Remote teams are becoming more and more common. Companies often need to move their workforce around as the world gets more interconnected. This sometimes means moving employees from their home country to a new one. Other times, it means moving employees from one office to another within the same country. Remote teams offer several benefits. Employees can work from home, cutting down commute time.
Additionally, they don't have to worry about getting late to work because of traffic. Also, remote employees can spend more time with their families and enjoy a work-life balance. Regular check-ins allow you and your remote team to stay on track with your goals and encourage them to give effective feedback when necessary.
Why is feedback for remote teams essential?
In the past, managers used to give feedback in a live environment. You were in face-to-face contact with your team, who were right around you. However, when you are working with a remote team, this is not always the case. While you read that right, it does not mean you should not provide feedback to your remote team.
Feedback is a two-way street. You want to provide your teams with the information they need to improve, but you also want them to be receptive to the same information. That means you need to be open to receiving feedback and be willing to use it.
Working with a remote team is a little less personal than working with a team in the office. You are not experiencing the day-to-day struggles of your team, and you can't physically see or hear them daily, making it harder to give feedback to your remote teams.
So, how exactly do you give constructive feedback to your remote teams?
The difficulty of giving feedback to remote employees
Giving remote employees feedback is trickier than giving in-office employees feedback. In-office employees can hear your feedback instantly. They can see your facial expression, your posture, and body language. They can also hear the tone of your voice, but remote employees can’t.
When giving feedback to remote employees, the most common mistake is assuming the feedback has already been understood by the employee. For example, let’s say you are giving feedback to a remote employee. You tell them their work is subpar. You tell them their work isn’t meeting expectations, and they need to improve.
What happens if the work is still of poor quality? What if their performance falls short of what is expected? What if they have to put in a lot of effort to improve?
Therefore, you cannot assume that the remote employee will understand your feedback instantly.
Thus, it is wrong to assume they understood your feedback. They might be working from home or in a noisy coffee shop. They might be listening to the latest episode of the podcast. They might not understand what you are saying.
Feedback for remote teams: best practices
Here are some steps to follow when giving feedback remotely.
1. Ensure clarity
The most important thing to remember when giving remote work feedback is to be precise. Sometimes, when you are speaking in person, you can assume the person you are speaking to has understood what you said. But this isn’t the case when you are giving feedback remotely.
When giving feedback remotely, you need to be as precise as possible. Be sure to provide examples where appropriate. And be sure you are stating exactly what you are trying to say.
For example, if you say, “I want your report to be more detailed,” what does this mean?
You might assume that your employee knows that this is what you are trying to communicate. But they might not. So, be sure to state precisely what you are looking for and why.
2. Give feedback using visuals
There are some situations where you will need to give feedback about a visual. For example, let’s say your employee is creating a PowerPoint report and they have made a mistake. In these situations, it can be hard for the person you are speaking to understand what you are trying to convey. That’s where visuals come in handy.
Give feedback to your employee by using screenshots, or examples of what you would like to see. For example, if you are giving feedback about a report, you can show them what a good report looks like.
3. Give Feedback Using Video
Video conferencing is one of the most popular ways for managers to give feedback remotely. This is because it’s the most effective at conveying tone. It can be challenging to convey the right tone when giving feedback remotely. That is because you're not there in person and can't see your employee's body language.
Video calls allow your employees to see you, which can help them better understand your tone. You can speak clearly, and they can see your face. This can help them interpret what you’re saying.
4. Be careful with tone
When you are giving remote work feedback, remember that your tone matters. A negative tone can make your employee feel hurt or angry.
For example, if you are giving feedback about a report, and you tell your employee, "You aren't very good at writing reports," it won't be well received. Instead, offer constructive criticism. For example, say, “I want you to work a little harder on your reports, and I would like to see you include more facts.”
5. Be prepared to repeat
It is sometimes impossible to give your feedback in one attempt. This can be because the employee you are working with doesn’t understand what you’re saying. Or they might not be following along with what you are saying.
If this is the case, you will need to repeat your feedback. This can be frustrating for the employee but it is necessary. Often, your employees will need to hear your feedback multiple times and in different ways before they fully understand what you are trying to convey.
6. Be clear about your expectations
It is essential to be as transparent as possible when giving feedback remotely. For example, let’s say you are giving feedback about a report. You might say, “I want you to include more facts in your report.” Such feedback might leave your employee a little confused. They might not understand what you are trying to communicate.
Thus, it is a good idea to give specific examples. For example, you might say, “I want you to include five facts in your report about the company’s clients. And let us include one fact about a specific client.”
7. Be prepared for some defensiveness
Employees may feel attacked when they receive feedback remotely. And this can be especially true if the problem has to do with soft skills.
For example, if managers are giving feedback about an employee’s attitude, the employee might feel as though they are being attacked on a personal level. Consequently, they might become defensive.
Because of this, it is a good idea to give them some time to process the feedback you have given them. Also, it will help if you give your employees a chance to ask questions.
8. Be patient
Have patience with your employee. Realise that it might take them some time to understand what you’re trying to say. Sometimes problems don't just disappear by themselves. They must occasionally be discussed. If an employee is having an issue with a colleague or with someone else in the company, you must discuss this instead of ignoring it.
Sometimes, employees might require you to help them work through their issues. They might need some advice. They might need you to help them figure out how to best approach the person they are having an issue with.
9. Don’t give feedback that’s too personal
Avoid giving feedback that’s too personal. For example, don’t give feedback that has to do with your employee’s personal life, such as their dressing sense or lifestyle.
10. Be prepared to change your approach if your feedback isn't working
Sometimes, you might have to give feedback repeatedly and in different ways. For example, let’s say you tell your employee, “I want you to create a visual report.” But, the employee doesn’t understand what that means. They don’t understand exactly what you are asking for. So, despite trying, they fail to do a good job.
Despite telling them repeatedly, they might still fail to follow your feedback. So, what do you do in such circumstances?
If you can’t get the employee to understand, you might need to change your approach. You might need to give your feedback differently. Or maybe you need to explain things differently. To help them comprehend the assignment's requirements and perform appropriately, you might share a sample of the assigned task.
Out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind
Mesh helps drive continuous improvement by engaging remote employees with real-time recognition. It is on a quest to establish a vibrant people-centred workplace culture globally. Whether employees work remotely or in an office, Mesh aims to help them reach their full potential. Alongside continuous 360-degree feedback loops, social recognition, and 1-on-1s, Mesh understands unique employee strengths and drives self-improvement. Click here to learn more.