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What is continuous feedback, and why is it important?

Last updated

3 May 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

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Higher productivity, a better workplace environment, and innovation are always on the business owner's agenda. All three heavily depend on employee performance, which is powered by the employer's feedback practices.

While quarterly performance reviews and spontaneous reactions to employees' achievements or downfalls can work, their effect is low. In fact, 77% of HR leaders agree that traditional performance reviews alone don’t paint an accurate picture of an employee’s day-to-day performance.

By adopting continuous feedback, employers can improve employee performance every day.

Let's take a closer look at continuous feedback and its benefits.

What is continuous feedback?

Continuous feedback involves regularly sharing constructive feedback with employees. It creates multiple opportunities for structured conversations between employees and managers. As a result, it supports ongoing performance improvement.

This type of feedback can also work well in a peer-to-peer and team-to-format. However, you can achieve the most noticeable results by implementing the manager-employee continuous feedback structure first.

Complementary, not mutually exclusive

Continuous feedback and annual (quarterly, monthly) reviews don't have to be mutually exclusive. Ideally, you should carry out both. With the right approach, it's possible to structure the feedback system so regular reviews and continuous feedback complement each other.

You can use continuous feedback to communicate any ongoing concerns and approvals. Meanwhile, the regular review process can be used to review achieved goals and set new ones for the next period.

Mixing informal with formal

Similar to spontaneous feedback, continuous feedback doesn't have to be formal. These sessions can include "pats on the back" and "good jobs." However, informal reactions should complement structured feedback rather than vice versa.

Personalization

While team feedback works well for certain purposes, continuous feedback relies on the one-on-one structure. Besides making the employee feel comfortable, this system allows team members to share their concerns and provide feedback.

While it may seem that one-on-one sessions are time-consuming, each minute you spend on them has an impressive ROI. Let’s see how it works. 

The importance of continuous feedback

According to Gallup, 80% of employees who received meaningful feedback in the past week feel fully engaged. This demonstrates the importance of practicing feedback more often than once a year or once a quarter.

Continuous feedback doesn't just help employees receive valuable information about their performance. It demonstrates the employer's engagement in the team's work. This approach fosters a culture of collaboration and recognition in the workplace. Eventually, it reduces churn and helps turn the company into a desirable employer.

Benefits of continuous feedback

Switching from occasional and spontaneous reviews to structural continuous feedback can significantly impact a company's success. There are some key benefits of implementing this approach.

Performance improvement

The more structured feedback you provide your team members, the easier it will be for them to improve their performance. Employees report that they are 3.6 times more motivated when they receive daily feedback from their managers (vs annual feedback).

Continuous feedback enables employees to better understand their job duties and prevent errors that could hurt company operations.

This approach will also deal with issues that often arise because new employees worry about asking the same questions over and over. By addressing problems as soon as they appear, new and existing employees can continually refine their skills and achieve higher levels of productivity.

The fast rate of change in the world requires us to adjust. These feedback sessions allow team members to change their path as needed, increasing the speed of achieving goals.

Higher engagement

Studies show that 85% of employees take more initiative when they receive regular feedback. This feedback demonstrates that management values an employee's efforts. As a result, the employee feels more engaged and ready to contribute to the company's success.

Eventually, this approach fosters a culture of open communication and trust. This comes with improved engagement and greater job satisfaction.

Stronger relationships

Annual performance reviews can give valuable guidance to the employee. However, they do little to strengthen the relationship between team members and managers. Continuous feedback, on the other hand, stimulates open dialogue and helps employees and employers better understand each other.

With the new feedback structure, managers can provide stronger support, build rapport, and contribute to a collaborative work environment.

Faster problem resolution

Employees often face mounting issues that don't get resolved on time due to the lack of managerial attention. A continuous feedback system allows employees to share their problems in a comfortable setting.

These sessions contribute to real-time insights from managers and employees. This can be highly valuable for supporting a culture of innovation in the workplace.

The continuous feedback culture works both ways. While managers are providing feedback, they also listen to what employees have to say. This can help improve productivity and encourage creative problem-solving.

Lower churn rates

Research shows that increased employee engagement levels don’t only improve workers’ performance, they also reduce the probability of departure by 87%.

When employees don't receive sufficient feedback, their engagement levels drop. Without proper recognition and support, workers stop feeling valued and start shopping around.

Faster employee development

To ensure productivity in the workplace, employees must have an opportunity to evolve. While arranging training is a major part of this development, so is feedback. When managers provide feedback regularly, they help employees learn and become better at what they do.

During feedback sessions, both manager and employee can discover new development opportunities and discuss how to bring them to life.

Drawbacks of continuous feedback

While continuous feedback is highly beneficial, it can have several drawbacks. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare to overcome potential challenges.

Performance rewards

With quarterly or annual reviews, the system of rewarding high-performance employees works well. You can give out bonuses and promotions as planned. With continuous feedback, rewards are harder to arrange.

To meet this challenge, you can combine annual reviews with continuous feedback and keep the existing reward system in place. When practicing continuous feedback, you can implement verbal recognition tactics or consider offering small-scale weekly incentives.

