A Step-By-Step Guide to Implementing Continuous, Real-Time Performance Management

Performance management has changed drastically over the years.

Major companies like Adobe, Dell, Microsoft, and IBM have abandoned traditional performance reviews, opting for continuous, real-time performance management instead. Thousands of other organizations, both large and small, have followed suit.

While this shift has undoubtedly left many inspired to implement a continuous performance management process, HR professionals should understand that a fair amount of foresight and planning is required to successfully put a continuous process in place.

We’ve helped a great deal of companies implement a continuous, real-time performance management process. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll provide a deep dive on how you can implement continuous performance management in your organization.

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What Is Real-Time Performance Management?

Real-time performance management is a system where employees and managers engage in frequent, trackable communication about an employee’s performance. This includes discussing progress on goals, correcting suboptimal performance, celebrating wins, and sharing performance notes. 

The Benefits of Real-Time Performance Management

Real-time, continuous performance management yields significant benefits for organizations.

Real-Time Performance Management Helps Employees Hit Goals 

Continuous performance management provides frequent check-ins and documentation. This can be especially beneficial when it comes to achieving goals. 

For example, if an employee set a high sales goal and they only met with their manager twice a year, it would be difficult to correct the employee’s sales tactics if they weren’t on track to achieve their target. 

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But when real-time performance management is practiced, managers frequently discuss progress with employees and help them understand where improvements can be made to ensure goals are achieved. 

Real-Time Performance Management Gives a Clear Picture of the Data 

Continuous performance management provides transparent data that helps managers understand how their employees are performing. 

Managers can see a full track record of their employees progress through the year with continuous feedback. This provides insight on where employees are excelling, and where they might be falling off track. Managers can then use the insights gathered to adjust resources and change direction as needed to meet goals and expectations.

Real-Time Performance Management Simplifies the Annual Performance Review

When only one or two reviews are held every year, it’s easy for managers to overemphasize an employee's most recent wins and losses. 

Continuous performance management ensures that performance is accounted for throughout the year. 

When annual reviews come around, managers already have check-in and feedback notes written down in one place. They can use data and insights from these notes to inform the annual review and ensure an employee is being evaluated on their performance over the entire year, not just the last month.

Implementing Continuous Performance Management: A Step-by-Step Process

Now that you know some of the benefits of continuous performance management, it’s time to learn how to implement it.

The steps below outline everything you need to implement a continuous performance management system, including training, feedback standards, and a unified system. 

continuous, real-time performance management

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1. Create Feedback Standards

The first step to implementing continuous feedback is to create standards for what the process should look like. 

How will feedback be delivered? Do you drop a note to somebody in a system? Do you first talk to them in person and then document the conversation? A clear standard needs to be set. 

Next, expectations should be defined around how often feedback is given. Will it be once a week? After every project? Six times a month? 

Organizations may consider setting a quota around how often employees must give feedback in order to ensure that it’s actually happening. 

But as expectations around the frequency of feedback are set, it’s important to help employees understand the purpose of continuous feedback. The reason is not to call out others–it’s to help them improve. Organizations should emphasize that feedback needs to be constructive and not punitive. 

HR has the responsibility to make sure people are actually giving continuous feedback. This is done by setting crystal-clear expectations for both managers and employees. 

2. Set Up a System

After standards around continuous feedback are set, you should set up some sort of system to solicit and collect the feedback. 

The system may be extremely simple, like a document to track everything, or more robust, like performance management software. 

But no matter what the system looks like, it should be easy for every employee to use. If the system is complex and difficult to figure out, employees will be less likely to use it, resulting in less frequent feedback. 

The key is to implement a system that’s able to effectively solicit and collect feedback while remaining accessible to all employees.

3. Provide Training

Now that you have a feedback system in place, you need to teach employees how to effectively deliver and receive feedback. This means providing in-depth training for the entire organization.

Training doesn’t just mean sending an email to everybody at the company and holding a one-off meeting. Training should be an ongoing process. 

