BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Timely feedback leads to better performance

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Many high-performing companies, especially in the startup and tech sectors, are happily dropping the traditional performance review.

Instead, they favour giving and requesting feedback when it can have the most impact on performance — both at the individual and business level.

(If you have children or a dog, you have no doubt already discovered this!)

The business benefits of more timely feedback

As external markets, including the labour market, change rapidly, the one sustainable competitive advantage a business can rely on is its staff.

To unlock value, employers need to engage their employees. We are fortunate today to have employees who are more educated, more mobile and who expect to apply their skills. They want to be involved, recognised and developed at work.

Implementing timely feedback builds engagement, grows skills and enhances productivity, which leads to better overall business performance.

What about your business?

Even if your business is not a fast-growing startup, in some instances you’d probably like to raise certain issues or topics well before the next round of performance reviews or staff surveys.

For example:

  • There’s something in your systems and processes that is frustrating for clients and staff.
  • One of your staff has an idea that could revolutionise your business.
  • You have a manager who is acting as a bottleneck for their team.

In situations, a timely feedback approach could pick up early signs so you can take appropriate action. At the same time, the organisation is showing employees that someone is listening. Both outcomes allow your business to become more agile and productive while engaging employees.

How can a business have timely feedback with minimal effort and maximum effect?

In the past five years, a completely new category of apps and online programs has emerged for this purpose.

If you already use a software package for performance appraisals or staff engagement surveys, it’s possible your provider also has a simplified feedback tool in their catalogue.

With more options coming onto the market all the time, you can find one that precisely suits your needs – if you know what you’re after. A few points to consider are:

  • What’s your purpose?
    If you are looking for a continuous feedback tool to replace your traditional performance appraisals, you might look at WIRL and similar apps. On the other hand, if you are looking for a replacement for a suggestion box or staff survey, you might investigate 15Five. If the primary motivation is to increase engagement, look at hppy or Tap My Back and similar tools. Most of the apps mentioned here perform multiple tasks, so it’s possible to find a good match to your needs.
  • Simple questions or a survey?
    Some systems allow you to customise and schedule specific questions on a weekly basis, while others may provide a set of questions that you can distribute as a survey and less frequently. Think about how much control you would like to have and how much data you want to collect. Keep in mind that more information usually means more work, at least in the short term.
  • Anonymous or identified?
    This depends on your current culture and levels of trust in the organisation. If answers are anonymous, people may be more open but you will likely get more noise in your system. When feedback is not anonymous, employees need to know they will not be penalised in any way for a controversial opinion. The advantage to having respondents identified is that you will be able to show your appreciation for their individual contributions, seek further clarification if needed, and work with them on ideas and solutions.
  • Frequency and timing
    Quality feedback is more likely if your app is easy to use, doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete and will work on mobile devices. The most efficient and effective will simply become a regular part of your workflows, just like a weekly staff meeting — only shorter and more productive!
  • What happens to the data?
    This point should be both first and last, because it is so important. Just as you wouldn’t introduce a new CRM without knowing its features and how you plan to use it, starting to use a feedback app without a plan for how you’ll treat the results would be a waste of time. Don’t start until you can articulate why you’re doing this and how you’ll use the data. The same applies if you’re not ready to acknowledge and act on the feedback.

A word of caution

Time spent with your staff setting ground rules and training at all levels will make your feedback system much more meaningful and productive.

To feel confident using the new feedback process, every user must be clear about the expected feedback standards. They also need to believe someone will appreciate their opinions and ideas and take action based on them. With the most advanced — or most simple — feedback process, covering the basics first is the key to uncovering better performance through timely feedback.

Now’s a good time to consider what you could gain through timely feedback. Would you want to risk losing people because they feel their input is rarely required and mostly ignored, but will be valued by one of your competitors? Alternatively, would you prefer to tap into the knowledge, skills, experience and creativity of your staff through timely feedback?

The choice is yours.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

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