivation too. With a regular look at key metrics, it can create a sense of competitiveness in terms of hitting targets.
Minimised skills gap
The skills gap (particularly the digital skills gap) has become an increasingly big issue for organisations. Agile feedback allows employees to identify their weaknesses and come up with practical ways to make improvements, both short-term and long-term. With new technologies emerging at a rapid pace, it has never been more important for managers to bridge the gap between what is needed of their workforce and what it is currently capable of.
Of course, an employee’s personal development is a central aspect of their progress. But their personal targets should be aligned with wider organisational goals too. The company’s goals will be evolving all the time due to a fluctuating business environment. So, the only way for individuals to keep up with these changes is to be agile with their own targets. This is what continuous feedback facilitates. By discussing progress regularly, employees can understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture, giving them a greater sense of purpose and direction.
Effective communication on a frequent basis promotes transparency between managers and employees. This healthy dialogue encourages them to share ideas/concerns as and when they arise. This leads to better collaboration and stronger relationships.
Improved talent attraction/retention
Attracting new talent and keeping hold of talent has become a pressing concern for many businesses. With the changing work landscape (and the new employee expectations that come with this), many are struggling to keep up. A modern approach to performance management can be a big selling point when companies are pitching to candidates.
Continuous feedback demonstrates a commitment to employee growth and development. Many candidates will prioritise this type of perk when searching for a prospective employer. Existing employees within organisations will be more likely to stay in the long run (and have greater job satisfaction) if they think they can achieve their career ambitions where they are.
More dynamic workforce
With ongoing performance reviews, employees can pivot quickly in the face of changing circumstances. They can make improvements in real-time, ensuring they can be responsive to business needs as and when needed. If this philosophy is rolled out across the whole business, a widespread culture of agility is created.
Lateral feedback lines
Continuous feedback doesn’t just have to be between a line manager and their team member. Employees and managers should be able to request feedback from anyone they work with from across the business, not just one person. Good continuous feedback also means that anyone can give feedback to anyone, no matter how senior or junior in the company, and across different functions. This can foster collaboration and beyond your immediate teams and reporting structures, building your culture organically.
Best practices for implementing continuous feedback
To successfully implement a continuous feedback programme, there are some key actions HR teams must take within their respective organisations. Here are our top tips to get started:
1. Get buy-in from key stakeholders
It’s essential you achieve buy-in from the majority of people when implementing any new HR initiative. When introducing a new method of working, it’s unavoidable you will be met with some form of resistance. Change can create a sense of fear and uncertainty, especially when people are comfortable with their existing structures.
At the earliest opportunity, it’s important to communicate why the change is being made. People will be more understanding if they can see a clear problem being fixed. Be sure to highlight the benefits of ongoing feedback, particularly those that will make people’s lives easier. When getting buy-in from board-level directors, it’s perhaps more effective to demonstrate tangible data, such as the predicted productivity increase and success stories from other businesses.
2. Lay out the framework
It’s important to set expectations among employees with regards to what they will need to do. Lay out a clear framework for the new feedback approach, including how often feedback will be given, the channels through which it will be delivered, the form it will take, and any systems that will be used.
By establishing universal guidelines, it makes it less likely people will slip back into traditional methods. Be concise when explaining what they will need to do going forward. It may even be beneficial to get them involved with the strategy and rollout, as this will make them more invested in its success.
3. Foster a feedback culture
This all starts with the managers. The HR team should make it clear to managers about the role they have to play. The way they conduct themselves in meetings/performance reviews will ultimately transfer to employees. Within their teams they should encourage a culture where constructive feedback is both given and received willingly.
It’s up to them to build a safe environment in which staff feel empowered and comfortable to share their opinions. The hiring process will contribute massively to the success of this culture too. Managers should ideally look to hire individuals who don’t see feedback as a criticism but instead an opportunity to learn and grow.
4. Utilise innovative technologies
There are digital solutions that won’t just make this transition seamless but will also represent a vast improvement on the previous style of working. The system selection will be a key part of this process. Be sure to pick a software solution that is user-friendly and accessible to all employees.
The latest performance management technologies provide the functionality needed to log data in an organised fashion, monitor ongoing progress, and schedule recurring meetings that are visible to all parties. Traditional methods, in contrast, are often disordered, making it difficult to track performance-related activity in a consistent manner.
5. Provide training and resources
If a different framework for feedback is put in place, employees won’t instantly know how this affects their role on a day-to-day basis (as it is completely new to them). They will need to be shown where they fit in and what actions they must take to achieve the desired outcomes. With newly implemented technology they will likely need dedicated training, so they can grasp how to use it and get the most out of it.
Managers and employees alike should be given any login credentials and other essential resources they need to get started. Managers should make it clear how often one-to-one meetings, performance review meetings, and team meetings will take place, and schedule these accordingly within the appropriate platform. Best practice should be shared with everyone in terms of what good feedback looks like.
6. Regularly review the process
You shouldn’t rest on your laurels, even if the adoption of continuous feedback brings about significant improvements. You should ensure regularly occurring reviews take place to evaluate the effectiveness of your performance monitoring strategy. This way you can continue to streamline the process further and perhaps find ways of working that are even more suitable to your organisation. This proactive and non-static approach enables you to keep up with competitors and adapt to new trends in the HR world.
Leveraging technology to unlock the power of continuous feedback
Continuous feedback programmes are implemented far more easily with the assistance of technologies like Performance Management software. These innovative solutions help to optimise the feedback process and facilitate transparent communication between managers and employees.
Our Performance Management Software has an intuitive interface that is simple to use, meaning there’s minimal disruption or stress during the learning process. This Performance Management system allows managers to provide feedback in real-time, while enabling employees to track their progress, set goals, and access all the resources needed for their development journey.
Every bit of performance-related information is stored and accessed in one digital location, meaning businesses have the reassurance their employee data is accurate, current, consistent, and secure. The software is frequently updated with new features and functionality too, meaning users are always on the cutting-edge from a HR perspective.
If you’re thinking of embracing the continuous feedback philosophy within your organisation, be sure to read more about Advanced Clear Review.
You can also find more continuous feedback insights at our People Management Insights Hub.