Written by Sanja Licina, Ph.D.
Organizations seem to have an overwhelming increased desire to improve performance management processes. It may come as no surprise since over the years performance reviews in particular have developed a bad reputation. While their purpose is to provide information and promote employee growth, the process has often turned into a disengaging and unproductive exchange where goals are checked off, and ranked with percentages, with little actionable insights for how employees can actually develop and grow. With the ongoing challenge of these traditional processes, organizations keep looking for better ways to share insights with employees on how they can improve their job performance. Fortunately, new platforms are giving leaders better ways to approach the process, and at the same time empower employees to take more ownership of their careers.
How can companies evolve their performance management process to actually serve its purpose?
How can they inspire employees to improve their job performance, work harder, smarter, and gain the valuable skill set to grow?
Here are five best practices companies can follow to create an environment that promotes constructive, real-time feedback to help with employee performance and career growth.
Shift the focus away from only having formal evaluations to providing real-time feedback.
The key to establishing a growing and productive workforce is by creating a supportive organizational culture with a developmental mindset. The first step is to make the decision to move the organization away from infrequent and formal evaluations, and create an environment where performance conversations are expected to happen on ongoing basis. One way companies can create this environment is by more actively involving their employees in the process, through encouraging peer-to-peer feedback, not leaving those conversations only to managers and leaders. Involving all employees can significantly increase their belief in the new way of career development and help speed up the cultural change.
Focus real-time feedback on development.
Traditional performance reviews that focus on achieving or missing goals have two key challenges. One is that with infrequent feedback employees had little knowledge of how they were performing or how they could improve until it was too late. The second is that when they did get feedback throughout the year, it often focused on how close they were to completion of the goal, not how they can achieve it better. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that one of the best ways to help employees thrive is to give them real-time, constructive and positive feedback. By focusing on tangible performance examples and providing real-time suggestions for improvement, managers and peers can not only make it easier for the employee to accept constructive feedback, but employees will see the true value of these insights as they will give them the knowledge on how to improve their performance in a timely way.
Emphasize skill and competency development in feedback.
In addition to focusing on improving performance looking ahead, giving employees tangible suggestions for improvement is key. Companies are increasingly looking for ways to tie skills and competencies to specific goals in order to make feedback more actionable. In doing this, employees will have more clarity and understanding what specific actions they can take to improve their performance, making them feel more in control of not only their performance, but also how they can continue to advance their career. When employees feel supported in their development, and see a pathway to progressing through a company, their engagement increases and they are more motivated to succeed.
Establish peer-to-peer feedback as the norm.
Valuable ideas for performance improvement can come from anyone in the organization, not only from managers or executives. Often times employees have even more frequent interaction with their peers than direct managers, making their colleagues an invaluable source for developmental feedback. Furthermore, when it comes to feedback on specific skills and competencies, who is better to suggest ways to grow than those who are in the same job, doing the same type of work and likely sharing very similar goals.
Use technology to help create a culture of ongoing feedback.
In addition to encouraging their employees to participate, and asking leaders to lead by example, companies are increasingly using technologies as another way to make real-time feedback easier. While in-person feedback always remains a great option, for many workers finding the time, or having the right level of comfort, to share constructive insights, may be a challenge. For this reason providing employees with different mediums to share feedback increases the likelihood for them to share post positive and constructive insights with their colleagues, in real-time.
An increasing number of organizations are re-evaluating their performance management programs by enhancing them with data backed platforms to give their employees the ability to grow, develop and succeed on a continuous basis. We feel optimistic that with all the energy behind these efforts we’ll see more and more companies build an organizational culture where employees will be increasingly empowered with the right information to improve their performance and grow their careers.