Some trends are here and gone in a flash, but one trend that seems to be sticking around is employees’ preference for real-time feedback, rather than annual performance reviews.

The old ways aren’t always the best ways.

For the last several decades, the typical performance review has happened once a year – maybe every 6 months if the company was really on the ball. This might make sense from the company’s perspective, but from an employee’s point of view it could be hard to deal with. A yearly performance review is the job equivalent of a student waiting until the end of the semester to receive their grades – at that point, it’s too late to build on the strong points of their work, or correct mistakes before they become habits.

This approach can be especially nerve-wracking for new hires. When they begin working in their new position, they’ll want to make sure that they’re starting out on the right foot. It’s about more than just making a good impression; they want to know that the skills they were hired for are being used in a way that’s best for the company.

What does switching from annual performance reviews to real-time feedback look like?

There’s more to the issue than just making sure the employees stay happy. If the company responds with real-time feedback throughout the year, chances are they’ll see a big boost in employee retention and performance, as well as job satisfaction.

Revamping a company’s entire employee review structure can be a challenge, but the data indicates that the benefits outweigh the cost. In fact, industry leaders around the world have already started to invest in programs that manage employee performance. Instead of organizing what’s essentially a huge information dump at the end of the year for each employee, these programs focus on prompt feedback with the goal of improving employee integration and growth.

Real-time feedback software can make this switch easy with an intuitive and customizable system. Companies can get started with minimal effort and decide exactly what their workforce needs, such as recurring feedback prompts, feedback prompts at specific project checkpoints, and open opportunity to request and offer feedback. This software automates the process and makes it easy for HR to implement and for managers to use it.

If employee integration is a point of focus, is this mainly for the more recent hires?

It may be more important for new hires to participate in an integration program, but at the same time, it’s vital for every member of a company to participate so they can all reap the rewards. Solid integration practices are about more than getting situated in a new job – they’re actually directly related to a healthy level of feedback, which is something that everyone could use.

Here’s why: integration isn’t just about getting to know who’s who and what’s what. It’s about using various strategies to unify the employees at every level, which drives up morale and refines the company’s vision. With this goal in mind, integration practices have the potential to help anyone in the company, whether they’re the new hire or a senior executive.

Looking at integration from that angle, it’s easy to see how it ties in with giving regular feedback. It’s all about making sure everyone is on the same page, and that’s especially true when it comes to keeping lines of communication open between employees and management.

The role of real-time feedback in employee satisfaction

Without regular, frequent feedback, employees are left to guess what their performance review will look like when it finally does come. Even if someone is giving their best effort, they might not be aligned with the company’s goals, and the last year of good intentions and hard work could suddenly feel misguided and inadequate. This is not only stressful for the employee, but it’s counterproductive for the company.

On the other hand, what if the entire last year of work had been structured to line up with the company’s vision, instead of the employee’s best guess at the company’s vision? They would have been so much more effective, and so much less frustrated.

Switching to real-time feedback does more than just minimize wasted effort, though. When employees can get a high-five for their successes and constructive criticism where it’s needed, this tells them that their role in the company is valued. The exact number varies from poll to poll, but the majority of the results show that well over half of employees would want their organizations to offer weekly (or even daily) feedback. This is an important issue where employee satisfaction is concerned; and if employees aren’t satisfied, they’re less likely to feel motivated to perform at 100%.

Why should a company improve their feedback practices?

This is a two-way street, after all. Looking at this question from a bird’s-eye view, it’s important to recognize that millennials are making up a growing portion of the workforce – they might even make up 75% of it within the next four years. Without generalizing too much, millennials tend to be interested in things like innovation, collaboration, and opportunities for growth in their careers. If they’re working for a company that clearly cares about fostering this kind of culture with real-time feedback, they’ll be more likely to stay and develop their talents there, rather than looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

It’s likely that most companies will be employing mainly millennials in the next few years, and if they want to create a healthy work environment, real-time feedback is a great place to start. This kind of feedback isn’t just a cut-and-dried report at regular intervals; it’s an evaluation of where an employee is at, where they’re going, and where they could end up if certain goals are met. It gives employees a feeling of continuing progress as they fulfill their role in the company, and motivates them to do even better.

What’s the takeaway?

If an organization wants to keep up with changing workforce demographics, they’ll need to make some updates. One of the most important things they could offer to their employees is real-time feedback – a chance for them to see their progress, and figure out how to do better. In addition to boosting their overall performance, they’ll also be able to avoid the pressure and stress of an annual performance review. The results really do speak for themselves. Less stress, more motivation, better performance – it’s a win for everyone.