There are countless new tools on the market to help us revamp our performance management processes and to facilitate more efficient systems of feedback. But tools can’t make lasting change on their own. To set our organizations up for success in today’s nonstop business climate, we need to build a culture in which constant, productive feedback isn’t just accepted—it’s embraced.
Our Performance Management Reimagined Program is designed to help you shape your own perspective on the performance review process and the role feedback plays in it. Consider these four tips for transitioning from a traditional performance review and feedback system to a continuous one:
1. Communicate early and often: As with any change, we need to bring employees and managers into the dialogue—and do it early. If we wait until we’ve selected a new technology and outlined the expectations for how it’ll be used, we’ve missed a huge opportunity. By bringing employees into the change early, it allows us to get buy-in and empowers managers to take charge of the new process. Once the change is in place, we need to continue to communicate—and get feedback—on the new system so it can be continuously refined.
2. Break it down into phases: When it comes to a huge transition like this one—especially because it involves such sensitive areas and complex communication—a “rip the band-aid” approach can backfire. By doing a huge change all at once, employees can feel unsettled and disoriented. Instead, break it down into six or even nine months. If you’re starting from annual reviews, for example, begin by having quarterly employee-led conversations. Once that skill is in place, encourage people to have them more often. As you slowly shift from one kind of feedback to another, employees and managers have room to adjust.
3. Build skills: Within each phase, look at the core skills that employees and managers need to build. Employees who are less accustomed to giving feedback might wonder what they’re supposed to say when asked to provide it. Others might wonder about protocols and standards: should they ask for feedback from a colleague with whom they’ve only had one conversation? Teach everyone standards for how to give feedback, how to receive it, and how to ask for it. Give them opportunities to practice and, even, to get feedback on their feedback.
4. Look for and highlight change: Once people understand continuous feedback and become comfortable with it, a cascading effect happens. One company found that a kind of generosity loop begins to happen: someone who provided feedback is three times more likely to ask for it. Online feedback also often translates to in-person conversations, which give people even more information about what they need to change and how. As you start to see these changes, find avenues—like all-staff meetings or town halls—to share the effects that the new system is having. That, too, will increase the number of people giving and receiving feedback.