Discern Real-Time Skill Needs Through Agile Feedback

Alexandra Levit, Managing Partner, PeopleResults
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Many of us remember the days when we only talked about professional development during a once-a-year performance review conversation with our managers. We may have made development plans and set goals, but these were usually lost in the crush of immediate business priorities. And, by the time we got around to discussing them again, they were outdated and irrelevant.

Fortunately, many organizations have, in recent years, moved from the annual performance management model to bi-annual or even monthly models. This increase in frequently certainly benefits the process, but can we take it even further? Can we make learning and performance dialogue even more fluid and agile and therefore more useful considering the pace of change in our organizations and industries?

The Rise of Open and Continuous Dialogue

Today’s most comprehensive HRMS offer the ability for managers and employees to deliver real-time guidance and feedback as soon as an issue presents itself. This type of exchange is far more helpful for growth and engagement because it’s directly relevant to a current project or challenge. Typically, any employee can submit feedback to another regardless of level or reporting structure, so it’s an equal-opportunity endeavor that’s less biased and less restrictive.

Agile feedback systems provide an important mechanism for coaching and collaboration, and in boosting manager awareness of problems sooner rather than later, they aid in retention as well. They also alert leaders when there may be a new skills gap that needs to be addressed. For instance, if a manager sees results that indicate that a group of employees isn’t using a new technology as intended, they can get involved right away, collect more information about the disconnect, and ultimately determine if additional background or training is necessary.

Ongoing Feedback Best Practices

What are some things to keep in mind with agile systems? First, choice. Not all managers and employees will want to communicate in the same way or at the same cadence. Before rolling out a new approach, especially one that’s mandatory, survey your workforce for preferences. Also, a tech-based system doesn’t negate the need for face-to-face and/or phone communication, even if manager and employee work in different locations.

It also doesn’t take the place of a more detailed review session. By its nature, agile feedback is quick and cursory, but it often doesn’t allow you to capture the nuances of a situation. In many cases, the best use of an agile system is to provide a preliminary heads up that’s followed up by a lengthier offline conversation.

In terms of the technology itself, consider a dashboard that facilitates easy input, search, review and sorting. Your system should categorize feedback (for example, performance goal progress or peer recognition) coming in from multiple channels (for example, email, text, or the dashboard itself) and link it to documented organizational, team, and individual goals where possible.

Moving from a clunkier performance management system to an approach like this should not be done overnight, or without a great deal of communication. User adoption may well be a hurdle, so start slowly, keep your system simple and device/platform agnostic, and regularly prompt your managers and employees to use it. Do what you can to incentivize people for logging in and using the system as intended. Hopefully they’ll find it so much easier than traditional performance management that they’ll be glad to comply!

Want to learn more about how to reskill and upskill your workforce for 21st century  readiness? Check out the replay of last week’s webinar with human capital futurist Alexandra Levit.

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