Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK
Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK

FAR-thinking companies are replacing the annual performance review with more timely feedback measures. But "agile talent" such as freelancers, advisers and consultants are missing out on this feedback. To close this performance alignment gap, try these six steps.

1. Share context. Too often agile talent report that they are excluded from critical meetings and discussions that would provide helpful — and sometimes essential — context for their work.

2. Measure more than cost, schedule and quality. Agile talent want to know the nuances, and they’re particularly concerned that issues such as cultural fit or other "soft" factors are often left unsaid or undefined until problems arise.

3. Encourage agile talent to communicate concerns before problems bloom. Organisational leaders must sincerely encourage agile talent to communicate concerns. Rapport, the secret sauce of open discussion, blooms when agile talent are regularly invited and expected to honestly discuss potential problems.

4. Demonstrate two-way feedback. Encouragement isn’t enough. When freelancers are asked whether their client organisations really want feedback, there is often more teeth-gnashing than affirmation.

5. Make sure that the right managers are supervising your agile talent. Managers who are performance-oriented but not developmental may assess well, but they may not provide effective feedback and coaching. Managers who focus on development more than performance may miss the mark when it comes to frank, tough assessments. Good managers of agile talent — just like good managers of full-time employees — do both.

6. Acknowledge excellence and share the news. Agile talent are just as motivated by appreciation and recognition as your full-time employees — more so, in fact, given that client satisfaction is the basis for their career success. Whether through something as simple as public praise or as personal as sending flowers and a handwritten letter, reinforce with acknowledgment and thanks.

(Adapted from "Performance Management in the Gig Economy" at HBR.org.)

© 2015 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp