Performance Management

Creating a Culture of Continuous Feedback and Recognition

Young Paik

Young Paik is a Partner at Educe and has over 18 years of experience in the learning and talent…

If you’ve ever sat down to complete a performance review, you may be familiar with a kind of dread that goes like this: I know she has done an excellent job this year. Now if I can only remember what others said about her…

Performance journals (in your talent management platform, or a literal paper journal), your Outlook folder of emails, or your normally trusted elephant memory—these are all potentially familiar tools to help you recall helpful feedback on employees. If you’ve done all of that right: congratulations. You’re on your way to a highly relevant and quality review, accurately capturing kudos, to the appreciation of the reviewee. However, the reality is many of us do not take advantage of the readily available tools to record employee feedback. Can we do better now with today’s talent tools, and does it matter? Absolutely.

I often hear the following emerge in strategic goal discussions with organizations implementing a learning and performance platform in particular:

  • We could be doing better identifying and retaining top talent.
  • We do engagement surveys all the time, and yes, we could do better to engage employees.
  • We’re on board with continuous feedback – we’d like to do better there, too.

I then ask, what about using – and prioritizing – features or tools woven into the platform to provide public, continuous employee feedback and recognition? After a few seconds, without fail someone will verbalize what most are thinking: “It’ll be mayhem if we enable crowdsourced recognition or feedback. Imagine what will get posted. Can this be any good?”

The sentiment is certainly understandable, and creating or changing a culture is not an overnight endeavor. But especially in times like these where “normal” connection is so absent and a sense of distance is what is normal – a step towards a culture of continuous feedback is more readily achievable than one might believe. And it is more important than ever.

The risks are certainly there. We might anticipate that disengaged employees—those less emotionally connected to the organization—may have no qualms about voicing their opinion in a public forum that other employees can view. Yet what’s riskier: the non-engaged, non-accountable employee who may complain or say “_____ always gets the credit” or missing opportunities to recognize your best employees? In our experience the fear of a rogue employee doesn’t bear out into reality. Perhaps a culture of continuous feedback and recognition isn’t going to be in full bloom right away—but as an organization, you can be on your way.

Why Does It Matter? 

Engagement. Accountability. Connection. Retention. Continuous feedback.

Your HR buzzword bingo card is full and yet practical steps can seem elusive, but the use of public feedback and recognition tools in your talent management platform are not gimmicks. They can help you move in a direction that can also be tuned to your organization’s culture. You can make it your own. Despite some risks, the opportunities are immense:

  • Discover organization-specific best practices and innovative approaches being used by your best employees while recognizing them and potentially implementing these practices sooner than later. Think, for example, about how the pandemic forced immediate flexibility and creativity across all of your team members.
  • Create tighter connections between managers and employees. Organically generate relevant conversations. When feedback and recognition is provided by indirect managers or across departments, previously unknown insights emerge, helping your employees feel valued and motivated.
  • Take noticeable steps toward a workplace culture where others are not only recognized but heard.
  • Increase engagement and value with the talent platform you’ve already invested in.

These opportunities can then be a rising tide, working to move toward more positivity in recognition—even among those who may seem disengaged. In combination with a continuous feedback culture, they can mutually accelerate one another. Therefore, your strategy for continuous feedback should also include continuous recognition, allowing you to highlight those who are performing with excellence, providing real flesh to the many behaviors that you’ve painstakingly taken the time to outline in company values, pillars, and so forth.

How Do You Get Started?

Seek a talent platform that allows for not only continuous feedback, but continuous recognition.

If you’re about to embark on a talent management platform search or you’re already in the midst of one, don’t underestimate the value of these features. With business’s emphasis on real-time feedback and the measurement of customer experience, it’s not a drastic mindset leap to get real-time reads on how employees are performing, from team members themselves. Today’s talent management platforms these days can weave in opportunities for you. And again, opportunities to connect and strengthen your teams has never been more important than now amid retention challenges and burnout. During the pandemic, numerous stories have emerged about how valuable it has been to take the time to listen, recognize, and care for clinical employees. Choose a platform that enables these opportunities.

Acknowledge the potential discomfort around these tools—it exists.

Engage your colleagues in a discussion that explores possibilities and a shift in both feedback and recognition, embedded in your talent management tools. You may be surprised by what happens after you get over the initial, knee-jerk reactions and consider the larger organizational impact, especially for your star employees. While some of these elements may be foreign, a pilot may be an approach more acceptable to tackle all those “what ifs.” Combined with a team motivated to participate, it can be a prescription for some of the natural resistance to such tools.

Think about a mindset shift over the long-term.

To this end, piloting functionality is especially useful when change management can have its own unique challenges due to deeply rutted processes and the constant press of all things urgent. Give your organization some time to adapt and own the tools at their pace. I had a recent client tell us about a bulletin board of employee quotes that they thought had failed because the same people got quotes posted over and over again, and so they abandoned the idea; it turns out the change and expectations were not rolled out well. Other clients have employed similar public (paper) items and said it worked out well, but it was piloted/optional.

These examples are in compartmentalized mediums, and usually confined to a department’s initiatives. Within our organization, for example, the use of open employee feedback and recognition—mixed into our talent management platform—makes a difference. The integration brings things much closer within reach for use, helping to grow momentum for the feedback and recognition. While it may be easy to dismiss that something is the equivalent of a social media “like” or a fleeting electronic pat on the back, it matters. These mentions stick for our employees—for me as well (and probably you!)—and they are a vital part of not just continuous feedback but continuous recognition (and remembrance) leading up to a performance management cycle. And they can fuel everything including morale, trust, growth, and performance.

Don’t miss the opportunity.

For all the tools and investment when it comes to deciphering employee engagement and overall organizational feedback, don’t miss out on a chance to leverage talent platforms that allow for continuous feedback and recognition. They not only benefit your employees with diverse, rich feedback and fuel a more positive culture, but also help put you closer to those much-desired increases in employee engagement, accountability, and retention.

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