5 Tips for Delivering Feedback to Remote Employees
With COVID-19, most companies have shifted to a virtual working arrangement. Organisations like Google and Twitter have asked their team to work from home, globally. Employees and organisations are facing the new challenge to adapting to remote ways of operating.
In fact, remote-working could become the norm, post-COVID 19. A remote work survey found that 74% of companies are considering moving at least 5% of their employees to permanent remote positions post-COVID 19.
While this shift has altered the way we work, it doesn’t change the pressing importance of managing employees, giving feedback and offering your employees the support required to do better, especially under current times. Coordinating with teams, reviewing employee performance, building connections, elevating productivity and employee engagement are tasks that just got tougher for managers with remote working.
A sound feedback mechanism for remote teams in a virtual workplace is one of the most critical elements today. Your employees are the ones that keep things running, whether within the physical proximity of an office or whether working from home.
In the absence of a physical connection, sharing feedback has become even more critical to build a bond with your team, make them feel involved and cared for and drive performance constructively.
Why is feedback so important?
Unbiased, constructive and comprehensive feedback helps:
- Bridge the gap between perception and performance
- Effective decision making
- Motivate employees towards doing better
- Boost dialogue and team building
- Boost effective performance management
- Further learning and self-development
A study says that companies that implement regular employee feedback witness lower turnover rates by 14.9%.
On the flipside, absent or non-constructive feedback leads to:
- Reduced employee morale and motivation
- Lower productivity
- Negative effect on employee behaviour
- Absenteeism and employee attrition
- 4 out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they receive little or no feedback.
How to deliver feedback to remote employees
Here are five ways to give effective feedback whilst your team is working remotely.
1. Choose the best way to communicate
The current pandemic has made us heavily dependent on remote communication technology. However, what’s important to understand is that we need to use the communication tools that are most apt. It is important to understand what kind of tools should be used when.
For instance, instant messaging/chat applications like Google chat, Slack, WhatsApp, are useful to quickly connect with someone, drop a one liner, run a quick check-in, etc. but may not be the best tool to use for providing feedback in a remote working environment; because the element of “spoken conversation” is lacking. Talking with employees becomes all the more important when it’s about sharing feedback.
The one thing managers would certainly want to avoid while giving feedback is it being misunderstood and misinterpreted. For that reason, it's better to connect with your teams on a video call, whether it’s one-to-one or a group call. Even a phone call may not be the best solution, as body language, talking tone and expressions play a crucial role here.
Using video not only helps establish a human connection with your team and share feedback but also helps elevate your team’s spirit.
2. Weigh your feedback
Giving feedback in the current times requires a slightly more thought-over approach. Your employees are not in front of you all the time, they cannot be monitored as and when required and they are less connected to the rest of the team.
The way you give out feedback defines employee morale and has a direct impact on their productivity. Not all feedback can be positive, and negative feedback is a necessary evil for boosting employee performance, but it’s important to note that negative feedback has a much bigger impact than positive.
The all-time popular sandwich approach is the way to go, now more than ever. Start with a positive, then focus on the negatives, and then end with some more positives. You don’t want to leave your employees dwelling on negativity in the end.
As per a Zenger and Folkman’s survey, 92% of respondents agreed that negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective in improving performance.
3. Be Sensitive & Empathetic
Remote work, especially in the present times, tends to bring along with it a certain feeling of self-isolation, stress, and a dip in morale. Remote employees have a lot going in the background: adjusting to remote technology, coordinating with teams, joining/hosting video calls, looking after family, attending to household chores. Managers need to be sensitive about the ‘context’ their employees are working in.
This simply means trying to empathize with their circumstances and situations – how they’re feeling, if all’s well on the personal front, if things are running smoothly, and if they’re able to manage work and personal life well.
Situational performance needs to be given importance, and you need to be encouraging and supportive in your tone at all times. The ultimate aim of any feedback program is to ensure a “win-win” for both manager and employees.
4. Invite feedback
Feedback flow should not be like one way traffic. Encouraging your employees to share their side of the story, their thoughts and inputs is the way to go. Feedback is effective only when all parties involved have a right to express themselves.
Managers should know what their teams have to say and learn about their opinions, goals and challenges. This will also help them manage a remote team more productively and efficiently.
Looking at something from another perspective helps widen our understanding of possible challenges and solutions, and arrive at the best course of action.
Another advantage of inviting feedback from teams is that they feel like a part of the organisation’s affairs, which boosts their morale further.
Managers need to make a genuine effort in inviting feedback. Asking for opinions and not working on them will not serve any purpose and employees may stop expressing themselves eventually.
5. Communicate Regularly
As per a study, frequent and regular communication helps achieve higher employee engagement and morale. These two factors that are of utmost importance for any organization right now and at the same time are the ones that get hit the hardest.
A manager needs to make his/her presence felt at all times, not as an evaluator, but as a buddy/mentor and guide for their teams. Have regular check-in with teams to ensure things are running smoothly and know how every employee is fairing in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.
Instant messaging applications come in handy here. A simple chat can help create a communication flow in no time. Plus, because it’s more casual, employees will feel more comfortable and relaxed while conversing.
Try running a quick tea/coffee session with your teams, just to check the pulse and connect on an informal level. Such sessions don’t have to be work all the time.
In these extraordinary times, when we have our teams working remotely, some things inevitably get hit by a slowdown – like a weekly employee engagement activity or casual catching up with peers.
However, one factor that organizations cannot afford to miss out on is regular and constructive feedback. Managers need to make an extra effort to ensure a strong feedback channel exists between them and their teams. Providing regular, specific feedback will keep your employees productive and motivated and also committed to their tasks.
About the Author
Lead - Assessments & Surveys at GreenThumbs
Garima Sharma is a subject matter expert in personality assessments, talent management, 360 degree appraisals, employee engagement, and feedback surveys.
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