How could you get better at your job? What does your manager think about your performance this month? And what are your ideas about how your organization could do things differently?

For as much money as companies spend on performance management, most employees still couldn’t quickly answer those simple questions. When you only hear feedback once a year at a performance review, it’s hard to know where you stand and how you could continuously improve.

But a new wave of HR tech innovators are working on changing that. At HR Transform, I led a conversation with one of those trailblazers. Rajeev Behera is CEO of Reflektive, a real-time performance-management platform. We talked about why employee engagement is so low, how performance management is changing and how we can reframe engagement outside of HR to include everyone in the process.

Why Engagement Is so Low

We’ve all seen the depressing studies about low employee engagement. Gallup reports that 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their work. Behera says low engagement is the result of a divide between companies and employees. The two groups aren’t aligned on incentives. In other words, the company wants one thing, and they think they know what employees want, but employees want something different.

Before Behera started Reflektive, he was a game designer. While he certainly knew a lot about his role and his relationships, he didn’t know much about “engagement.” “Engagement isn’t very well-known outside of HR,” he says. Most people don’t think about engagement at all, or if they do, it’s an HR issue.

“We need to make engagement a more accessible term that’s relatable outside of HR,” he says. When you expose managers to their team’s real-time engagement numbers, and empower them to act on that, you turn engagement into a priority.

How to Rethink the Performance-Management Process

Here’s how Behera thinks about the performance-management status quo: Everyone has an annual review, with goals set from the top down. Goals are set at the company level, and then cascade down to every employee. “That’s very theoretical,” he says. That kind of top-down goal-setting sounds good when executive leaders are talking about how to get the most out of their employees. But in the end, “it falls flat in practice,” he says.

Reflektive surveyed leaders and their employees, and found that while 94% of leaders thought the performance-management process was working, only 35% of employees agreed. “Employees just don’t get enough out of it,” he says.

Behera says it’s all about employee expectations. Younger workers have grown up constantly sharing on social media and getting immediate feedback from the people they interact with. Then they report to work, and that steady stream of feedback cuts off. “They don’t get that feedback anymore, and they feel like they’re doing something wrong,” he says. “Eighty percent of employees told us they want more feedback.”

So companies like Reflektive are pushing for more continuous, real-time feedback and performance management. Behera suggests a combination of quarterly conversations, planned check-ins and real-time feedback on the fly.

Planning more frequent conversations gives employees the feedback they crave, and it opens the door for them to share their ideas and feedback for the company. Behera says those conversations are crucial: “Fifty percent of employees say they feel uncomfortable bringing up issues about the company’s overall strategy with their managers. We need to find ways to facilitate those uncomfortable conversations and signal to employees and managers that it’s okay to talk about that stuff.”

“There’s a big shift happening in HR processes, and it’s fun to be driving that changing behavior,” he says. “We get to see this big change happening at organizations, and it touches everybody. Performance management goes outside HR. Everyone touches it.”

The Future of HR Tech

In his role as an HR-tech leader, Behera is focused on providing more personalized experiences. He sees a future where feedback will be more accessible. Instead of locking away feedback in a clunky performance-management system you only see once a year, what if feedback was easy to see every day?

“How do you get people more engaged in the feedback process? The key is accessibility,” he says.

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