Does instant feedback hurt our performance?

Following the advent of scientific management in the 1970s, what we now term performance management was initially introduced. Performance evaluations were designed for a workplace where output could be easily quantified and employees could be rated on the same scale. Knowledge workers today bring a level of talent and adaptability that cannot be measured in the traditional sense.

Millennials demand more feedback, and research across generations demonstrates that continuous feedback promotes engagement and motivation, which is a key driver of success at today’s top firms. Real-time feedback is the answer to mending the flawed performance management system we’ve had for years in a modern organization.

When it was determined that worker contentment drives productivity, performance management was born, marking the beginning of a focus on workplace happiness. However, by 1992, just 20% of companies were satisfied with their performance review systems, and by 1997, only 5% were.

Among the companies that have lately altered their performance management procedures are Deloitte, GE, and Accenture. Some organizations choose to do away with annual reviews entirely, while others supplement them with real-time feedback to make the once-a-year sessions more effective.

Because to technological advancements, knowledge workers are always on. Employees are increasingly reliant on digital communication technologies as a result of remote working and cross-regional collaboration. Long performance assessment cycles contrast sharply with the fluid nature of digital communication. Employees today get information in real time, therefore real-time feedback makes sense.

Some folks are key supporters of real-time feedback. They feel that this provides many benefits. For example, because it tracks employee accomplishments throughout the year, real-time feedback helps eliminate recency bias during employee evaluations. Wins that are celebrated and saved in the time are less likely to be forgotten months later. An employee’s overall performance should not be harmed by a failed project that occurs just before the review cycle. Managers can evaluate employees in context if data is collected throughout the year.

Real-time feedback also allows for continuous learning and progress. Managers may recognize high performers and give early course corrections thanks to a feedback culture. Employees will receive immediate feedback and will be able to improve more quickly as a result. It’s a simple learning and development structure that works with their current workflow.

However, real-time or instant feedback, according to an HBR study, harms our performance. 382 Singapore citizens took part in the survey in the hopes of receiving a discount on their insurance. The participants gave permission for a mobile app to track and score their driving habits, such as speeding, braking, and acceleration.

When the findings were released, the researchers discovered that driving scores were 13.3% lower on journeys taken immediately after drivers read their evaluations. People who had not evaluated their ratings, on the other hand, showed no such unpredictable behavior.

How could feedback make someone’s driving worse? Well, perhaps feedback has varied effects on different people. Those that examined the input were able to determine whether or not they could attain their aim. They were either depressed or joyful as a result of the input. They became a lazy after realizing they had already accomplished their aim.

And learning that no matter how hard they tried, they would never be able to achieve their aim made them even worse. One could argue that real-time feedback differs significantly from peer-to-peer input, and hence this study would not apply well to high-growth companies.

So to answer the question posed in the beginning is probably to say “It depends.” And it does depend on the type of company, work, culture and team members you deal with. Things are not always so straightforward and that’s my instant feedback to you. =)

Check out my related post: How to have a performance appraisal conversation?

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