If you’re looking to become a more effective HR manager or human resources professional, you have probably heard a bit of buzz about continuous feedback – and you may be wondering what all of the fuss is about.
If that’s the case, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into continuous feedback. We’ll discuss the benefits (and drawbacks) of using such a system, how you can use it to improve your organization, and much more.
Without further ado, let’s dive in – first, by defining continuous feedback.
What is continuous feedback?
Continuous feedback is a feedback methodology that is built to significantly shorten the “feedback” loop in your organization. Traditionally, performance is often reviewed quarterly, bi-annually, or once per year – and in some organizations, there may be no real feedback sessions at all.
And this is a bad thing. If there is no culture of regular, helpful feedback, workers may feel underappreciated or “at sea” – they may not know what they’re doing right (or wrong) and will feel uneasy during their jobs.
The idea of continuous feedback is to have a feedback touchpoint every few weeks – or after a major project has been delivered. By having a larger number of more informal feedback sessions from both HR and peers, employees are able to better understand their current performance, and make improvements.
Many organizations are beginning to adopt this approach, especially larger Fortune 500 companies. Companies like Adobe, Dell, Microsoft, and IBM are leading the way on this approach.
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Why is continuous feedback so important?
So, why is continuous feedback so important to your organization? It’s simple. You can’t reach your organizational goals without a plan.
And unless you have a robust, continuous feedback system, you’re essentially in the dark about the performance of your employees. Too often, the yearly performance review only focuses on high-level performance and objectives – not the day-to-day performance improvements that employees can make.
Here’s an example of what we mean. Say that you run a sales call center. You want to boost closings on calls by 10%. What do you do?
If you don’t use some kind of regular continuous feedback process, chance are that you won’t know! You may give some helpful advice to employees and encourage them, but you can’t truly identify strengths and weaknesses, or provide helpful constructive criticism.
In contrast, if you use continuous feedback to encourage employees, help them identify areas of strength and weakness, and track their progress. You can identify high-performing employees, and encourage them to mentor lower-performing employees. Best of all, you can track performance during each feedback session, giving you a more complete data set – and allowing you to understand your progress.
That’s just one example of why continuous feedback is important – there are many more.
What are the benefits of continuous feedback?
Interested in learning more about the benefits of continuous feedback? Let’s discuss them now.
- Better worker engagement – The first (and arguably the biggest) benefit you’ll get is that workers will feel more engaged. Just about every worker wants to improve their performance. A desire to do better at work is a natural human urge – and if your employees have the tools to do so, they will take advantage of them.
That’s one reason that continuous feedback boosts worker engagement so successfully. When workers understand how they can improve, and get constructive feedback about what they already do well, they will be more engaged with your company, and will work harder to improve. They will also feel like your company has more of a “stake” in how well they do – and become more loyal to your organization.
- Higher job satisfaction – Continuous feedback does not just improve engagement. It also improves job satisfaction. This makes sense – if you are regularly told how well you’re doing, and given the opportunity to improve yourself as a worker, you’re more likely to be satisfied with what you’re doing.
Continuous feedback gives workers a clear, objective goal which they can work towards. No matter what that goal may be – resolve customer service complaints more effectively, sell more products, become a more efficient worker – it’s helpful for workers to have clarity, and know what they can do to improve. And when an employee accomplishes their goal, they will feel more satisfied in their work.
- Lower turnover rates – A company that invests in its employees with continuous feedback is less likely to experience high turnover rates. This is a huge benefit, especially for HR managers. We all know the cost of a new hire – and the cost of getting rid of a new hire who is not appropriate for their position. High turnover rates cost HR departments quite a bit of time, money, and energy that could otherwise be redirected towards improving the organization.
In addition, this lower turnover rate helps your company keep top talent, and ensure that they are satisfied with their work. While other factors are at play for retaining talent (competitive salaries and benefits, a structure that allows for job role growth, etc.) continuous feedback is a big factor.
- Improved morale at the company – An atmosphere of continuous feedback encourages open, honest, and regular interactions between employees and managers. In addition, a focus on peer-to-peer feedback can help build a better, more positive workplace atmosphere. Together, this helps improve morale at the company – resulting in a better workplace for everyone.
This isn’t just a “nice-to-have” either. High employee morale is associated with a number of benefits, such as a lower turnover rate, more effective workers, better long-term employee retention, and much more.
- Higher efficiency and effectiveness – Providing feedback to employees regularly is the best way to encourage a more efficient, effective, and high-performing workplace. Often, workers may not realize that they are doing something incorrectly – or inefficiently.
Regular feedback sessions can help employees identify areas of inefficiency – and when they’re presented with a plan for improvement, they’ll be able to become much more effective at their duties.
This is especially true if you encourage peer-to-peer feedback sessions between colleagues. Often, the colleagues of a worker will be easily able to identify areas where they may need some improvement – and offer helpful, applicable real-world advice that will help them work more effectively.
- Helps both high-performing and underperforming employees – Employees of all abilities and performance levels are able to benefit from continuous feedback. High-performing employees get recognized for their abilities, and can even be encouraged to push themselves harder. They can also use their skills and knowledge to teach those around them, and improve the overall effectiveness of your company.
Underperforming employees are also helped by continuous feedback. Usually, an employee who is not performing up to par simply does not know what they are doing – or how to improve. They may not have had proper training, or they may not know how to become a better worker.
But with constructive feedback from managers and peers, areas of weakness can be identified. Then, through eLearning and mentoring from higher-performing employees, they can improve their job performance!
