Regular feedback to employees outside of the annual review cycle is a rare event in performance management. We hear leadership – both HR and the line – paying strong lip service to managers: “good feedback should be a continuous thing. It’s what we expect of you.” They are right, it should be a continuous thing, but we know better. Some managers do this well, most do not. Whether or not feedback happens is almost a matter of luck, depending on whether the particular manager decides to take on this responsibility.
Most significant is that continuous feedback is an important tool for driving employee performance and engagement. Unfortunately, there is very little training on how to give this kind of feedback or tracking of whether it takes place and how effective employees perceive it to be.
What’s the best way to drive continuous feedback? Here are six key steps:
1.Check the current state. Find out from your employees whether they are getting continuous feedback or for that matter any real feedback apart from the annual evaluation process. This can be accomplished through surveys, interviews or focus groups. Where feedback does take place, be sure to ask about both frequency and quality.
2.Describe the desired future state. Be specific about the kinds of events that should trigger the need for feedback. Do not assume that managers will know this. Provide some good examples of these events.
3.Make continuous feedback a well publicized priority. Have line leadership own the messaging, and explain what training will take place, the timing and the feedback attainment goals.
4.Provide managers with training on giving continuous feedback. You will be surprised at how many managers do not know how or when to do this. The best training will actually demonstrate the feedback through role playing by the manager after instruction or by showing simulated role playing. While actual role playing is somewhat preferable, it is probably not economically practical or time efficient. A well designed web-based simulation provides a good alternative with the advantage that large numbers of managers can be trained quickly.
5.Track and publicize results. Follow up regularly with employees through surveys, interviews or focus groups. Publicize the statistics on frequency and quality of feedback, and set goals for improvement before the next tracking event.
6.Recognize managers who do this well. Use meaningful recognition to build a culture where managers stress feedback. This will help solidify the practice and encourage managers to strive for excellence in this area.
See if it is feasible to start at the top. Where top management models the proper behavior and cascades it through the organization, culture can change quickly.
Interestingly, where continuous feedback is done well, feedback tied to the annual evaluation process improves dramatically. Both will contribute meaningfully to enhanced employee performance.