How frequent feedback drives performance management

Continuous feedback loops are replacing formal annual or biannual reviews – but the new system needs to be planned out to make these changes effective.

Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup South Africa explains that many businesses have moved toward frequent check-ins, touch points and coaching for employees – in lieu of more traditional performance reviews.

There is a good reason for this transition, as shorter cycles between feedback create more flexibility and actionable goals for both managers and employees – which can assist in improving morale, productivity and overall employee engagement.

However, before a company rushes to join the annual review-free ranks, it’s also important to carefully consider which strategies will help maximise the results of frequent feedback – such as the below examples.

Discuss short- and long-term career goals

The traditional annual performance review may ask where employees want to end up in one, two or five years. The shorter review cycle provides an opportunity to consider not just job titles, but rather roles and projects within an organisation. For example, an employee may want to explore learning a specific job skill for a shorter period of weeks or months, and then reflect and consider how that skill fits into larger future goals.

A Right Management survey published this year found that around 82% of respondents said they would be more engaged if their managers would have regular career conversations with them; and ManpowerGroup’s Global Career Conversation 2016 study revealed that a full two-thirds of individual performance drivers are tied to career conversations.

Career conversations can offer opportunities to discover a wide range of skill sets in the short term that may fit into longer-term career goals. “It is clear that career conversations are crucial to carer development, and are increasingly important for businesses as they continue to evolve with the changing landscape,” says van den Barselaar.

Be flexible – when necessary

It can be readily apparent early on in a project if performance metrics will be met, exceeded or fall short. The same is true of employee performance. The benefit of a frequent check in with managers means that goal metrics can be adjusted, where necessary. A manager should be cautious of adjusting the goalposts too much, but with buy-in from an employee, a goal can become dynamic over time. Adjusting upward, downward or deciding to stay the course will be more motivating than a static goal off in the distance.

Consider autonomy, mastery and meaning

The core principles of motivational goal setting still apply. Companies need to abandon the binary choice of moving up or moving out, and allow lateral moves into specialty areas. Check-ins should celebrate growth by identifying skills that employees have mastered. Finally, reviews should provide insight into how contributions align to the strategic goals of the business. Reminding employees of autonomy, mastery and meaning on a regular basis will increase motivation for the long term.

Rethinking performance reviews is a healthy practice, but the replacement system needs to adapt to the new format, rather than become a series of mini annual reviews. With careful thought around the goals of performance management, a new method that benefits managers, employees and the company alike can emerge. “Like almost anything in a business, strategies around this kind of organisational change need to be carefully considered and implemented in the right way to ensure the best results,” concludes van den Barselaar.

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