The Importance of Continuous Feedback in Change Management

By Michael Heller

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Change is a positive sign of progress, forward moving, and is an integral part of every aspect of our lives. Now try telling that to a gang of frustrated employees who just heard their company is going under a massive restructuring. Managing change is difficult and will most likely be resisted by many, which is why managers must condition their workplace to expect, accept, and embrace change. 

But how do they do this? Well, in a broader sense, it begins with relationships and how managers instill trust in their people. The greatest way to instill that kind of trust? Ongoing, constructive communication AKA continuous feedback! But, the benefits don’t stop there. Feedback of any kind can be extremely beneficial to both you and your employees in more ways than one. Aside from helping your team to manage and accept change in a productive manner, continuous feedback also helps with:

  • Performance reviews
  • Improved performance
  • Better communication
  • Continuous learning
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee engagement

 

To drive these points home, here are just a few reasons continuous feedback is the way to go. 

Continuous Feedback Is The New Performance Review

Aside from the time, money and organization required to carry out dreaded annual performance reviews, research has shown them to have a negative impact on employee performance and engagement. According to recent CEB research, 77% of HR execs believe performance reviews aren’t an accurate representation of employee performance. What’s even more startling is that there is no verifiable evidence to prove performance reviews have an effect on business goals. And this has been a business norm for how long?

So, basically performance reviews, at least done traditionally and once a year, are a huge waste of resources. This is the reason companies like Adobe, Microsoft and Google are reevaluating their current processes and switching to monthly or quarterly performance reviews. With continuous feedback, managers can assess and correct performance as it’s happening, saving employers a lot of time and money. Not to mention your employees hate it.

For a second, put yourself in their shoes. Twice a year, you go see a manager you rarely talk to and get told what you’re doing wrong and/or what you’re doing right. That doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it? But, allowing for this continuous feedback means you are always in the know about what your employers are thinking and they can easily provide you with insight and advice so you can work to improve.

Putting our HR hats back on, this helps not only in the resources department, but it helps with your profits. Companies who implement continuous feedback and employee engagement instead of annual performance reviews experience a 22% increase in profitability as compared to those who do not invest in those areas. Continuous feedback pays for itself and then some, in addition to all the other benefits!

It’s A Two-Way Street

Another valuable benefit of continuous performance feedback is that it is less formal than the aforementioned horrible performance review. Continuous feedback allows employees and their superiors to exchange organic conversation and forge better relationships. Managers can provide performance advice to employees and in exchange, employees can share their own suggestions about processes and such with managers, which is great for improving morale. It’s a win-win scenario. For example, when John tells Melissa she’s falling behind on deadlines and she is able to work with John to clarify his expectations for completed work, both manager and colleague can remedy the situation in almost real-time.

Another form of this can be seen through peer to peer feedback as well. Sometimes, no one knows more about your employees than those who sit right next to them day in and day out. That’s why taking into consideration what peers have to say and letting employees communicate with each other is so important.

For example, if Susie and Matt sit in the same office area and Susie is noticing that Matt has been distracted or slacking off lately, she can use that peer to peer feedback aspect to let him know in a constructive manner. Then, she may even offer ways to help him or ideas that will help him focus more on his work and be overall more productive.

It Conditions The Workforce For Continuous Learning

Continuous feedback goes hand-in-hand with continuous learning and continuous learning teaches employees to regularly reevaluate their strengths and weaknesses. What this does is create a performance-driven culture. Learning from mistakes, becoming self-aware and self-improving all lead to an adaptable, high performing workforce. Recent research shows a direct relationship between self-awareness and the probability of success. If you are unable to address Bo’s withering criticism of Dylan until March of next year, how likely is it that he, or you, will remember? The one person whose work it can affect (Dylan) will though but without continuous learning and feedback, Bo will never learn constructive criticism, while Dylan will silently seethe about the unfair treatment, leaving a festering wound in the team.

Aside from these amazing benefits, it also helps you to help your employees grow and develop. Not only are they being self-aware, but you as a manager are able to provide them with the resources they need to make the necessary improvements. This means your employees will always be enhancing their skills and working to be better, faster, and more productive in the tasks at hand. And, this helps you to create leaders within your company. Instead of hiring out, you can work to build up the employees you already have to shape them into being great at both their job and the possible opportunities in the future. This, in turn, helps you save money and resources along with aiding in any strengths and weaknesses that arise.

It Improves Employee Satisfaction, Which Improves Engagement, Which Improves Performance…

Perhaps at the core of all the benefits of effective continuous feedback is employee satisfaction. According to the Society for Human Resource Management 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, 55% of employees reported that communication between employees and senior management was very important to them. It’s difficult to feel connected to senior management when your only contact with her is once, or maybe twice per year!

What’s more is that employees who have regular meetings with their managers are three times more likely to be engaged than employees who don’t and employees are seven (yes, SEVEN) times more likely to be engaged when their managers hold them accountable for the projects and tasks they are working on. Since we’re keeping score, let’s end on this note: according to the 2015 Strengths @Work survey, 71% of employees who believe their managers can name their strengths feel more engaged and energized in their work. What more could you ask for?

The truth is, if employee engagement and satisfaction isn’t a main focus of yours – it should be. Not only are you missing out on all these awesome benefits, but you’re decreasing your retention and recruitment abilities. And, these all create a whole set of problems that should be saved for an entirely different blog post. Today’s employees are all about loving where they work and what they do. And, if you can’t compete with that, you and your company are going to get left behind, making finding talent and keeping it all the more difficult as time goes on.

Change is good. What’s even better? Continuous change. As Winston Churchill puts it, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” When it comes to managing change and managing people, the benefits of continuous feedback certainly seem to outweigh the costs of not doing so. Want to jump on the continuous feedback bandwagon?

About Michael Heller:

Michael Heller has 20+ years of experience in strategic human resources, talent management and technology consulting. As an HR executive at Washington Consulting, Digital Management and Deltek, Michael led teams to develop innovative human capital management programs and initiatives. 

 

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