Continuous Feedback vs. Annual Appraisals

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As at most companies, we at Insigniam have an annual debrief meeting in order to appraise or assess our year. Specifically the conversation is to assess our performance and work product during the year, obtain feedback and both acknowledge and be acknowledged for the work that was done. Something that is striking when we do this is that we are told before the conversation begins that “there is nothing in here that should be a surprise to you.” This is because at Insigniam the intention is that every employee obtains continuous feedback throughout the year. And true to the intention, there was nothing that was a surprise at our annual firm meeting last month.

There are too many advantages to count when it comes to this form of performance appraisal rather than just having a one-off end-of-year meeting. With continuous performance debriefs you get to look, in real time, at that moment, at what worked and what didn’t work, and it’s therefore fresh in the memory. Left to the end of the year, much of the important information that is inherent in the activity will be forgotten. Analyzed  too late after the fact means that you may actually miss or forget the key performance factor. In fact you may forget to debrief the activity altogether.

Another obvious advantage of continuous feedback is that you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to learn something that could dramatically and rapidly enhance your performance at work. If an action you take is ineffective and is a blind-spot for you, this can be distinguished by an experienced leader with whom you work. Obtaining immediate feedback rather than waiting seven, eight or nine months to point this out to you could save everyone a great deal of underperformance, frustration and productivity and elevate your performance.

There are many other advantages to continuous feedback. If this practice makes so much sense then why is the trademark, end-of-year appraisal meeting still the type of feedback method favored? It may be that often managers are uncomfortable giving feedback. They do not provide balanced feedback and are therefore concerned of being too critical. Another, perhaps the most crucial reason, is that most managers do not look to their people as those who can be developed – or as those who need to be developed. Often the attitude is one of “well we hired them to do the job, they should already know and just get the job done.” Taking a new view on managing people from one of “they should know” to “let’s develop them and contribute to them” will likely give a manager an entirely different access to managing people that benefits the manager, the employee, the client and the business.

 

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