January 13, 2017
What’s the value of regular feedback? It allows managers and employees to build a rapport based on mentorship and mutual respect. Annual reviews, by contrast, tend to be overwhelmingly positive interactions that “check a box” rather than drive operational excellence.
Even a company’s standouts and stars rely on their supervisors to help them advance their skill sets and careers. After a while, without any constructive feedback, top employees will begin to wonder if their managers have simply lost interest and have no wish to help them improve or, worse, have become complacent and just let their performance suffer.
On the other side of the coin, not everyone has an ideal start to a job, and sometimes interviewers hire the wrong person. Without regular reviews, the chance of such a person self-correcting is slim. You’re more likely to see an ill-fitting employee either linger as irritatingly as a stone in a shoe or be an outright disaster in his or her role. With frequent supervisor interactions, these kinds of employees would have had the knowledge necessary to course-correct.
Frequent meetings, reasonable goals
A clear disadvantage of the yearly or quarterly review is that it only allows supervisors to set yearly or quarterly goals, the sorts of tasks that involve long-term self-improvement and dedication. Such pie-in-the-sky objectives are inspiring and aspirational, but not necessarily very practical.
A supervisor who meets with an employee once every two weeks or so, however, can set goals that can be tangibly achieved in two weeks. Both parties can spend part of the next meeting discussing an ongoing project. If at all possible, managers should have real, concrete data waiting to show each employee, to back up both criticism and praise. When employees have actual results to look at, they can watch their own progress and understand the truth of any claims.
This technique accomplishes the neat trick of letting employees pursue long-term goals without becoming overwhelmed by the sorts of objectives that take a year or more. Working with their supervisor during regular face-to-face meetings, individuals can plan out a step-by-step strategy to get where management wants them. Play your cards right and you won’t have to tell the employee there’s a long-term plan at all. Many employees expect their managers to focus on the big picture, so a leader who’s willing to work with subordinates closely on achievable goals feels like a leader who’s interested in their employees’ day-to-day efforts.
Ultimately, employee reviews themselves are about the journey. The employee and supervisor share the ultimate goal of optimized improvement, and they must work together to set the incremental goals that get them there, developing a strong relationship as co-workers, and even friends, along the way. People who sit down face-to-face with their managers more frequently are more prone to trust those managers and take them at their word, in terms of both praise and criticism.