The Importance of Ongoing Feedback

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When is the last time you went out to eat? Was it yesterday, last week, a month ago, or a year ago? If it was yesterday, you can likely remember every little detail about your experience. Was the food the proper temperature and delicious? Was the server attentive or was your water glass perpetually empty? What about the atmosphere- was it pleasant or disruptive? Chances are that when you think about yesterday’s dining experience, you have strong feelings and recollections about it.

Now think back to last week’s experience, or last month’s. Those details start becoming harder to recall, or at the very best the memories are not true to your actual experience. Now imagine trying to recall those details from a year ago. You may be thinking, I remember it perfectly. Do you, though? Have you ever thought about a specific dish that you’ve had awhile ago and suddenly have a craving for it? Your collective memory of it has your mouth watering and you can almost taste it. So you go to the restaurant and are delighted to hear that it has the same chef. Your anticipation grows as you see your waiter approaching your table and when he sets the dish down, you can barely contain your excitement. You pick up your fork and take a bite and- it tastes different. It may be better, and it may be worse, but it is not the exact taste you remembered.

This is why annual reviews are not effective.

When you only sit down with an employee only once a year, you start with last year’s impression.  Even though you may have a few notes jotted down about how their performance was, it is unlikely that you are able to paint a truly accurate picture of that employee’s performance from last year. It’s not even likely that you have an accurate snapshot of the last 6 months’ performance. Sure, you may remember the highs and the lows but what about the day-to-day things?

Your memory may lead to a scenario like this:

You’re sitting down to prepare for your annual review with Suzie. Last week, Suzie made an error on one of her weekly forms and it caused a report to be inaccurate. As this mistake is fresh in your mind, you start thinking back to her performance this year.

Your mind tells you:

‘On top of this recent error, Suzie really messed up a meeting  5 months ago by being 20 minutes late. She also didn’t hit her numbers 8 months ago. She’s a poor performer.’

Since these are the memories being played in your mind, Suzie gets a poor performance review.


Last week’s error was her first in the 2 years she’s worked for you. She was 20 minutes late to that meeting because she was sent to pick up an office order at the post office and got stuck in traffic. She missed her numbers that month because her son was very sick and she had to take time off. She’s been a top performer every other month.

Or this scenario…

Judy just had record sales this month. It’s time for her annual review and you are getting everything ready to meet with her.

Your mind says:

‘Judy had amazing sales this month. She worked until 10pm a few months back. She brought in a big client 6 months ago. She’s a great employee.’

Judy unsurprisingly gets a very positive review.


This is the first month this year that she’s even met her sales goals. She worked until 10pm because you were out of the office until late afternoon and knowing this, she showed up minutes before you walked in the door. She did bring in a big client 6 months ago, but you have caught her playing solitaire when she was supposed to be working on more than one occasion.

Suzie suddenly becomes disengaged with her work and looks for another job. Judy inspired by her ability to slack off and still get a great review becomes even less productive than before.

Your memory is not always correct.

If either of these employees had continuous feedback sessions, it would be easier to pinpoint successes and failures. When you can meet with employees on a regular basis, it becomes easier to correct negative behavior and continue positive paths.

Ongoing feedback is really important to many Millennial Employees.

MassMutual’s Director of Talent Management, Rohit Singh agrees. In his recent interview Change to Engage, he said, “One thing that we have realized in our experiences with the younger workforce is that they are constantly networked, or connected. Because of this, they are used to receiving constant feedback on things. The traditional organizational process of periodic evaluations and feedback doesn’t work for them. Instead of mid-year or annual evaluations, they would much rather have more frequent, short bursts of interaction and feedback. That’s part of the motivation. Unless they are constantly aligned through communication and feedback, it impacts their levels of motivation and engagement.  They would not be successful in structures where they are given their work and every once in a while get feedback on what they’ve done with it. They like to create something, get feedback and move on to the next task. That’s a key part of the engagement and should be aligned with organizations’ compensation and rewards programs.”

Not just Millennials feel this way.

Cornell’s Vice President for HR and Safety Services, Mary Opperman isn’t convinced that this is a generational problem at all. In her Q&A, Managing Multigenerational Workforces , she says, “It is just too easy to point to age and lump people together. I don’t buy into the notion that the newest generation of workers is particularly needy. They want and need feedback. When I was starting out, so did I. Is it that they may be more inclined to seek it, or that we have forgotten how important feedback is to everyone?

Mary is absolutely right. Everyone wants and needs feedback. So let’s try to make this a regular thing in the workplace.

This piece was originally published on More Than ResourcesTo get new posts first, visit

Columns reflect the opinions of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Human Resources IQ.