June 16, 2018 · Human Resource Management, Instant Feedback,
The Changing Performance Paradigm
The performance paradigm is changing from a static, one-time annual intervention to an ongoing, agile and conversational process. The changing nature of work itself is partly responsible for this shift- work is taking on a highly dynamic flavor, owing to the VUCA world that businesses have to navigate. Another contributing factor is the new-age employee who is tuned in to the “always-on” way of life. “Instant gratification” is the new-generation norm, and this expectation seeps into the personal as well as professional lives of employees. It is no surprise that employees are looking for a similar “instant” experience at the workplace. This change is driving the rise of the continuous performance management process.
A study  by PwC shows that millennials expect rapid progression, a varied and interesting career and constant feedback. 51% of respondents quoted that feedback should be given very frequently or continually on the job and only 1% said that feedback was not important to them.
Enhancing Employee Performance with Continuous Feedback
Continuous feedback is all about providing ongoing feedback to employees by openly discussing goals, expectations, goal-attainment, strengths and weaknesses, and other performance parameters. It entails a dialogue-and-coaching approach to managing employees’ performance. Feedback has always been a part of the performance appraisal process. However, continuous feedback ensures discussions and dialogue through periodic “check-ins”.
Some of the key elements that go into making a great continuous feedback process are:
- Goal-setting dialogue: Goals are set through an open discussion between employee and manager, and the employee’s career goals and aspirations are heard, rather than a mere top-down goals-cascade.
- Open communication: In continuous feedback mechanisms, open communication channels allow the employee voice to be heard every step of the way. Honest and objective feedback is provided.
- Celebrating successes in real-time: Millennials today want to feel that their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognized. Instant and continuous feedback upholds this value, by keeping employees informed about their progress. Employees today are seldom willing to wait till the year-end to celebrate achievements. Often by the time the high performer receives the recognition, its relevance would have faded out. So celebrating wins in real-time becomes critical. Also, the means of celebration too have changed, today much of recognition has gone virtual with public social feeds, ‘walls of fame’ and ‘company walls’.
- Timely improvement: The continuous feedback mechanism avoids throwing up surprises. Employees are informed well in advance about their lack of performance, and given opportunities to course-correct in a congenial environment.
- Coaching mindset: Managers are expected to hand-hold their employees to be their best selves, offering them the flexibility and guidance that they need. This enhances the employee-employer relationship by building trust.
- Fostering collaboration: The continuous feedback mechanism seeks inputs and insights from various stakeholders to create a documented dialogue about employee or team performance. This collaborative approach not only minimizes bias, but also encourages team work.
- Employee development: Correlating continuous feedback to learning needs helps equip employees with the right trainings to build their skills. This in turn helps employees make more informed career choices in the right direction.
- Better employee morale: Continuous feedback makes employees feel heard and valued. This boosts employee morale and employee engagement, leading to lower turnover. With lower turnover, employees are more likely to improve productivity and profitability .
Continuous Feedback and the High Performance Organization
At the organization-end, continuous feedback is the cornerstone of a great organizational culture. In a highly complex business environment, taking frequent pit-stops for performance assessment helps teams and organizations course-correct at the right time. Today, business challenges crop up frequently, and waiting a whole year for the annual performance review cycle to kick in is simply not an option. Responsiveness to problem management has to be very high, for those who are not responsive may perish soon. Continuous and instant feedback is a prime means to align employees’ goals and actions with the outlined organizational goals. When the two are aligned, better employee performance fosters higher productivity and thereby, high organizational performance. Moreover, the technology-tools that drive continuous feedback allow for better documentation and record-keeping of performance data.
91% of companies that have adopted continuous performance management say
that they now have better data for people decisions. 
Continuous and instant feedback is thus a powerful tool to enable and empower employees so that they outperform and help the organization deliver high performance.
The Continuous Feedback ConstructOrganizations must design these feedback mechanisms in a structured way to integrate continuous feedback into the organizational ethos. Leaders must understand that a continuous feedback mechanism cannot stand by itself, because performance management is strongly interlinked with other people processes such as learning and development and career pathing. It is therefore important to factor in these linkages while designing a continuous feedback mechanism. Here is how to truly live the continuous feedback paradigm.
- Embrace technology: Having the right agile performance management system can make a huge difference to the success of a continuous feedback project. Select the right “check-in” HR systems and processes which are intuitive, user-friendly and scalable and you will see your employees take to continuous feedback naturally.
- Develop a conducive mindset: Create a neutral, friendly atmosphere where employees feel safe to speak up their minds. Leaders must establish open communication channels and learn to accept feedback. While HR systems will do their bit, a continuous feedback culture is more of a mindset change. Embrace the values of collaboration, communication and sharing and see your feedback mechanism work wonders for employees and organization.
- Build manager capability: Continuous feedback is a significant shift from “reprimanding for past performance” versus “building future performance”. Managers must be trained to let go of a directive and reprimanding attitude and become coaches and guides for their teams.
- Correlate feedback to skill-building: Performance appraisals capture the learning needs of employees which are then translated to individual, functional and organizational training needs. The L&D function must work backwards, foreseeing the skill-needs of the future, and incorporating these into the continuous feedback process. This will help cultivate a continuous learning culture and groom talent for the future. BizMerlin’s “Instant Feedback” application makes this possible by linking feedback to the relevant skills.
- Extend it to partners: Why limit the wonderful construct to internal people i.e. employees? You can apply the principles of continuous feedback to seek inputs and build relationships with external parties like partners, vendors, and clients too. This will help gain client appreciation and build a brand as a future-forward organization that is receptive and responsive to changing client expectations.
Continuous feedback is all about embracing conversations, collaboration and communication. The real proof of the pudding lies in making continuous feedback a continuous phenomenon. A strong leadership commitment coupled with the right technological backbone can make this happen. If businesses never stop operating, why should a key business-enabler like continuous performance management stop? . [ak1]