Why You Should Offer Frequent Performance Feedback

Frequent performance evaluations are a win-win for both employers and employees. Use these strategies to benefit your workers and your company.

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Why You Should Offer Frequent Performance Feedback

Here's what you need to know:

  • Switching to frequent performance feedback can revolutionize employee engagement and productivity
  • Giving feedback frequently also helps employees to feel valued and know they’re on track and meeting expectations
  • Open environments improve communication between workers and managers
  • To implement frequent performance evaluations, create a feedback structure, communicate consistently, and keep the feedback positive when possible
  • Focus on the individual but remember the big picture, and don’t overthink the process

Annual performance evaluations are an elephant in the room for most companies. Survey after survey tells us that most employees and managers hate them.

Companies spend thousands per employee each year when accounting for time and technology. The question is, why do companies continue investing in something that doesn’t work?

Challenges in finding a better option and lack of time are consistently cited as reasons for keeping the status quo. Yet, frequent performance feedback leads to better performance and increased employee engagement.

Frequent performance feedback also fulfills a need of the employee and saves time in the long run. The best part is that it’s easier to implement than most companies realize.

Why employees need frequent feedback on performance

There are numerous reasons why employees need frequent feedback. It’s human nature to want feedback in all facets of our life, whether at home, at work, or in a volunteer role.

Open environments improve communication and help employees adopt a growth mindset.

Open environments improve communication and help employees adopt a growth mindset. They also save time, which frees up more space for other organizational needs. So, here’s a deeper dive into why each of these reasons contributes to employees needing frequent feedback.

1. People want feedback

A 2016 article on Forbes stated that 65% of employees wanted more feedback. A lot has happened since 2016, including the pandemic, and employees feel more disconnected since then.

Feedback is essential to success and a crucial indicator that a person is on track and meeting the goals of their position. Receiving feedback on progress once or twice per year is not enough for the average person.

Most people remember being new in a role or early in their career and wondering if their performance was meeting expectations. This is natural, and science has shown the human brain defaults to a negativity bias. This is a useful survival technique, but humans are no longer struggling to survive in caves or on the savanna.

Frequent performance feedback can slow the negative feedback loop. Many employees will default to this in the absence of regular feedback from their supervisor.

Managers and supervisors tend to provide frequent feedback during an employee’s first year with the company. This creates a strong working relationship and environment, improves performance, and helps the employee feel valued.

However, once the employee is on board, the feedback decreases to the expected once or twice per year, and this is when the detrimental effects come in.

That’s when the negativity bias can set in and employee engagement and productivity dips. Avoid the dip by providing the frequent feedback that employees state they want.

2. Open environments improve communication

Employees that receive frequent performance feedback are used to open communication with their manager, and this also makes them more likely to bring a problem forward when 1 arises. They are also willing to share their successes and by using frequent feedback, the successes will start to outnumber the problems.

A lack of communication allows the negativity bias to control the internal dialogue that’s happening with employees.

Communication is one of the most challenging parts of any organization and another area where employees regularly find fault. Active listening is the 1st part of that open environment. It gives the employee an opportunity to assess themselves and discuss improving areas of their performance. A lack of communication allows the negativity bias to again control the internal dialogue that’s happening with employees.

3. Embrace lifelong learning

An employee that stops seeking professional development opportunities can quickly become a problem instead of an asset. Address how the employee can embrace lifelong learning and continuous improvement through professional development opportunities during frequent performance feedback.

These sessions also offer an opportunity to discuss career goals with the employee. Perhaps the person has promotion potential or there is another way that you as the manager can help their career grow.

It’s hard to get a full picture of the employee in yearly or biannual performance evaluations. Frequent employee performance management helps ascertain where the employee is and provide a more accurate roadmap of where their career can go.

4. Save time with more frequency

Time is one thing everyone wants more of, but everyone receives the same amount. However, there are time savings through frequent performance feedback. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true.

