In traditional performance reviews, managers assess their employees’ performance based on established goals for the year. The manager shares his or her assessment with the employee once per year during the annual performance review.
Problems With Traditional Performance Reviews
With traditional reviews, employees do not receive real-time feedback on their performance. By the time they are briefed during their annual review, the information may no longer be relevant or useful.
Traditional reviews tend to focus on holding employees accountable for what they did in the previous year instead of on improving employees’ current and future performance. Moreover, providing feedback only once per year increases the odds that employees will make the same errors over and over without even realizing their slip-ups.
Employers and Employees Are Embracing Continuous Feedback
Continuous feedback is a routine communication method that enables managers (or immediate supervisors) and their employees to engage in ongoing performance-related dialogue via regular check-ins. Whereas traditional performance reviews are formal and annual, continuous feedback is informal and cyclical — meaning it occurs frequently throughout the year.
A 2016 article published in Harvard Business Review says that more than a third of U.S. companies have abandoned traditional performance reviews, favoring continuous feedback with employees.
In a 2019 survey by Workhuman, 55% of employees said that annual reviews do not improve their performance. Further, the survey said that “employees who check in with their managers at least weekly, as opposed to never, are five times less likely to be disengaged.” Notably, in a PwC survey, 60% of employees said that they want daily or weekly feedback.
Why Continuous Feedback Works
Continuous feedback is instantaneous and simple. For example, it can be a quick 10-minute chat reminding the employee of a critical project detail or a brief email commending the employee on a job well done.
In addition, continuous feedback:
- Enables managers to recognize employee accomplishments in a timely manner.
- Focuses on performance improvements rather than accountability.
- Promotes open dialogue between managers and employees.
- Allows employees to correct course and learn from their mistakes.
- Encourages employees to regularly share their own perspective of their performance.
- Gives an accurate, rounded view of employees’ performance.
- Makes employees feel less judged and more supported.
Combining Feedback With Appraisals
As stated in a Society for Human Resource Management article, the terms “feedback” and “appraisal” should not be confused as being one in the same, because they have different characteristics.
- Delivers information.
- Immediate and ongoing.
- Typically verbal.
- Regarded as neutral.
- A judgment or an assessment.
- Retrospective and based on events.
- May invoke negative employee reactions (such as fear).
Appraisals are essential because there needs to be a formal structure in place for evaluations, salary increases, promotions, bonuses and disciplinary measures. The key is to balance continuous feedback with performance appraisals. This way, employees will have the chance to make regular improvements, and their appraisals will be based on up-to-date, full-picture information.