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Real-Time Performance Feedback – Just a Fad or Here to Stay?

real-time performance feedbackGoldman Sachs recently redesigned its annual performance review process and introduced a new system that would allow employees to send and receive real-time performance feedback. JPMorgan Chase also introduced a new web-based app this year to allow employees to request and receive feedback from anyone, anytime.

We are strong believers that both employees and managers should get regular feedback on how they are performing and how they can improve. Waiting for the contrived, once-a-year performance review to have that discussion is often too little, too late. Receiving constant feedback aligns nicely in our modern age of instant messaging and instant gratification.

But can too much feedback be too much? While doing away with the dreaded annual performance review would be a welcome development for many employees, introducing real-time performance feedback is not without its challenges.

If your organization is looking to implement a real-time performance feedback process, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

1. Nothing Replaces Talking to Staff One-on-One, Face-to-Face
Any performance feedback is better than no performance feedback so implementing a real-time performance review system is a good way to get in the habit. However, even if you implement a web-based process, you still need to have face-to-face communication. Written commentary is one form of communication. Verbal communication where employees can ask for clarification, read body language and hear intonation provides for more complete and more honest feedback.

2. Provide Effective Feedback
Giving someone a “thank you” and a “pat on the back” is a good start. However, truly effective feedback, whether positive or constructive, includes more than that. Basic steps to providing good feedback include:

  • Describe the behaviour that you like or don’t like;
  • Provide some specific examples of situations where the behaviour was observed;
  • Describe the impact or consequences of that behaviour on the company and why it’s important; and
  • Reinforce the behaviour expected going forward.

Sending a “thumbs up” or “clapping hands” emoji will give a quick temperature check; however, it does not necessarily convey what the person did well. Include more details in your comments so that it is understood what behaviours you are recognizing and reinforcing.

3. Save the Negative Comments for Off-Line
We’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. In a performance review context, this axiom doesn’t hold true. Employees should be told the good things they’re doing as well as areas where they can improve. However, not everything should be discussed online, in an open, public forum. If you want to provide negative performance feedback, suggestions for improvement, or simply tell someone they aren’t meeting expectations, we’d suggest doing this in private, face to face. This is a potentially sensitive topic for an employee and should not be for public consumption.

4. Don’t Let Commenters Hide Behind the Technology
Internet trolling has become a nasty, unsavoury aspect of being online. People hide behind their computers and smartphones, spewing mean, sarcastic, disrespectful comments about others, without consequence, simply because they can. If your real-time performance reviews allow for employees to provide comments to each other, make sure that you have a mechanism in place to prevent trolling internally. Ensure that commenters are identified. Set ground rules for how and what is appropriate commentary. Ensure that you reiterate your company’s respect in the workplace policy. Continue to denounce bullying, harassment and discrimination in your performance review process.

5. Take Quick Comments With a Grain of Salt
When it’s too easy to provide comments, feedback may be given without as much attention and care as is needed. For example, you may spend more time and attention writing a letter than you would writing an email than you would sending a text message. Comments provided in a real-time performance review system may be overly simple and may not provide enough detail to be truly helpful. Or, they may give a general perception but the nuances and more constructive comments may be omitted. Encourage follow-up and discussions outside of the performance review tool to get better feedback.

Giving performance feedback to employees is a critical function for any manager. While annual performance reviews may be going out of vogue, the principles of a performance review still hold. Provide timely performance feedback. Provide specific examples of desirable and undesirable behaviours. Set goals and targets for the future. Ask for feedback from employees on how you, their manager, can improve your management approach. Providing real-time performance feedback using an online process is one way to augment a traditional performance management system.

If you have questions or would like assistance in creating a performance review process for your Vancouver-based small business, please contact Clear HR Consulting.

 

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