There’s a growing chorus of voices asserting that the annual performance appraisal is dead. The arguments against the yearly review are plentiful; it’s time-consuming, focuses too much on highs and lows, and comes in too late (and not often enough) to have a meaningful impact.
Yet, companies that have eliminated reviews didn’t see a swelling of job satisfaction or increased productivity.
Instead, as one comprehensive study found, top performers were left unsatisfied, informal conversations between managers and team members decreased, and employee engagement went down.
Bring the best out of your people at every opportunity.
The truth is, people crave feedback on their work. They want to be recognized for a job well done, of course, but they also want to know how they can improve and grow within an organization.
Studies show that successful companies encourage a culture of feedback at every level of the organization, and not just at prescribed moments like a quarterly or annual appraisal.
When people feel comfortable sharing their work and asking for and receiving feedback, whether it’s on a daily, weekly, or per-project basis, it can motivate them to do their best work and keep striving to improve.
Creating a culture of feedback
By shifting the emphasis from KPIs and annual performance appraisal to professional growth and innovation, companies can transform the employee performance review into a process that facilitates a culture of recognition and feedback.
It falls to HR to empower managers and all employees to set goals and take an active part in this culture of feedback. Here are four tips to help get you started:
1. Create a framework for giving feedback
Think about what your organization needs most from a feedback framework (easy to use, makes feedback fun, promotes sharing), then find or create one that fits your needs. A robust HRIS (like Bob) can help you create your own language and culture around feedback that is tailored to your company and engages your people.
Applying a framework that encourages dialogue, coaching, and continuous feedback takes a lot of consideration and tweaking. Start with a self-auditing process to evaluate what’s currently being done and to identify areas of improvement. From there, propose new solutions and monitor the changes to find out what works best.
2. Run a workshop on how to give and receive effective feedback
There’s no single way to give feedback. Give your employees the tools to provide feedback that is not only well-received but also encourages positive change.
One method used by Netflix is the Stop/Keep/Start model. Ask those you work closest with to answer three simple questions; What should I stop doing? What should I keep doing? What should I start doing?
Framing feedback in this context is simple and effective. It gives the person asking for feedback concrete areas to focus and improve on and creates an environment where feedback comes from all directions, not just from the top down.
Another popular model is the Situation-Behavior-Impact method. This allows you to structure your feedback in a manner that makes it easily understandable and provides context, which is key.
Clarifying the situation, describing the specific behaviors observed, and explaining the impact that the person’s behavior had on you or the team can pinpoint specific problems. It enables people to address shortcomings and provide solutions or extra insight.
Find a method that works for your people and teach them how to be effective communicators and listeners. Empower managers to offer concrete feedback in the moment instead of shying away from an opportunity to address an issue.
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3. Make feedback a habit, not just an annual task
The more you give or receive feedback, the more normal it feels. Try instituting a “Feedback Friday” program where teams can gather once a week to talk openly about work and recognize team players who went above and beyond. Or try using informal shout outs to celebrate successes and highlight individual performances.
4. Think about feedback at all moments of the employee journey
Feedback is as valuable for directors as it is for interns and is as important for employees on their way out the door as for those hoping for a foot in the door.
One great example of this comes from Airbnb, which offers applicants who didn’t get the job a rare chance to get feedback on the hiring decision. This helps applicants stay positive towards Airbnb; the company found that after instituting the feedback policy, more people come back to apply a second time, but with more relevant experience and a better understanding of which roles are right for them.
When feedback is frequent and ongoing, it leads to increased morale, engagement, and employee development. As an HR professional, you have the power to transform the culture of feedback at your company. Give it a try. Your people will thank you for it.