While giving feedback has become increasingly challenging in today’s remote work environment, it plays a critical role in creating a more productive team. That’s because feedback:
- Helps foster healthy communication between you and your team.
- Encourages the professional growth and development of your team members.
- Helps you refine your systems and processes
Developing a strong feedback culture is, therefore, crucial to your team successfully navigating the complications of remote work. But how do you give effective feedback while working remotely?
Assuming you’ve already invested in the best communication and collaboration tools for remote teams, here are eight best practices to guide you:
1. Create a Safe Environment
One of the first steps to giving feedback is to create a safe environment by connecting as a human being first, before getting down to business. Reach out to your employees and find out how things are going with them. This will encourage a feeling of trust and safety. As such, they’ll be more open to your feedback.
You can also help your employees feel safe giving and receiving feedback by scheduling regular team-building activities. This will help your employees get accustomed to treating remote work with the same gravity they would traditional office work.
2. Schedule Time for Feedback
Feedback should never be an event, it should be part of your culture. For this to happen you must proactively schedule time for feedback sessions. Don’t leave feedback for a quarterly or yearly review. Instead, have regular conversations around performance. You can do this by:
- Scheduling time to meet with the department or teams.
- Meeting one-on-one with employees.
The cadence of the meetings will be determined by the team’s needs or the individual’s needs in the one-on-one feedback sessions.
3. Always Give Context
While it’s important to get straight to the point when giving feedback, you must always take your time to provide any background information needed for your employee to understand where you’re coming from and where you’re going. (If you’ve “found your why,” share details on how your feedback aligns with that vision.) Doing so helps your employee understand your feedback much better. Remember, the clearer your feedback, the more actionable your employees will find it.
4. Serve a Feedback Sandwich
If you’ve never heard of a feedback sandwich, it’s a simple technique to give constructive feedback without demoralizing your employee. To do this, mix positive comments (compliments) with negative ones. This shows your employee that you’re not out to get them but want the best for them.
Using this approach can help keep your employees motivated. It also helps them feel comfortable receiving feedback from you.
5. Honesty Is the Best Policy
One of the biggest mistakes managers make when giving constructive feedback is to try and “soften the blow” by sugarcoating the feedback. Doing this will only do you, your employee and the organization harm and affect employee performance.
Always be honest and direct about what you want to communicate.
Being honest, even with extremely negative feedback, is crucial to your employee’s professional development. That, in turn, is key to ensuring business growth.
6. For Sensitive Information, Use Video
Body language plays a huge role when giving feedback. This is where it becomes tricky when you’re providing feedback to an employee.
Particularly when dealing with sensitive information, try to always use video when giving your feedback. This is important as it allows you to:
- Make eye contact.
- Express yourself better with gestures.
- Read each other’s emotional cues.
- Share your screens to make it easy to show examples.
Thanks to technology, there are numerous video conferencing platforms that you can use to communicate with your employees in real time. It’s also a good idea to use a good video hosting site to save some of your video calls for future reference and training purposes.
Be sure to prepare for your video calls by double-checking your equipment adequately. Also, make sure everyone has the login information ahead of time and give everyone guidelines and expectations regarding meeting flow and agenda.
Your video call check-ins with your team members should be efficient and productive. They should also help your team reconnect and maintain a semblance of “human touch.”
7. Leave Your Employee with an Action Plan
As much as negative feedback is not easy to hear, it’s usually just as difficult for a manager to give it. One way managers can make it easier for themselves (and more constructive for employees) is to offer a course of action. Provide an action plan to follow to help them move forward and succeed.
One of the most significant differences between remote work and working from the office is that you don’t have the privilege of having direct access to your employees. Interactions are limited. That’s why you must think ahead and make an action plan your employee should follow after receiving your feedback. This reduces the amount of back-and-forth interaction and enables your employee to do what they’re supposed to do — work remotely more effectively.
8. Encourage Two-way Communication
A common pitfall that many managers fall into when giving feedback remotely is to do all the talking. When communicating virtually, this becomes worse. Encourage your employees to ask questions and share their feedback as well. To encourage employee participation during your feedback sessions, ask them:
- What they think they did well.
- To explain any challenges they had with the assignment.
- What they will do differently next time.
Your employees should share additional information from their side of the story as well. This will help you understand any challenges they may be having, particularly with working remotely.
Giving Feedback While Working Remotely — Key to a Productive Remote Workforce
Remote work may look and feel different from traditional office culture. However, equipped with the right tools, good communication and proper planning, you can develop a good remote work culture. You can develop a culture that affords healthy opportunities for sharing feedback between you and your employees.
Using the tips in this post, giving feedback while working remotely will become easier. As a result, productivity levels will increase, and you’ll have a happier, engaged workforce.
About the Author:
Neal Taparia is the co-founder of Imagine Easy Solutions, a portfolio of online educational services that reached over 30 million students yearly. Neal sold the business to Chegg (NYSE: CHGG), where he stayed on as an executive for three years. He’s now pursuing a new initiative, Solitaired, which ties classical games with memory and attention training.