Timely and constructive feedback is an essential component of any successful performance-management program. Employees must know in a timely manner what they are doing right, and what isn’t working well. When used in conjunction with performance goals, employee performance can and will improve through regular feedback.

Think for a moment about the “Hot and Cold” game that children often play. One child hides an object, and the other must find it. The game could go on endlessly if the hider was not there to tell the finder whether they were getting “hot” —closer to the object—or “cold,” —farther from it.

Feedback is necessary for the participant to be successful. The same principle applies to performance management. Without consistent feedback, employees can get off track and not reach their goals.

Is an Annual Performance Review Really Enough?

Many organizations review employee performance during an annual salary review. For some employees, this is the only time they receive feedback from managers. What good is feedback that arrives six months after an action? How can employers hope to correct problems or expect behaviors that lead to positive outcomes to be repeated if they are only checking in with their employees once every 12 months? When employees receive consistent feedback on a monthly or even quarterly basis, they are able to make the necessary, timely adjustments in their work that will help them become successful.

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Regular feedback also leads to a more engaged workforce. When managers provide specific feedback and goals to their team members, each employee knows precisely what they must do in order to be successful. They will waste less time on meaningless tasks, and will actively work to improve on behavior that is detrimental to themselves, their team, and the organization as a whole.

As a best practice, I recommend managers learn to identify “coachable moments”. Give feedback as they see behaviors or skills that need to be adjusted and coach employees to success.

Leaders Owe it to Their High Performers

Poor performers aren’t just a hindrance to themselves or their managers—they drag down the entire team. If your high performers are constantly left picking up the slack, it will lead to frustration and potential retention issues. Your A-players will catch on quickly that there are two sets of standards—one to which they hold themselves, and a lesser one that poor performers are able to get away with. Eventually, those strong team members could leave the organization for a company that meets their needs.

As a leader you owe it to your top performers to give regular, consistent feedback to all team members. It will help poor performers improve, but it will also show your A-team players that you hold everyone to the same standard.

Everybody Wins

When employee performance feedback is given consistently outside of an annual salary review, everybody wins. When managers check in regularly, employers will start to see higher productivity from their employees. Team members will focus on what they need to be doing, rather than being pre-occupied by detrimental behaviors. That increased productivity will lead to higher profits, improved employee retention rates and a work environment that fosters satisfied, successful employees.

If you aren’t practicing this ongoing feedback, I suggest setting a talent rhythm as outlined in Chapter 2 of my book, Are You Talent Obsessed?