Feedback overload

If not managed effectively, continuous feedback can feel overwhelming to employees. To make sure it doesn't turn into micromanaging, employers should implement a consistent feedback structure. Always strike a balance between regular check-ins and discussions that focus on improvements.

Most importantly, the feedback needs to be genuine, or it will quickly lose its value. Using examples will help the employee understand how to implement the feedback insights into their work.

Time constraints

Managers and employees alike can feel overwhelmed with the time required for regular feedback sessions. You can overcome this challenge by implementing technology. For example, performance management software or feedback apps can facilitate communication and minimize the time you spend on feedback exchange.

However, excessive reliance on apps can remove the important human interaction element of feedback. You should still schedule in-person sessions whenever you have the time.

Resistance to change

The change from annual reviews to weekly or even daily feedback may confuse some of your employees. They may initially view this approach as micromanagement and try to resist the change.

The key to avoiding this problem is transparency. Explaining the need for such a system and sharing the potential benefits can help employees embrace the new approach and get maximum benefit from it.

How to implement continuous feedback

To prevent resistance to change and start taking full advantage of continuous feedback, consider implementing the following steps.

Explain the advantages of continuous feedback

Take the time to gather your employees and explain the system of continuous feedback in detail. Be clear about this approach being helpful not just to the management but to the employees. Talk about opportunities for growth and improvement.

In the beginning, you can lead by example by actively seeking employee feedback and acting on it consistently. When employees see how the continuous system works for their benefit, they won't have issues with implementation.

Train your managers to provide feedback

The form of feedback can make the difference between higher productivity and higher churn. Gallup's surveys demonstrate that negative feedback can boost engagement by a little over 10% while positive feedback increases it by 50%.

Your managers should know exactly how to balance positive and negative feedback during their one-on-one review sessions with staff. While negative feedback may be an essential part of annual reviews, it shouldn't prevail in weekly or daily feedback.

Teach your managers about feedback bias and its negative consequences. Daily experiences may affect how managers review their team members. They should be aware of this possibility and work towards minimizing the effect.

Consider peer-to-peer continuous feedback

Peer-to-peer feedback is also highly important for the leadership team. Teams often undervalue the perspectives of other leaders dealing with similar issues in different business areas. This cross-team feedback, when done well, is highly beneficial to the organization as a whole.

Since employees may be reluctant to adopt this system, you may want to begin by arranging a roundtable discussion. Feedback in a group setting can be highly productive for the entire team, including management.

Accommodate remote employees

If you have remote employees, the continuous feedback system should also be available to them. Schedule online sessions with your remote staff as often as you do with on-site employees.

You may need to adjust your questions and comments with the remote setting in mind. However, the general principles should remain the same.

Analyze and implement feedback

Collecting feedback for the sake of it keeps the ROI of this system low. You need to analyze the feedback carefully to ensure it helps you achieve your productivity goals.

If there is an opportunity to act on employee feedback, take it as soon as possible. When employees see prompt results from these sessions, they are more likely to contribute to them in the future.

You can track the progress of the continuous feedback system with a dashboard or reports. Visual representations can inspire your team as much as tangible results.

Continuous feedback and continuous performance management

Continuous feedback is an important part of continuous performance management. The main elements of continuous performance management are:

  • Dynamic goal setting: Setting fluid and adaptable goals that respond to changing priorities and circumstances. It emphasizes setting achievable yet challenging objectives aligned with organizational goals.

  • Continuous feedback: A process of providing ongoing, real-time feedback to employees on their performance and progress.

  • Comprehensive data collection: The systematic gathering and analysis of various types of data related to employee performance. This can include quantitative metrics, qualitative assessments, and feedback from multiple sources.

  • Self-evaluation by employees: An opportunity for employees to reflect on their performance. It promotes accountability, self-awareness, and ownership of their professional growth.

Continuous performance management gives leaders a holistic view of employee performance and helps them make data-driven decisions about changes. Since this is an ongoing and dynamic process, productivity issues can be discovered and solved before they turn into serious problems that cause downtime.

Making the most of continuous feedback

Continuous feedback is a fresh approach to keeping employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction at the highest possible level. By providing feedback and gathering information weekly instead of quarterly or annually, leaders can make data-driven adjustments to company operations.

Implementing continuous feedback practices can help keep top talent with your company while increasing their contribution to your success.

FAQs

What is the difference between continuous feedback and performance review?

The difference between continuous feedback and performance review is the frequency. Instead of arranging quarterly or annual reviews, you can provide ongoing feedback once a week or more often. This can drive better performance and productivity.

What are the disadvantages of continuous feedback?

The disadvantages of continuous feedback are the extra time it takes to provide more feedback and possible resistance to change. However, the benefits of this system outweigh the downsides. Challenges posed by continuous feedback can be overcome with proper organization and management.

What is a continuous feedback loop?

A continuous feedback loop is an ongoing feedback exchange between managers and employees or between peers. This iterative cycle fosters continuous improvement, learning, and development.

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