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As more and more businesses recognise the ineffectiveness of annual appraisals, ongoing feedback has become more and more popular — but not everyone agrees on what it means…

Ongoing feedback’s definition varies according to the business implementing it. For some businesses, moving from an annual or bi-annual appraisal to say quarterly reviews counts as ongoing feedback. However, giving feedback once a quarter shouldn’t really be considered ongoing.

Even reducing the gap to every month isn’t true ongoing feedback. Rather, ongoing means ongoing. It’s continuous rather than periodic. It’s more than a performance management trend; it’s a smarter, better, easier way of doing things that drive employee engagement and productivity. This approach might sound intimidating at first, for both employees and managers, but it can be achieved if you adopt a simple approach and the right software.

What is ongoing feedback? The real ongoing feedback definition…

Ongoing feedback means having an open door policy to dialogue between managers and employees with regards to employee goals, successes and areas for improvement. There are no rating systems or lengthy appraisal forms. Instead, managers and employees communicate regularly.

For best results, feedback should be given in real-time as events occur and then reflected on during a monthly check-in.

Does ongoing feedback work?

Ongoing feedback’s definition might sound a little too good to be true. After all, too much freedom can wind up looking like chaos. Yet, with the right implementation, ongoing feedback does work, and Adobe’s success shows this. It was the first big company to ditch annual appraisals and ranking systems and introduce ongoing feedback back instead and saw its shares shoot up by 65% as a direct result of the decision.

Awareness of annual appraisals’ ineffectiveness goes as far back as 1965. Since then, opinions haven’t really changed. According to one recent survey in San Francisco, as many as 98% of staff said they believed annual appraisals were unnecessary — and a quarter of those polled were HR professionals.

Annual appraisals are not frequent enough, are too rigid, and create ranking systems which don’t help employees. Firstly, this is because a ranking doesn’t tell you anything with regards to improvement or progression, but also because a ranking is extremely subjective. One HR expert quips how, in a company she worked for, 96% of staff were given the highest possible rating after an annual appraisal.

The evidence is overwhelming. Annual appraisals don’t work. And yet…

Why don’t more businesses adopt ongoing feedback?

Adobe made its move way back in 2012. Yet, even with all of the evidence and studies against the effectiveness of annual appraisals, a survey performed back in 2017 revealed that 65% of businesses are still using annual reviews. The reasons for businesses’ reticence are legitimate, but these concerns can be addressed with the right approach.

One of the biggest fears has been that business leaders would find it harder to keep track of what’s going on in their companies without annual appraisals. This concern is fair, but it’s also down to a misunderstanding of how ongoing feedback should work. Ongoing doesn’t mean unstructured and unrecorded. With the right performance management software, businesses and managers can easily keep track of the ongoing feedback employees are receiving and they can still extract point-in-time performance data to inform decisions around pay and promotions.

This brings us to another common concern which is that abandoning annual appraisals means making big changes to the bonus or pay system attached to them. However, it is still possible to manage pay and bonus decisions effectively under a continuous feedback approach. This eBook explains how to do it.

For many busy HR professionals, even though they know their current performance management approach is not working, the thought of trying to embed a culture of continuous feedback can be put in the ‘too hard’ category. Yet we have helped numerous organisations of all sizes successfully transition to an ongoing feedback approach and we’ve found that the change is consistently welcomed by staff and managers.

For a real-life case study of how to make the change, check out this webinar on how Clydesdale & Yorkshire Banking Group ditched their annual appraisals in favour of ongoing feedback and regular check-ins. In just the first 6 months of their new approach, 78,000 pieces of feedback were given and 15,000 future-focused check-in conversations took place.

To find the right tools to implement ongoing feedback in your business, contact Clear Review today for a FREE demo of our performance management software.