Annual performance reviews have traditionally been the main source of employee feedback. You meet with your staff, discuss their work, set goals and then go about your business until the next year. It’s no wonder why relying only on annual performance reviews for feedback isn’t beneficial. Can you imagine if you were only asked really important questions once a year without regard for changes in your work or the company itself? Studies have shown that although managers spend 210 hours per year on performance management, there is zero correlation between those employee evaluations and business results. Performance reviews shouldn’t be disregarded entirely, they just need to be adapted to occur more often and provide real-time feedback.

What is Real-Time Feedback?

Real-time feedback keeps employees constantly in the loop regarding their performance using regular, smaller evaluation tactics. It is also used immediately or shortly after witnessing an employee’s performance, i.e., you have an employee who has missed deadlines so you set up a one-on-one to discuss the situation, factors that may have contributed to the lack of productivity and a solution to the problem.

The reason real-time feedback is so important is that it keeps employees engaged. Only 42% of U.S. employees look forward to coming to work. That’s a problem considering engaged employees are productive employees. The relationship an employee has with his or her supervisor directly influences the level of engagement, according to Gallup. The more a supervisor recognizes employees and holds an ongoing conversation, the more engaged they become.

Ongoing conversations are part of a real-time feedback coaching process. Consistent coaching involves weekly or bi-monthly sessions between employees and managers lasting anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. This type of regular, real-time review allows for continuous conversions used to address issues when they arise.

3 Reasons You Should Use “Real-Time” Feedback

  1. Your Millennial Employees Prefer It. According to Pew Research Center, Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce and they don’t like conventional appraisal systems like annual performance reviews. Millennials seek instant recognition, gratification and even negative feedback, as long as 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.
  2. Recognition Occurs More Often. Employee recognition is huge when it comes to retention. One of the main reasons employees leave a company is due to a lack of recognition for their hard work. Real-time feedback ensures hard work doesn’t go unnoticed by thanking and recognizing employees as soon as their successes occur.
  3. You Can Quickly Make Goal Adjustments. Goals are a staple of performance reviews but if you’re only getting feedback once a year, you miss opportunities to adjust and re-connect employees to those goals. Frequent one-on-ones give managers the opportunity to provide real-time feedback and give employees a chance to make incremental changes and voice concerns as they arise.

Why Feedback Fails

Just as annual performance evaluations don’t work well on their own, pitfalls can also exist with real-time feedback. For example, Harvard Business Review notes that telling employees what you think of their performance doesn’t help them excel but rather hinders learning. As with any feedback, real-time feedback needs to be executed wisely.

Biases have no place in the feedback process. The reality is some managers and employees don’t always get along. Yet managers have to leave any biases at the door during feedback. Consider adding 360-degree feedback, which includes multiple options from other co-workers, to eliminate the potential for bias.

Real-time feedback also won’t be effective if you don’t encourage your employees to be open and honest. The feedback process only works if you’re really getting your employee’s true feelings and thoughts. Many times an employee won’t raise concerns for fear of repercussions. Let them know even negative comments are appreciated, but they must be constructive.

Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly? What’s the feedback frequency sweet spot?

The sweet spot for reviews depends on your managers and how your company operates. While we’ve already mentioned annual reviews alone aren’t conducive for effective performance management, meeting daily might not meet your needs either. For example, if daily meetings are eating up your already busy schedule and nothing new is being discussed, weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly meetings might be more productive. Be flexible. Adjust your real-time feedback schedule based upon the needs of your team. If it’s the busy season and there are a lot of projects going on, meet more often. When things slow down, space performance feedback farther apart.

Performance Review Tips

To make the most out of your performance management, streamline the process with effective communication between all parties involved.

  • Make a plan. Before going into the review, plot out workplace performance goals, any plans of action and specific next steps to keep both you and the employee on the same page, reducing any miscommunication.
  • Use an outline. Creating an outline, that you share with the employee before the performance evaluation, lets both parties know what to expect. Your employee will also know when to ask questions or ask for guidance.
  • Set goals. Use employee evaluations to set both long and short-term goals to help your employees improve. Make sure the goals are attainable and that they align both with the employees and company goals. Follow the SMART goals model (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Bases and Time-Bound) to help ensure goal-setting is a two-way street. For example:
    • Specific. Goals should include dates, resources, dollar amounts, etc., i.e., anything needed to accomplish them.
    • Measurable. The success and/or progress of the goal should be able to be trackable and measurable.
    • Achievable. Goals need to be challenging but also realistic.
    • Results-based. Goals need to align with your company’s strategy by adding value and supporting the company’s vision
    • Time-bound. Goals should have a “need to be completed by” date.
  • Recognize high-performing employees. Use performance reviews to identify which of your employees are vital in growing your business. Discuss bonuses, raises and promotions to ensure these employees know they are valued at your company. Use a compensation management system to reward these high performers and help make them feel appreciated.

Performance Review Comments Examples

According to, the comments you use during a review should discuss an employee’s strengths and weaknesses in a way that is constructive and motivating. These performance review examples from speak to an employee’s creativity, adaptability, communication, accountability, productivity, achievement, cooperation and improvement.

  • “Continuously suggests new ideas in meetings and on projects”
  • “Willingly adjusts their schedule to be available when needed”
  • “Effectively communicates with colleagues, supervisors, partners and customers”
  • “Admits mistakes and errors and informs others when unable to keep a commitment”
  • “Positively contributes to the overall performance of the company through consistent and high-quality work”
  • “Sets well-thought-out goals and continuously strives to achieve them”
  • “Promotes cooperation well to ensure colleagues work as a team to meet deadlines”

Real-time feedback works best in conjunction with a great performance review process. Learn how to develop a winning process by reading 8 Ways to Improve Performance Management Conversations.

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