Disengaged Employees are the Problem... is Continuous Feedback the Solution?

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Continuous feedback is replacing annual performance reviews to help encourage employees to fulfil their potential.

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Disengaged Employees are the Problem... is Continuous Feedback the Solution?
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A disengaged employee is one whose sense of purpose at work has vanished and is no longer striving to meet the latest challenges. While they’re still completing their core duties and picking up a paycheck, staff who’ve lost their drive are no longer fulfilling their potential and helping to drive business growth.

In fact, a study that took a deeper look into the cost of disengaged employees to businesses found that they have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% reduced profitability compared to colleagues. This equates to complacent staff costing businesses 34% of their annual salary.

Tackling the issue requires a new approach to performance management and many HR teams are turning to continuous feedback. In an environment where only 2% of companies globally have faith in their review practices, finding alternatives is key to ensuring organizations’ biggest assets are performing at their best.

What is continuous feedback?

The continuous feedback strategy should be implemented by HR but involve managers, employees and colleagues in analyzing performance. It can be run alongside annual or mid-year reviews and can even streamline this process, as information is being constantly collected through ongoing feedback.

Open communication is at the heart of the approach and continuous feedback strategies rely on three main components: goal setting, constructive feedback and everyday praise. While informal elements work well as part of this type of program, there must also be a formalized plan to ensure its success in the long term.

Organizing continual feedback data

One way to harness the power of continuous feedback and translate it into actionable insights is through technology. A variety of tools have been produced to collect feedback from disparate sources and organize this data into visualizations, reports and benchmarks that can be accessed across devices.

Without such methods, it’s possible for companies to be overwhelmed by the amount of information they collect. It needs to be fed into a continuous feedback loop, which can be transformed into improvements that build upon each other over time.

Two metrics that are particularly useful to identify are ‘continue insights’ and ‘consider insights’. The first represents areas where the employee is being impactful and effective, whereas the second shows behaviors that could improve the individual’s impact going forward. Both need to be considered in tandem for a real-time view of performance.

Implementing a continual feedback process

Putting a process in place to build a self-sustaining feedback culture takes time, but is at the heart of the continuous feedback approach. It’s made up of a series of steps:

  • Simple feedback collecting system

It’s important that managers, employees and peers are able to provide feedback in an intuitive way. This can be achieved through an app or face-to-face. While both methods are as powerful to the recipient as each other, it’s important the feedback is constructive, as comments that affect an employee’s self esteem can lead to negative performance ratings.

  • Encourage employee feedback

The old adage of ‘if you build it, they will come’ isn’t always a given in the world of business and the process requires input from management to be effective. One of the benefits of using technology in your continuous feedback model is the ability to see how much engagement there is with the system. Either way, reminding individuals to get involved will be key, especially to begin with.

  • Instant feedback

Feedback shouldn’t be held back from an employee until the next time a manager sees them face-to-face - this is too reminiscent of the old annual performance review system. Instead, it should be accessed regularly to inform conversations and usher in improvements. Research shows that employees who have check-ins with managers are 33% more likely to give and request feedback afterwards.

Outcomes of a successful continuous feedback rollout

When continuous feedback solutions are effectively implemented, a number of clear benefits should be evident. They include improved collaboration between colleagues, coaching from more senior team members, better decision making, increased agility, improved skills acquisition and greater rates of employee retention.

HR teams will find a continuous feedback model works for all employees, whether they’re already high achievers or those that are struggling. A common misconception is that feedback must have a positive or negative slant, while it can in fact just provide an alternative angle and influence a project to take a different direction.

Businesses with a more feedback-focused outlook are linked to high-performance cultures. This is good for retaining talent and positively impacting the bottom line, but it also emphasizes employee experience. This shift from a preoccupation with engagement lends itself to a more holistic approach that is particularly popular with millennials, who expect something different from the workplace than the generations before them.

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