Why Getting (And Giving) Employee Feedback Once A Year Isn’t Enough
Traditionally, performance review time rolls around once per year. Managers and their employees collectively dread this ritual, because what it really means is that they’re faced with the prospect of tedious meetings, pointless paperwork, and a process that leaves everyone unsatisfied.
Yet 72% of companies still perform annual performance reviews despite evidence that they aren’t particularly effective. Learn why getting (and giving) employee feedback once per year isn’t enough and how you can transform your review process.
Why Yearly Employee Feedback Isn’t Enough
A 2005 survey found that a whopping 87% of managers of employees don’t think annual reviews are effective.
Some of the most common criticisms are that they are overly simplistic, inherently subjective, vulnerable to bias, and pit team members against one another (obviously not great for morale). Plus, doling out feedback on a yearly basis is unlikely to result in positive change. Employees getting negative feedback feel undervalued and frustrated, making them more likely to leave your organization. At the same time, employees who get positive feedback only at this once-a-year-checkpoint often go on autopilot if they don’t receive valuable recognition or opportunities for growth on a more regular basis.
Those are just the drawbacks. What you stand to gain if you make the effort to get employee feedback more than once a year are also significant; you gain motivated and engaged employees who feel recognized, you get more honest insight into what’s working and what isn’t working in your company culture, and you get a work environment that is more supportive and less secretive.
Clearly, there are a LOT of arguments in favor of gathering employee feedback more often than once a year. Here are a few specific steps on how to update your organization’s approach to employee feedback:
How to Improve Your Organization’s Review Process
1. Train managers to give frequent feedback.
Getting feedback once per year is far too infrequent to stimulate meaningful change. Instead, work with managers to develop a system for providing more frequent feedback. This can happen through weekly or monthly one-on-ones or through an informal mechanism. The important thing is for managers to provide concrete, constructive feedback on employees’ work. This should include comments about how to improve performance as well as kudos for a job well done. More than three-quarters of American employees are not satisfied with the amount of recognition they receive at work, meaning that positive feedback is just as important — or perhaps more important — as correcting negative aspects of performance. Creating a mechanism for peer recognition is another great way to provide feedback and reward good performance.
2. Consider a 360 review process.
Traditionally, managers evaluate their team members’ performance for annual reviews. Yet managers are often removed from the day-to-day actions of their employees, making this top-down approach biased and unfair. Employees’ peers and their own underlings are more likely to have a good understanding of the person’s strengths and weaknesses. A 360 review incorporates feedback from all of the people who interact with an employee, providing a more holistic review.
3. Rethink metrics of performance.
The very nature of a performance review requires that you come up with some metrics of a person’s performance. Too often, this results in a focus on hard numbers that quantify productivity. Unfortunately, this does not capture the “soft skills” that often make employees so valuable to a team. Creativity, interpersonal effectiveness, problem solving abilities, and teamwork are valuable qualities that can be difficult to capture during a review process. Ensure your review touches on each of these areas to get a well-rounded picture of an employee’s strengths and areas for growth.
4. Solicit feedback on your own performance.
Too often, performance reviews become a one-way street of managers giving feedback to employees. Instead, think of them as a back-and-forth conversation. Reviews are an opportunity for each party to discuss what is working and what could improve. Directly soliciting feedback on your own performance as a manager is critical to the success of your team yet is often overlooked. Doing so — assuming you take a non-defensive stance — can boost morale and improve productivity.
5. Focus on development.
Approximately 87% of Millennials say professional development opportunities are “very important,” yet many feel as though they don’t get the opportunities they need. This provides a critical avenue for managers to improve employee engagement and retention. Rather than focusing on an employee’s ability to do his or her current job, frame your discussion around ways to help your employee develop new skills. Use the review process to discuss your employees’ career goals and training opportunities. Directly asking, “how can we use your skills better?” engages your employee in the decision-making process and cultivates a growth-oriented environment.
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