Continuous feedback and performance management

12 February 2018

This article was featured in the March 2018 issue of the magazine.

Asimina Stamatiou, senior business analyst at MHR, discusses employee engagement and the effectiveness of check-ins

The last decade has seen a shift in human resources (HR) best practice to focus on employee engagement and the reinvention of performance management. More than seventy per cent of the companies studied in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends (http://bit.ly/2mb4bJ6) research said they are well on their way to reinventing the performance management process. These organisations have moved away from a top-down approach to a holistic employee and team-led approach. 

In a previous article we explored the shift from conducting annual appraisal reviews to a process of continuous feedback via the use of check-ins. In 2017, we asked ourselves if it is time to ‘check-in’ and in 2018 the answer we are seeing is that check-ins are here to stay.

A check-in is a short but regular conversation between an employee and their manager. The aim is to effectively engage and manage performance without the formality of an annual performance review. 

Arranging check-ins is not just down to the manager, as the employees also have the power to do this. This gives employees greater control and responsibility for their experience at work and creates a two-way stream of communication between them and their managers. This is beneficial for the managers too, because responsibility is not solely on them.

...managers should be aware of how to approach these conversations with their employees

 

To allow check-ins to work effectively, managers should be aware of how to approach these conversations with their employees. There needs to be a move away from the mind-set of informing employees of their objectives and next steps to a more collaborative and informal discussion where decisions are made together. Ultimately, the manager becomes the employee’s coach, offering consistent support and guidance through their career. 

Performance reviews are a potential cause of stress and discomfort for both managers and employees: employees feeling they need to be defensive and managers holding back on being candid with their feedback. The use of check-ins takes this away, allowing for a stronger relationship to be built. Their informal nature allows people to have a conversation instead of the structured and rigid process of set questions and answers. This does not mean that annual reviews need to be scrapped, but that regular check-ins can be used to support and enhance the annual process.

Continuous performance management, however, does not just comprise check-ins. Companies are realising that employee feedback and engagement surveys should be integral to this process. In the last few years we have seen employee engagement becoming a hot topic. Overall employee engagement, measured by Glassdoor data (www.glassdoor.co.uk) across thousands of companies, is flat year over year. In the UK, low engagement at work has become the norm and is subsequently limiting growth across the country. 

Many organisations worry about employee engagement and are increasingly making it a strategic priority. However, research has shown that those organisations that link engagement to performance are most successful. The Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 Engagement Study found that companies which simultaneously prioritise employee engagement and link it to employee performance have more positive results than the other organisations in the following areas: 

  • participation and promotion rates across generations and key employee groups 

  • engagement levels 

  • key performance indicators such as customer satisfaction, customer retention, revenue and organisational performance.

The problem is that most businesses are not regularly engaging with the thoughts and opinions of their employees. In addition, when they do solicit feedback it is not done effectively. Frequent use of external consultants and running intermittent surveys at specific points within the year (potentially only one or twice annually) coupled with conducting face to face interviews or focus groups make these a time and resource intensive process. By the time the results are analysed, the data is outdated or employees feel that their concerns are not addressed in a timely manner. 

Therefore, when implementing a new performance management process, companies need to ask themselves if they also have an effective channel for collecting employee feedback in a continuous way. For today’s modern businesses, an automated, real-time feedback mechanism that’s tightly connected to talent management can supercharge the impact of talent programs on employee engagement and performance, driving overall business success.

One could argue that this kind of functionality should exist in a HR and payroll product. This system could collect employee feedback in a continuous way, guide managers and employees during a check-in, gather data from check-ins and allow for a more holistic performance management process that leads to decisions for employees’ pay, continuous professional development and career growth. Technology can become a great enabler for HR leaders and employees alike when it comes to development, performance, engagement and satisfaction.