HR: Real Time Feedback Vs. Annual Review

By Steph Breunig, HR Practice Leader

At Fine Point Consulting, we are firm believers in getting daily input on how staff and managers are doing and how they can improve. It's always too little, too late to have the conversation during the contrived, once-a-year performance evaluation. The worst-case scenario is having to terminate an underperforming employee and having them be surprised they are not doing a good job. 

While doing away with the dreaded annual performance review would be a welcome development for many employees, introducing frequent performance feedback is not without its challenges. Time is money and providing frequent feedback means time - there’s no way around that. But in the end, investing in people is wise and utilizing real-time performance reviews invests in your people, and ultimately makes them better skilled employees. Here are a few considerations as you start to think about leveling up your performance evaluations to a real-time model:

Nothing Replaces a Staff One-on-One
There are tools available for web-based evaluations and those can be great for quick feedback but should be used in tandem with face-to-face evaluations. At Fine Point Consulting we often give positive feedback via the app Slack, which can be a quick appreciation for great behavior. But that is just a quick “good job!” and specifics should come later. Verbal communication where employees can ask for clarification, read body language and hear intonation provides for more complete and more honest feedback.

Provide Effective Feedback
All feedback is not created equally. Truly efficient feedback, whether positive or constructive, requires more than a “good job” or a pat on the back:

In providing good feedback, basic steps include:

  • Include some concrete examples of the undesired behavior.
  • Explain the effect or effects of that behavior.
  • Reinforce the changes you want to see.

Take the Negative Comments Off-Line
We have all heard the saying, "If you don't have anything good to say, say nothing at all." This term doesn't hold true in a performance appraisal sense. Employees should be aware of the positive things they do and places where they can change. However, not everything should be discussed online. 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 face to face. This is a potentially sensitive topic for an employee and should be delivered in person, where the recipient of the information can ask questions and read body language and tone.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Web-based performance tools can be a quick and easy way to provide instant and frequent feedback but should be considered as part of your performance evaluation system, rather than the whole system itself. At Fine Point Consulting, we utilize both Slack and weekly one-on-one meetings that serve as this real time feedback. Slack is reserved for quick feedback- the cheers and the wows we give each other for being awesome. But we also employ weekly one-on-ones, held in person or virtually, that are 30 min or less- just a check-in of successes, pain points and anything else on the horizon. In addition to these weekly meetings, we also have a  “Results” evaluation monthly. This is based on the employee’s position objectives and both the employee and manager rate the employee monthly. This system at Fine Point works for us and can be adjusted for nearly all employers.

Giving performance feedback to employees is a critical function for any manager. While annual performance reviews may be going out of style, the principles of a performance review still hold. Provide timely performance feedback. Provide specific examples of desirable and undesirable behaviors. Set goals and targets for the future. Ask for feedback from employees on how you, their manager, can improve your management approach. 

If you have questions or would like assistance in creating a performance review process for your small business, please contact Fine Point Consulting HR

Fine Point Consulting is a boutique consulting firm offering expert-level professional accounting & human resources services customized to meet your budget. We help entrepreneurs who are trying to scale fast, get more done, and stay lean.

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