Build a Winning Continuous Employee Feedback Process in 10 Easy Steps
Trying to decide on a new performance review style? Companies have long used annual appraisals to allocate rewards. This performance management approach measures the impact of past work in the hope of learning lessons and building on them in the future.
But 80 years down the line and employees are keen to receive continuous employee feedback instead of waiting for an annual catch-up.
Take it from Cargill, a Minneapolis-based food producer, and distributor that needed a better performance management system to motivate its 160,000-strong global workforce. Cargill now embraces on-the-job, daily conversations between managers and employees, ditching annual reviews in favor of an "Everyday Performance Management" system.
HR Daily Advisor reports that 70% of Cargill employees feel more valued as they gain helpful guidance from their superiors. The company has also achieved a 40% improvement in performance overall. Follow in the footsteps of Cargill by reading our guide — we'll show you exactly how to implement continuous employee feedback and start reaping the rewards of this valuable system.
🔄 What is continuous feedback?
Continuous feedback loops are two-way communication channels between an employee and a manager. The ongoing feedback can be about work-related skills, knowledge, attitudes, behavior, etc. The key to a successful continuous feedback system is that it happens regularly, in the moment, and is actionable.
"Continuous feedback can improve communication between managers and employees.
Employees are more likely to feel comfortable communicating with their managers on a regular basis, and managers are more likely to be aware of any concerns that employees may have. This can lead to open and effective communication between the two parties, which can be beneficial for both the manager and the employee." Omer Usanmaz, CEO and Co-Founder of Qooper, a mentoring and coaching platform.
🏆 8 Benefits of continuous feedback
Continuous feedback has clear benefits for both employees and employers.
1. Forges stronger relationships
Traditional performance reviews haven't focused heavily on the interaction between managers and individual contributors. Instead, they've focused more on the numbers and whether an employee has hit their targets. The alternative?
A continuous feedback model provides scope for an open dialogue. It creates opportunities for managers to build stronger relationships with their direct reports and get to know them as people, not just cogs in a machine.
2. Encourages employee development
Cracking the whip once a year isn't motivating and doesn't provide employees with frequent check-ins that drive continuous performance. When managers commit to providing ongoing feedback, it tells employees that their development is a priority. This regular interaction also allows for on-the-job coaching and mentoring, rather than waiting until it's too late to course correct.
"If an employee is struggling with a particular skill, the manager can provide feedback and help develop a plan to improve. Additionally, if an employee is excelling in a certain area, the manager can help the employee identify ways to build on that strength.
By linking the feedback to career development plans, employees will know that their performance is being closely monitored and that their career development is a priority for the company." - Michelle Hague, HR Manager of Solar Panels Network USA.
3. Boosts collaboration
Companies that are open to a 360-degree review culture gather and distribute feedback from peers and junior colleagues, as well as managers. The emphasis on sharing ideas in a safe space creates an environment where collaboration is the norm.
Harvard Business Review reports that Google has an interesting approach to peer selection. Each employee sends a list of colleagues to their manager, who then determines whether each nominee would provide substantive and unbiased feedback.
It's a system that works: after switching to this peer-based review system, Google now enjoys a 26% improvement in workers who found the feedback system helpful.
4. Provides an accurate account of employee performance
When managers wait to give feedback only once a year, they're more likely to focus on extremes that limit their ability to provide an accurate account of their average performance. Examples of problematic feedback include:
- Recency bias - when the most recent event carries more weight than everything that's gone before
- Halo effect - when one strong trait overshadows everything else
- Primacy effect - when the first thing you notice about someone has a disproportionate influence on your opinion of them.
Tip: Overcome these natural feedback biases with frequent check-ins that are more likely to be accurate and objective.
5. Simplified goal management and employee recognition
It's easier to track individual goals when managers check in frequently to make suggestions, offer training resources or help employees realign their goals with the company's strategy. This process also allows managers to give credit where it's due as soon as an employee hits a milestone.
This is precisely what Gen Y workers are looking for. LinkedIn reports that a whopping 80% prefer instant feedback and praise rather than receiving feedback in a review setting.
➡️ Check out 42 meaningful employee recognition ideas to boost engagement
6. Delivers real-time insights
The traditional annual performance review can sometimes feel like a post-mortem where managers scramble to pull together all of an employee's accomplishments from the last 12 months.
Continuous feedback is an efficient alternative. It provides managers with real-time insights into employee performance. For example, if a sales employee didn't hit their targets this week, how can they work together with their manager to achieve better figures next week?
7. Decreases attrition
MIT Sloan Management Review explains that failure to recognize performance is one of the most significant drivers of attrition during the Great Resignation. Specifically, "employees are more likely to leave companies that fail to distinguish between high performers and laggards."
Employees seek recognition in terms of informal praise and financial incentives. Plus, high-performing employees resent the lack of recognition for their hard work.
8. Enhances productivity
The relationship between performance reviews and productivity is interesting. In 1927, psychologist Elton Mayo conducted a socioeconomic experiment based on female workers at the Hawthorne Works factory of the Western Electric Company in Illinois. Mayo adjusted their working conditions, rest periods, lighting, supervision, and hours to look for trends related to performance and productivity.
The Hawthorne Studies concluded that observing the workers increased productivity more than adjusting their wages or other conditions. In other words, employees are more likely to perform better when they know supervisors are monitoring their efforts.
🔍 Why is continuous feedback a better approach than annual performance appraisals?
