Born and raised in the tropics, my opinion is that winter is only good for two things: wearing nice boots and sitting in front of a campfire. As a volunteer firefighter for six years, I also know it takes a surprising amount of effort to get one started.
The biggest mistake is chucking half a tree into the fireplace, holding a match to it and expecting it to burn. Fire doesn’t work like that. You start with kindling: small twigs and bits of paper that catch easily. Then add some sensible-sized pieces of wood and keep feeding it until it’s blazing away. At that point you can think about that heavy hunk of hardwood, but you always want to ease it in, not just drop it on top and smother everything. Of course, you can just dump everything in a pile and pour some petrol on top, but you run the risk of losing your eyebrows.
The same goes for managing performance and engagement. They are the heat and light of any successful organization, and equally tricky to maintain without ongoing focus. Many businesses have annual (or six-monthly) performance review periods. Most also conduct some version of an annual engagement survey. These processes could be thoughtfully designed and championed by leaders, but without other measures to support them throughout the year, it’s the business equivalent of trying to light a new fire every twelve months.
Continuous feedback loops, created and maintained by gathering small pieces of info throughout the year, is the fuel managers and employees need for effective performance management. It can be something as simple as a monthly catch-up, documented in one place and easily retrievable. Whatever it takes to keep the flame alive and the momentum going.
When they hear about “continuous feedback”, managers often worry their workload is about to increase. Suddenly, instead of a once-a-year task, they have to do something every single month? On the surface, their concern is understandable, but on closer inspection it should be clear this approach makes life easier.
Keeping track of their people is something managers are expected to do anyway; continuous feedback processes just provide scaffolding to help it happen consistently and with less effort. Instead of spending hours once a year trawling through notes, emails and their memories, managers can draw on a file of observations made and recorded in a few minutes each month.
Aside from pure time-saving, continuous feedback benefits leaders by making it easier to manage their people. With a record of specific events to refer back to, managers can identify performance issues sooner instead of relying on “gut feel” or a catastrophe to initiate action. They can also use the information to illustrate their concerns when talking to the employee, making it clear what needs to be addressed.
Fire is a primal comfort; it provides light, keeps us warm and toasts marshmallows incredibly well. It takes a lot of time and attention to get one going, but not as much to keep it that way. Continuous feedback loops help keep the fires burning when it comes to performance and engagement. Handfuls of small, manageable pieces of feedback, captured in the moment will always be more effective than going in cold every year, and it’s never too soon to start. Want to learn more about continuous feedback? Here are some posts you might like.
- How to give effective feedback
- The ultimate guide to continuous performance management
- 4 Examples of feedback questions to ask in employee check-ins
- How to avoid bias in continuous feedback
Or if you’re ready to get started with continuous feedback, check out intelliHR’s employee engagement tools.