For these reasons – and quite a few more – continuous feedback is becoming more and more popular at highly-performing organizations.
What are the drawbacks of continuous feedback?
Continuous feedback is absolutely critical to your company – but that does not mean that it’s perfect. There are some drawbacks, mainly related to getting a “feedback culture” set up, and getting full employee buy-in.
- Takes time to set up – Setting up a culture of continuous feedback cannot be done overnight. You may find yourself having to manage individual feedback meetings and sessions for months – or up to a year – before the process becomes truly self-sustaining.
- Care must be taken to encourage positive feedback – Giving feedback is an art. Of course, you never want to lie to an underperforming colleague or employee, or avoid the areas where they could use improvement. But you must temper critical feedback with positive feedback and avoid hurt feelings and negativity – otherwise, your workplace culture will suffer for it.
- Employees must “buy in” for success – You need all of your employees on your side to succeed with this kind of feedback program. They must be willing to work with you, managers, and their peers to create a true feedback culture. If your employees refuse to buy in to this idea, it may be difficult to get your program up and running.
- Some accountability may be lost – Employees may be less likely to bring up serious issues with performance with their colleagues. This is especially true if your employees are friends with one another – it’s hard to deliver truly negative feedback to someone who you have a personal connection with.
The best way to avoid this is by scheduling regular feedback sessions not just with peers – but also with supervisors and HR. Peer feedback can focus more on gentle constructive feedback, while feedback between employees and supervisors can be somewhat more critical.
- Not the proper channel for major personality or work issues – Continuous feedback is not really a great way for employees to bring up serious personality issues with other employees, or problems they have with how they work. Serious problems with workers should still be brought up to HR directly.
For who is continuous feedback interesting?
Ideally, continuous feedback should be interesting to everyone! This is because continuous feedback should never be limited to just one part of your organizational chart. Every person in your company should be participating in some way – because every person in your company can improve their performance!
How can continuous feedback improve your organization?
Continuous feedback can improve your organization in a myriad of ways. First, it lets you align each individual employee with your company strategy. You can use feedback sessions to help each worker focus on something that will benefit your organization in the long run – and keep all employees on the same page.
It also helps you get a more clear, overarching view of how each individual employee is performing in your organization. Because feedback is regular and well-documented, you can easily track progress, and identify both high-performing and low-performing workers.
All of these improvements come down to change. As Winston Churchill famously said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Continuous feedback allows your company to change often – and for the better!
How to implement continuous feedback in your organization?
Need some basic next steps on how to implement continuous feedback at your company?
Here are some tips to get you started.
- Start small – Try to avoid changing your entire feedback structure at once. Start with a group of 3-4 people, and introduce the process to them gradually. It’s best to find employees who are open-minded, and who have a track record of being comfortable with change.
Make sure they know what is expected of each other – and what they should expect from you. Arm them with all of the tools they need, and get them started with your new feedback process. As time goes on, they’ll share their experiences with their peers and colleagues – increasing excitement and buy-in about the new program.
Continue this process with a new group of people once the first group has become comfortable with the process – and keep going until everyone is part of your new continuous feedback culture.
- Coach employees on proper feedback – This is extremely important to the success of your new feedback plan. You should coach your employees both on how to give feedback properly, and how to accept it properly. Without this coaching, your workplace could become hostile or unwelcoming to employees.
- Encourage timeliness (and reward it) – A big part of continuous feedback is ensuring that employees deliver feedback to each other in a timely fashion. This is harder than it sounds – other responsibilities and job duties often mean that feedback takes a back seat.
But if you can offer rewards and other benefits to those who deliver great feedback on-time, you’re more likely to keep employees engaged, and you’ll be able to build a better culture.
- Provide an actionable feedback framework – Just giving feedback is not enough. Employees must be able to take action on the feedback they receive. Building a framework for feedback that provides a clear goal is a fantastic idea – after receiving feedback, an employee will know exactly what to focus on.
- Overcome resistance – Initially, your efforts to revolutionize the way your company deals with feedback may be met with resistance – from other HR staff, managers, and employees, among others. Address their concerns, and overcome their resistance – it helps to discuss the many benefits that the company will enjoy once the new system has been implemented.
- Keep up your momentum – Once your program has started, do your best to keep momentum up – and ensure that employees continue to deliver and receive feedback. Consider switching up the format of review sessions occasionally to keep things fresh, and make sure to ask for feedback about the new system, so that you can make any necessary improvements, and build a better feedback culture.
Building a continuous feedback culture is not easy, but it’s well worth the effort. So get started today, and see how your company can benefit!
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Use the benefits of continuous feedback to your benefit – and thrive!
The traditional, yearly performance review is all but dead. While it may have made sense in the past, it’s simply far too slow, inefficient, and outdated for today’s fast-paced, competitive digital world.
So ditch that annual performance review. Instead, focus on building a culture of continuous feedback – where employees feel comfortable to give and receive regular performance reviews both from peers, and from management.
Doing so is not easy – and it will take some time to get all of your employees to buy in. But it’s worth the effort. Implementing this method of feedback helps you improve employee engagement and efficiency, boost workplace morale, reduce turnover and retain talent, and so much more.
So don’t wait. Using this guide, think about how you can start implementing continuous feedback in your company right away. You don’t have to start an “HR revolution tomorrow” – just think about how these techniques can be used to spur change in the way that your organization tracks performance.
Then, begin to introduce the idea of a continuous feedback program. Once you outline the benefits of doing so, we’re sure that you’ll be able to succeed! So take another look through this article, and get started now.