Continuous employee feedback is the modern approach to performance management. An ongoing 360-degree feedback culture allows unbiased, fully customized feedback to drive performance, engagement, and growth. Annual reviews are out of favor as bias, forgetfulness, and lack of context can all impact the value of a yearly appraisal.
We spoke to Jo Taylor, Head of Talent of TalkTalk, Head of Learning at Channel 4, and now MD of Let's Talk Talent, to ask her opinion on why a continuous feedback process trumps traditional annual reviews. She told us:
"Continuous feedback is important in how we motivate and value contribution for our people. How else do we learn if we are not giving feedback on a regular basis? This more informal and regular approach to employee feedback allows two-way development conversations. It creates trust, care, and psychologically safe places to work, where people thrive in.
Managers who truly listen to their team, and follow up on actions in a more regular way, remove the anxiety that people have around the impending doom of an annual performance review. There is an opportunity to turn conversations on performance on the head when people talk about minimum requirements to really unlocking their passion and potential."
💡 10 Steps to building a continuous performance feedback culture
You're all set to create your own performance feedback culture by using the following building blocks.
1. Communicate the benefits of continuous feedback
Start by getting your team onside, beginning at the top of the tree. Senior management needs to see the value in a continuous feedback system to buy into the idea. Forbes provides two stats that are sure to win over your stakeholders:
- 43% of employees who self-identify as highly engaged receive feedback at least weekly.
- 89% of HR leaders believe that continuous peer feedback produces successful outcomes.
Enthusiasm and buy-in from the top will trickle down throughout the rest of the organization. Hold presentations and information sessions to showcase the benefits of a continuous feedback system so your staff feels excited about furthering their growth.
2. Select the right technology
Scaling up your feedback frequency doesn't need to be time or labor-intensive, so long as you use the right tools. Automation handles the repetitive elements of your feedback process and allows you to focus on more creative tasks.
When feedback works well, your employees won't just take feedback; they'll also actively seek it out.
Integrating this into your chosen performance management software makes it easy for your team to request feedback from their peers and managers.
➡️ Zavvy's 360 feedback tool provides a holistic overview of your employees' activities and how they impact team, performance, and culture.
3. Train managers to deliver constructive feedback
Your managers will be the driving force behind a successful feedback culture, so they have to be equipped with the skills to deliver feedback effectively.
The last thing you want is to demotivate your workforce by increasing negative feedback without any sense of purpose.
Gallup's research on feedback styles tells us that 80% of employees seek new external roles if they feel negative following managerial feedback. And only 10.4% of employees reported a feeling of engagement after receiving negative feedback.
Tip: Get around this by teaching your feedback-givers about the differences between reinforcement and redirecting feedback. Then, share with them example phrases so they can properly deliver the right message.
4. Encourage peer-to-peer feedback
Peer feedback should form a regular part of your 360-degree review process. But the O.C Tanner Global Culture Report highlighted that only 32% of employees receive regular feedback from their peers.
Prioritize this important growth source by offering roundtable discussions, where employees can give and receive feedback in a group setting. These work well for skills-based training, for example, if you're trying to improve customer service skills company-wide.
5. Schedule weekly feedback sessions
Employees and managers should have a clear timeline for regular check-ins. The key is to ensure this time is set-aside in both calendars so there's no chance of feedback falling by the wayside.
This could be a weekly 1:1 meeting or simply dropping by an employee's desk for a quick catch-up.
Tip: There's no need for the session to be lengthy.
Inc.com reports that 67% of Gen Z employees want to receive feedback from their manager in bite-sized chunks of 5 minutes or less.
6. Collect feedback from remote teams
It's easy for remote employees to feel ostracized, so it's essential they're included in your feedback process too. You might need to adjust your feedback questions and targets to be relevant to your distributed team, for example, focusing on team communication styles.
7. Link feedback to development plans
Don't dish out feedback for the sake of it – use it to supercharge growth and development. Zippia reports that 69% of employees would work harder if they felt that their managers recognized their efforts through feedback.
Tip: Harness this effort by devising a clear link between employee role cards, growth plans, and feedback so each employee knows how to achieve their developmental goals.
8. Create a continuous improvement board
Use a physical board or a shared online space to track your company's progress against its feedback goals. This will show employees how they're impacting the bottom line and encourage them to keep up the good work.
Don't forget to celebrate any successes along the way too. Employee Appreciation Day falls on the first Friday in March, but we should recognize success throughout the year.
O.C Tanner reports a 289% increase in success and a 166% improvement in leadership when companies incorporate everyday-effort recognition into their rewards programs.
9. Make informed decisions based on employee feedback
Step back from focusing on individual growth and use employee feedback insights to empower your broader business strategy decisions.
Example 1: if there are multiple instances of communication problems among departments, it might be time to introduce some cross-departmental training.
Example 2: if you spot a trend of low morale around a particular time of year, try scheduling company-wide social events to raise spirits.
10. Repeat the feedback process
Remember: employee feedback is a journey, not a one-time event. So, rinse and repeat your process as often as needed. This will ensure your team continuously develops and grows in line with your company objectives. Incorporate the following (as needed):
- peer reviews to give colleagues a chance to rate each other.
- self-evaluations, so employees have the opportunity to reflect on their performance.
- upward feedback from direct reports to their supervisors.
- downward feedback from managers to their direct reports.
➡️ Zavvy enables a continuous performance feedback culture
Creating a continuous performance culture shouldn't be daunting.
Zavvy's employee enablement software takes you through the steps needed to build a continuous feedback system that could run seamlessly in the background.
If you want to skyrocket your business results while prioritizing employee experience, arrange a free demo of Zavvy's 360 feedback tool today.