Time for HR to Get Real with Real-Time Feedback


Employees today want feedback from their employers. They do not want to have to wait six or twelve months for a performance review. While providing continuous feedback in the past was difficult for employers, HR tools today can help make it easier

The current state of business affairs and corporate environment is both dynamic and rapid. That holds true for the required skill sets that organizations look for in employees. Those skills have also witnessed a sea change. Therefore, today’s Human Capital Management System (HCMS) needs to function via real-time, data-driven feedback. It is in many ways essential for HR decision-makers to ensure continuous upgrade and update of skills based on constant feedback. For now, it’s essential, for times ahead, it may well be imperative or mandatory.

Reasons are plenty. Here are some:

M for Millennials

A big reason that makes real-time feedback critical is the rise in the number of millennials in the modern workplace. Organizations, many if not all, have taken that into account and devised measures to develop and retain their millennial employees by offering them an environment which is an employee-first one. With the millennial numbers at workplaces on the up, legacy-based, conventional appraisal systems are set to get replaced. Millennials don’t generally approve of those appraisal systems as they feel there’re intrinsic issues surrounding them such as transparency and biasness. Millennials seek instant recognition/gratification and that is only possible to execute when you’ve real-time feedback in store. Millennials don’t mind negative feedback either as long it’s fair. They want to be absolutely clear about what is expected out of them and where they stand in terms of those expectations.

Reaffirming that annual performance reviews have run their course, Debasis Dutta, VP and General Manager of Product Management at SumTotal Systems, says,

Annual performance reviews and forced rankings are no longer achieving the desired results they once did. Providing in the moment coaching and feedback creates a strengths-based culture resulting in higher quality work and more engaged employees who want to stay with their organization longer.  With annual performance reviews, employees often don’t know where they stand with their performance and their work. Yearly reviews often lead to a highly stressful environment with many hours put into the process to ‘justify’ the work and an ‘us vs. them’ mindset.  With real-time feedback, employers can engage employees through visibility, collaboration and coaching – empowering employees to target relevant areas of development and creating a path for career mobility.  SumTotal enables organizations to capture real-time feedback linked to specific goals and competencies to make performance discussions meaningful and motivating.  Ad-hoc employee requests for input and the 1:1 Journal provide managers and employees a way to quickly and easily document their ongoing conversations throughout the year.

Millennials also prefer collaboration at workforce among their peers with communication channels that’re open for all. And again, such a framework can be achieved only through real-time feedback. It also allows data capturing and analysis for precise feedback on particular competencies and goals of individual employees.

Enables HR to focus on what matters

With real-time and data-backed feedback, HR can channelize their energies towards their primary objective – enable employees deliver and perform to the best of their abilities/potential. The feedback process or system can aid in this by bringing together aspects such as PMS, T&D/L&D, and R&R programs. According to Debasis, “Organizations are often reluctant to leap entirely over to continuous performance feedback.  For those organizations, it is important to give them the flexibility to incorporate real-time feedback processes along with their legacy annual performance review. This hybrid approach allows organizations to dip their toe into continuous performance feedback while keeping their yearly performance review cycle intact. The fusion keeps employees engaged by providing visibility into their performance and makes development discussions between managers and employees more meaningful. The combination also empowers the entire workforce to grow in strength with tools and support while integrating the conversations and development activities into the annual review.  SumTotal supports the hybrid approach by providing tools to enable continuous performance feedback that can link directly to the performance review form as well as and goals and competencies.”

**As real-time feedback is driven by data, the evaluations conducted will naturally be better than old-school approaches**. Data makes evaluation fair and transparent as it’s all monitored in real-time eliminating any room for bias. Thus, one of the prominent issues of traditional PMS is resolved.

In terms of R&R, data-driven, real-time feedback can pinpoint an employee’s productivity and determine whether he/she is accomplishing the given objectives/goals in due time. In case they’re not on course, with real-time feedback, you can correct them immediately without waiting for some sort of cycle to end. When employees realize that their work is monitored transparently with frequent feedback, it serves as a motivation and enhances teamwork. With that, engagement levels go up.

Deeper insights on performance

Data drawn from real-time feedback has a great advantage. It can be predictive! Hence, it gives you a clear picture of how an employee is set to perform at maximum potential going forward. This data also offers you a SWOT analysis of employees regularly allowing you to strategically plan their development and growth. With such an approach, your employees get empowered as it instills a strong belief that they own their growth. Whenever required, employees can walk up to their manager/trainer/mentor to assess any gaps that may stall their growth trajectory.

Conversations become efficient

**Real-time feedback establishes an ideal pathway for effective and regular 1:1 conversations across the organization**. Role and goal alignment can hence be executed more efficiently as individual, mutual, and team progress get monitored. This also means that you can nullify one major factor for attrition – lack of open conversations with leaders.

  • 81% of employees get the motivation to perform better when they get appreciated by the organization’s leaders (Glassdoor)

Annual appraisals get simplified

Data-driven, real-time feedback makes annual appraisals smoother and easier. This is because, both the parties, appraisee, and appraiser, are aware of the day-to-day work data and performance metrics for the entire year without any mutual discrepancies. Aggregating all of the annual real-time data can be accomplished in a transparent manner making evaluation on the defined parameters an agreeable conclusion. Any lags or gaps can be precisely brought upon during appraisals as well by leveraging real-time feedback systems’ data logs.

Change is good

Stagnation never took anyone to any higher level or made anyone better. Change needs to be embraced and adopted. If not, your people will soon consider moving to your competitors. Competitive advantage is not always about your products and customers. Delighted employees and low attrition (or high retention) rates also depict competitive advantage. Real-time feedback provides you that.

  • 71% of people in an Accenture study confirmed that real-time feedback leads to improved performance

Debasis adds,

The types of HR tools that can sync with real-time feedback are goals and competencies, development plans, continuous onboarding, annual performance reviews, social and gamification. Having real-time input linked to all of these tools encourages a culture of team collaboration and recognition, drives performance when managers can regularly coach team members, enables employees to request or deliver cross-functional feedback and speeds up time-to-performance with new hires.

However, change is never easy and doesn’t happen in a day or two. First and foremost, the change needs to take place in the thinking processes and mindsets of decision makers. Transparency is something everyone seeks, but the practicality of that can be hard to accept at times. Thus, it starts from the top. Senior leaders of an organization should be the role models for their employees in accepting real-time feedback because if they overlook it as just one of those tech interfaces with some numbers, organizational development can take a beating.

Development of workforces and organizations need to be in tandem and that is the measure for optimized performance of data-driven, real-time feedback systems. As leaders, you should make people feel that they’re your biggest assets, you care about their growth, and you’re not just a balance-sheet obsessed high flyer. To ensure that, real-time feedback is something your HCMS is calling for right away.