After employees are coached on how to provide and receive feedback, managers should ensure that employees are giving effective feedback to others and following the feedback standards that have been set. 

In order to make sure employees are providing high-quality feedback, managers and employees may review feedback the employee gave to others during a check-in. They can then discuss what went well when providing the feedback, how it could have been better, and ways to improve in the future. 

Employees may also practice delivering constructive feedback by providing feedback to their manager. This would provide an excellent opportunity for managers to coach employees in real-time. 

4. Model Expectations

HR and company leadership need to walk the walk by publicly demonstrating continuous feedback practices. 

By modeling expectations, management will set the tone and tenor for the frequency and composition of continuous feedback. Managers and employees will quickly pick up on what’s expected of them and be able to replicate the modeled behavior with a little practice.

5. Tie Feedback to Long-Term Discussions

Continuous feedback works best when it supplements long-term discussions, such as annual reviews. 

When real-time feedback is given consistently, you and your organization will have a stack of actionable data at your fingertips. 

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Then when annual reviews roll around, you can collate that data to make informed assessments based on employee performance over the course of the year.

Real-time feedback brings transparency and objectivity to the process, ensuring that an employee’s comprehensive performance is taken into account—not just the last quarter or final month before the review.

6. Improve, Expand, and Evolve Your Process

Chances are, you’re not going to get this right the first time. And that’s okay. 

Solicit and gather employee feedback in order to improve your process. Discover where the pain points are, then evolve your process to correct previous issues.

Continuous performance management is dynamic, and the evolution of your process should be as well. Welcome any adjustments and continue to evaluate your process over time.

Real-Time Performance Feedback Case Study

So what does implementing real-time performance management look like? 

NGM Biopharmaceuticals is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. Historically, NGM tracked mid-term and annual reviews with Microsoft Excel and Word. 

NGM always had a culture of continuous improvement and learning from mistakes, but feedback wasn’t being tracked. The organization needed a system to store and track continuous feedback so that it could be effectively leveraged for their mid-year and annual reviews. 

After implementing a performance management system, NGM’s performance management process now focuses on real-time performance management with a formal annual review and an informal mid-year conversation.

The annual review occurs at the end of the year and includes a self-review, a 360 review with three raters, and a meeting between employees and their managers. Because NGM has fully adopted a culture of continuous performance management, they can use the annual review meeting to focus on just three questions: 

  • What are you doing?
  • What areas of improvement do you want to have?
  • What do you want to continue doing, start doing, and work on? 

Meanwhile, the mid-year reviews are more casual and informal conversations between the manager and their direct reports and are not required to be recorded.

By setting up a system that solicits and stores feedback, NGM has found that they have more time to spend on training managers on how to provide feedback because they are spending less time on administrative tasks.

NGM has also seen how continuous performance management keeps the annual review process transparent and free of surprises. 

Kristen Townsend, Manager of Culture and Rewards at NGM, summed up the effectiveness of their new real-time performance feedback:

“Now that we have a process focused on continuous feedback, it creates an easier review cycle because nothing is new to the employee. I think the most impact has come from continuous feedback—having a platform that continues to support us on an ongoing basis helps everyone at NGM be more successful.”

Continuous Performance Management In PerformYard

Many organizations use PerformYard to easily manage real-time performance feedback. 

With PerformYard, you can request, store, and track any kind of feedback throughout your organization—360 feedback, weekly check-ins, continuous feedback, and more. 

All feedback is centrally located in PerformYard, so you won’t have to search through your email to find notes from past check-ins. You can easily pull up feedback from the entire year. 

And the best part? It’s extremely intuitive for employees to use. No matter how tech-comfortable your employees are, PerformYard is easy for everybody to navigate. It’s a simple, streamlined system that makes real-time performance management easier than ever before.

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Resources for Continuous Feedback

Looking for additional resources? Here are some resources we recommend to start your search on continuous feedback.

The Value of Real-Time Feedback Tools

How To Create a Feedback Culture

What Is Continuous Feedback? Real-World Examples from Adobe & Typeform

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