It’s that time of year as HR professionals are gearing up for the annual performance review, a process I’ve written about before. I’ve read numerous perspectives on performance management in the last few weeks – for and against 360° reviews and how to do them right, what process to follow, how to get to real feedback, do you criticise or not – it’s endless.

Cutting through all that clutter in recent weeks, however, are two leaders I respect, Ann Bares of the Compensation Force and Compensation Café blogs and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.

In a recent post on the importance of getting performance feedback right, Ann had this to say about a recent study:

“Only 11% of the organisations surveyed subscribe to the practice of providing ongoing performance feedback. 68% of them report that performance management in their organisations equates to a function that occurs only once or twice a year. … But evidence suggests that employees want — even crave — more feedback from their bosses, even if it is negative. … 67% say that they get too little positive feedback and 51% say that they get too little constructive criticism from their bosses.”

Carol Bartz, when asked in a New York Times interview about she gives feedback, responded:

“I have the puppy theory. When the puppy pees on the carpet, you say something right then because you don’t say six months later, ‘Remember that day, January 12th, when you peed on the carpet?’ That doesn’t make any sense. ‘This is what’s on my mind. This is quick feedback.’ And then I’m on to the next thing. If I had my way I wouldn’t do annual reviews, if I felt that everybody would be more honest about positive and negative feedback along the way. I think the annual review process is so antiquated. I almost would rather ask each employee to tell us if they’ve had a meaningful conversation with their manager this quarter. Yes or no. And if they say no, they ought to have one. I don’t even need to know what it is. But if you viewed it as meaningful, then that’s all that counts.”

Both highlight powerfully employee desire for more frequent and more timely feedback on how they are doing. Employees crave success in the workplace, but so often we fail them by not telling them when they are successful, what they did to achieve that success or how much that effort is appreciated. Equally important, we also often fail to tell them when they have not achieved success and what they could or should do differently in the future. As with Carol’s “puppy theory”, such feedback – positive and negative – is far more effective in the moment. What’s the most effective feedback you’ve ever received or given? How did it occur? In a formal review process or in the moment? What’s your preferred method of receiving this feedback?

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