Frequent performance feedback saves time overall because shorter sessions held more frequently usually address small issues before they become larger issues. Challenges include an employee in a slump, slowly declining performance, lack of challenges for an employee in their role, or interpersonal conflict among team members.

Identify and address all these issues more quickly and efficiently through frequent performance feedback. The frequent communication also minimizes the negativity bias, shortening the time needed to offset its effects.

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How to implement frequent performance evaluations

Most organizations have talked about implementing frequent performance feedback, but still struggle with identifying how. So, a new strategy gets discussed but is never acted on, and this just further perpetuates the want for more feedback and dissatisfaction with the current system.

Use these strategies to implement frequent performance feedback that will transition it from agenda item to action item.

1. Create a feedback structure

The structure for frequent performance feedback varies among organizations, but there are a few consistent themes that ensure success. First, the employee must be aware of the structure and have an opportunity to work with their manager to ensure there is an open dialogue between both. Second, there are parts of traditional feedback sessions, like the feedback form, that can be useful for employees.

Tailoring the structure to the individual employee also improves the effectiveness of frequent performance feedback. Different generations and personality types have varying expectations for their career and feedback.

Handle the performance feedback fairly but recognize that understanding the communication and feedback styles of an employee, and tailoring the sessions to them, makes a good structure even better.

2. Communicate consistently

Consistent communication can go a long way towards improving performance feedback and employee engagement. The worst thing that a company can do is to have an inconsistent policy or to begin and then abandon a frequent performance feedback plan.

There should be some documentation or written employee evaluation feedback for the employee to refer to. This is part of the structure. Discuss the manager’s impressions and specific feedback so the employee fully understands and can work on their own or with their manager to make changes.

Furthermore, employees can use this documentation as they prepare for their next frequent feedback session and encourage them to keep themselves on track when working towards achieving the mutual goals set in the previous session.

3. Keep the feedback positive

Again, the research shows that positive performance feedback is more effective than negative feedback. A myriad of methods and coaches exist that can help a manager keep feedback positive. These also help the employee take the recommendations and ensure they are implemented in their role.

Obviously, some cases call for negative feedback, and exploring that topic in more depth is beneficial for managers. For most conversations though, focusing on the positive parts of the position will allow more growth and success for the employee.

4. Focus on the individual…

Effective performance feedback focuses on the individual that is being evaluated. Comparing an employee to one of their colleagues is not helpful and will further damage their performance, not enhance it. Focusing on the individual and their performance allows them to see how their work is beneficial and areas for growth.

5. …But remember the big picture

Chances are that the employee is part of a larger team. Therefore, it’s important for the frequent performance feedback to also paint the big picture for the employee. This helps them to see how their role fits in with the rest of the company and impacts the larger mission of the organization.

Employees that see and understand how they are contributing and why those contributions are important will welcome feedback and the chance to further grow their role in the organization.

6. Don’t overthink it

One of the primary reasons that so many companies are still using the annual performance evaluation is because implementing a new procedure, such as frequent performance feedback, can feel daunting. So, many times, organizations evaluate the idea. Discussions ensue and eventually it heads to death by committee or paralysis by analysis. And nothing happens or improves.

Just get started instead of overthinking the transition to frequent performance feedback. Make adjustments while implementing the new procedure, and employees can provide feedback on what parts of the system are working, and which could be further enhanced. In this way, the feedback is valuable for both the employee and the company, and both can continue growing and improving.

Making the switch to frequent performance feedback

A famous quote by Rita Mae Brown (not Albert Einstein, here’s the history on the misattribution) is, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

Annual performance feedback is one form of insanity that many businesses put themselves through. Unfortunately, employees end up suffering through them too. But managers and employees are smart people who can choose a different strategy.

Switching to frequent performance feedback can revolutionize employee engagement and productivity. The businesses that have already made the switch are committed to the outcomes they’ve seen through frequent performance feedback. Soon it will be the rule, rather than the exception.

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