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Performance Management Watch: The Future of Feedback

By Betterworks
6 minute read
Updated on April 10, 2017
Performance Management Watch The Future of Feedback

Last week, Forbes posted our latest Performance Management Watch: How Workplace Feedback Is Changing (And How Technology Can Play A Role). In this article, I highlight the latest trends in performance management and why feedback is taking the business world by storm.

Some 75% of workers believe feedback is valuable, but less than a third receive it.  Last year, we saw a mass exodus of companies abandoning their annual review program. But it wasn’t just because the review process needed a revamp—employees’ demand for feedback is driving business leaders to change the way feedback is given and received. In the HR 2.0 era, organizations must place a greater focus on processes and programs designed to attract, hire and maximize talent. When people at an organization are performing at their very best, the company can win out among the competition.

Let’s look at it from the employee’s perspective. Imagine if your Fitbit gave you your step count at the end of the year instead of daily. You’d have no reason to make any changes. It’s no wonder employees feel the constant need for more feedback and recognition. It’s a requirement for them to improve at work and progress in their career.

Rolling out a continuous performance management™ program allows companies to give employees what they want: real time feedback in context of their work. HBR reported that one in three companies are moving to a continuous performance management model so employees can leverage ongoing feedback.

For this edition of Performance Management Watch, we asked real HR leaders and influencers to weigh in. Here are the actions they’re taking to embrace the future of feedback at work:

Helpful feedback, more often

East Tenth Group Inc. recently found that the overwhelming majority of employees want feedback from managers monthly or at least quarterly. In fact, only 10% of non-millennial employees and 5% of Millennials think annual feedback is effective. This explains why we must overhaul the performance management process.

Susan Pettine, PhD, CBM, faculty member at Kaplan University School of Business and Information Technology notes that it will be essential for managers to provide much more frequent feedback on performance for their employees. She believes “this can be done on a daily basis, and can be facilitated via text or e-mail. Continuous and meaningful short burst exchanges of performance feedback can revitalize a workforce and will become more embedded in organizations over the next few years.”

Recently, Adobe open-sourced its continuous performance model, “check-in.” The company has become a poster child for successfully moving trading annual reviews in for a continuous feedback process. By enabling a system for more frequent feedback, Adobe managers are able to reward employees based on performance and stay in-tune enough with employees’ work to have meaningful conversations that help them improve at work and for their long-term career goals.

Removing the Bias

Gender, according to Senior Vice President of Talent at the advertising and digital agency BARKER, still plays too large a role in the style and methodology of delivering feedback. Holding a bias based on gender, ethnicity or even memory can really impede the flow of helpful feedback. Similarly, when managers rely on their memory to conduct performance reviews instead of tracking and assessing performance over time, it’s the employee who suffers.  

Tim Elmore, President of leadership training company Growing Leaders, says future feedback will be reinforced by actual feedback examples or facts. Employees should feel emboldened to ask a manager who has just critiqued them questions like for “an example of when that happened.” To remove bias from the feedback equation we must present the facts and eliminate outside distractions, from gender to recent events.

Turning managers into coaches

Dorie Blesoff, Chief People Officer at kCura, encourages monthly performance coaching across her 600-person organization. The company’s internal data shows that consistent coaching increases both performance ratings and employee satisfaction. Blesoff is seeing a greater demand for feedback that specifically helps team members grow and feel connected to their leader, and a desire for a well-defined path for career growth.

Feedback is the common denominator between managers and employees. It gives managers the capability to coach employees to become better at their job, and set up for long-term career success. When organizations learn how to give feedback in real time, given in the context of work or an individual’s career trajectory, it becomes meaningful and easier for the employee to apply.

Feedback isn’t scary

Our brains are hypersensitive to anything we perceive as a potential threat. In their book, The Leading Brain, neuropsychologist Friedericke Fabritius, MS and leadership expert Hans Hagemann, Ph.D. discuss why a culture of fear isn’t beneficial for workers. In companies where employees are fearful to admit mistakes or reluctant to acknowledge weakness, it will only lead to a culture of distrust or doubt. Fabritius and Hagemann suggest “promoting role models who provide candid feedback in the work environment wherever and whenever it is needed” to reduce threat and increase trust.

This April, the Defense Department will roll out a new performance evaluation system for its 250,000 civilian employees, who work with the Air Force, Navy Bureau, National Guard and other services. The goal of the overhaul is to ensure no feedback comes as a shock to employees. Paige Hinkle-Bowles, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy told Federal News Radio, “One of the changes we are really trying to advocate through this system would be that we have communication throughout the ratings cycle and that the employees receive recognition and acknowledgement of their performance and their contribution to the nation throughout the ratings cycle and then there is nothing that comes as a surprise on the 365th day.”

AI will fill the gaps

Machine learning is already playing a starring role in the feedback process. For example, we’re leveraging AI to prompt peer feedback based on who employees work with most often. We can leverage data about employees, their work and their habits and apply pattern recognition technology to prompt feedback from relevant people, or to start conversations based on what’s most important to employees.

Even beyond feedback, organizations are leveraging AI to fill the skills gap, internally. Litmos, a learning management system by CallidusCloud, leverages automation to assign personalized learning programs based on competency gaps. This is just one example of how structured feedback can be leveraged to help employees learn and grow in their roles.

Feedback has various sources

Traditionally, we think of feedback as communication happening between managers and employees at a set time and place, but this mindset is holding us back. Feedback from other sources in various formats help employees love their job and work environment. Kim Scott, who has coached executives at Dropbox, Qualtrics and Twitter, believes companies should look for ways to operationalize impromptu feedback and peer kudos systems.

As millennials join the workforce and take on upper management roles, it’s prompting feedback from all directions. Laura Yip, co-founder and Chief People Officer at mobile game network Storm8, predicts that over the next few years, with more millennials moving into management roles, organizations will be more open-minded to giving and receiving upward feedback. Organizations that support giving and receiving feedback from all directions—whether it’s peer to peer feedback or between managers and employees—are creating more opportunities for employees to lean in on feedback to improve.

When organizations fully embrace feedback, it can change the entire demeanor of a workforce. Employees should enter their workplace knowing they have opportunities to improve and move forward in their career. To fully embrace HR 2.0, performance management and feedback must remain continuous. Employees deserve more than one-and-done feedback, and organizations shouldn’t miss the opportunity to retain and motivate their workforce.  

Do employees actually enjoy feedback?

When thinking of this question at first, it might initially seem that employees may not like the idea of feeling scrutinized by receiving feedback. However, this isn’t at all the case.

Research shows that employees look forward to feedback, as they see it as a way to be considered for a raise or a promotion. Without feedback, there is no way to accurately measure your progress so that you may reach personal goals.

How can companies receive feedback?

The best way for a company to receive feedback from their employees is to actively solicit it through an employee survey. These are also actually quite popular with employees, as they see it as a way to have their voices heard.

Of course, the best way to administer employee surveys is anonymously. Team members are much more likely to provide honest and thorough feedback under the cloak of anonymity.

Is peer-to-peer feedback important?

While managers can accurately study metrics and observe the performance of their team members, they don’t always catch everything. Whenever a team leader walks into a room, employees are probably on their best behavior.

However, other employees witness much more than managers, as they see the day-to-day activities performed, and they witness much more when it comes to team behavior. Surveys that reflect this information can be vital when it comes to painting a full picture.