How To Give Constructive Feedback To Your Remote Employees
The shift to remote work has become the new normal in most work cultures. It can’t totally replace the traditional office environment. Nevertheless, many people are spending at least two or three days a week working from home.
With such an important revolution comes a rethink of entire working structures. Human resources, technology, workflow, and even task management tools have had to adapt to fit this new normal.
But how we manage and give feedback hasn’t received the same do-over.
Perhaps this is because, at the heart of the concept, feedback is about communication. With so many online chat platforms, communication can seem like the least of our issues.
Yet it’s important to be aware that working remotely can impact how we communicate and, crucially, how we give and receive feedback.
For example, there’s less of a culture of off-the-cuff remarks due to the fact that everyone works separately. Sure, you can ping someone on Slack, but these communication tools feel more intentional in a way that may discourage casual remarks. Studies show that employees are receiving less feedback overall than their colleagues in the office. Worse, they’re receiving more critical feedback and less off-the-cuff praise.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered our best tips for giving more useful, constructive feedback in a remote work environment.
The importance of constructive feedback in remote work settings
You’re probably all aware of how important feedback is to employees. Everyone has heard of the feedback sandwich, for instance.
But have you considered the significance of feedback in a remote work setting? In these contexts, constructive feedback can:
- Increase productivity and performance.
- Foster communication and connection.
- Promote growth and learning.
Increase in Productivity and Performance
Working remotely, for all its benefits for employers and employees, can be a lonely experience. This can impact on employees’ performance and productivity.
To counteract this, a real focus on constructive feedback can help give employees a sense of recognition and belonging, which might otherwise be missing from their day-to-day lives.
It is also significant in making employees feel valued and valuable. These are two very important concepts for encouraging motivation, which itself has a knock-on effect on worker productivity, performance, and employee turnover.
Fosters Communication and Connection
Unsurprisingly, communication can take a bit of a backseat when it comes to the remote workplace.
Implementing constructive feedback can help counteract this. Consider feedback sessions as mini, individual team-building sessions. They can definitely help employees to feel connected to the business and to management.
Don’t be afraid to get hands-on, either. Using iPad remote support, you can remotely control your employee’s desktop and walk them through any issues they don’t understand.
Promotes Growth and Learning
Professional athletes need years of intensive, highly personalized coaching in order to reach peak performance.
In the workplace, feedback sessions are basically like coaching for your employees. Constructive feedback lets employees know what went right and what went wrong, as well as the steps they need to take to improve.
Giving them such individualized feedback is crucial for promoting growth and learning as they get to know their own personal strengths, weaknesses, and targets. Not providing feedback denies them this opportunity. This can be a detriment, especially to early-career workers, who need to learn as much as they can on the job.
How to Provide Constructive Feedback to Your Remote Employees
With all this in mind, it’s pretty clear that giving constructive feedback is crucial for your employees’ well-being as well as their performance and growth.
So what are the best ways to implement constructive feedback in a remote workplace?
Establish Specific Goals
One downside of remote work is the lack of structure. If you’re not careful, this can negatively impact your remote team’s morale.
You can counteract this by enacting specific goals when it comes to giving feedback. For example, why not schedule a daily check-in and check-out? Not only does this bookend the day neatly, but it also gives your employees a regular structure for speaking up.
In this way, you can systematise raising issues and giving feedback in a remote environment, whilst boosting motivation at the same time.
Choose the Right Medium
If we go back to our coaching metaphor, then feedback should be personalized according to the individual employee.
With that in mind, you need to consider the right medium for delivering this feedback. Be mindful of which employee prefers video calls when discussing work performance. Shy employees might prefer written statements that can be discussed over the phone later on.
Choosing the right medium also depends on what type of feedback you are giving. For example, using video conference calls can create a personal and warm feeling. It can also be useful if you need to show how something should be done. For instance, by using remote desktop management, you can showcase an action to an otherwise confused employee.
In contrast, a written note might not be inappropriate for your in-depth thoughts on last week’s catastrophe of a meeting. At the same time, giving feedback in written form is useful both for clarity as well as for following up in the future.
Focus on Behaviour and Impact
When it comes to an employee making a mistake or behaving in an undesired way, it’s not uncommon for leaders to simply claim: “You were late!” Or “your communication skills are lacking.”
However, this type of feedback is vague and unhelpful. By instead focusing on behavior and impact, you zero in on the specificity of a situation and what happened that was undesirable.
For example, you might want to point out that an employee’s presentation wasn’t convincing enough, which failed to get buy-in from other team members. Rather than telling them their presentation skills are poor, it would be more useful to point out that they failed to include data backing up their points, or maybe they didn’t convey why the problem was relevant to other departments.
This feedback is clear and unambiguous, both in what went wrong and how it impacts the company. Moreover, focusing on behavior rather than the individual helps remove the sting from the situation.
In other words, it highlights that behavior is changeable and that an employee can do better next time. This can help counter the dreaded negativity bias, where we zero in on any negative information we hear.
Sometimes, however, it’s less about a specific situation and more about behavior over time. In these cases, measuring remote work productivity metrics provides you with quantifiable data to back up your feedback.
Utilize the SBI Model (Situation, Behavior and Impact)
Building on the advice from the previous step, the SBI model gives you a concrete structure for delivering feedback, by focusing on:
- The situation: describe the time and place where the action took place.
- The behavior: describe what the employee did.
- The impact: describe how this behavior has impacted the individual, their team and even the company at large.
Using this model allows you to be specific and helps avoid any misunderstanding. It also makes feedback appear more objective.
As we mentioned at the top of this post, remote workers are more likely to receive positive feedback.
Of course, there’s always a need to highlight where employees can do better, and sometimes mistakes are made. However, if you ignore everything an employee is doing right, this is a surefire way of making them feel undervalued and unseen.
It can be easy to miss what’s going well if everything seems to be ‘normal’ or as it ‘should’ be. But this totally passes over all the hard work and inspiration that employees have used to achieve this.
That’s why it’s important to keep track of all the great things your employees achieved, big or small. Make sure to let them know that you see the good as well as the bad.
Address Potential Improvements
Addressing potential improvements is a great way to put a positive spin on constructive feedback.
It also gives your employees concrete steps to take in order to improve for the future. Similarly, it allows you to see which employees are not making the effort. If they haven’t taken real, meaningful steps toward changing their behavior, something is definitely amiss.
Potential improvements don’t even have to come from the employees themselves. Perhaps it’s about finding shortcuts and other avenues if they feel overburdened with work. For a customer service team drowning in calls, automatic dialers might free up some of their time.
By coming up with these solutions yourself, you show how much you care about your employees.
Develop an Action Plan
In a similar vein, develop an implementable action plan to help overcome any shortcomings or mistakes.
This plan should be immediately implementable and easy to follow. Importantly, it should also be followed up on in future sessions. This helps employees stay focused and, crucially, accountable.
Encourage Employee Participation
Remember that feedback goes both ways.
It’s hard for anyone to sit and discuss their behavior for an extended period of time. And there’s no doubt that your employees will have opinions on how their work culture can change for the better. Show that you respect and value their opinions by making time to listen to them and following up with progress on any issues they feel the need to raise.
Constructive feedback in the remote team
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the remote workplace is here to stay.
With this new way of working, it’s important for management and team leaders to stay agile in their leadership style. Feedback has always been an important part of leading a team, and that doesn’t change with remote workers.
By focusing just that little bit more on this area, you may be surprised by the change you see in terms of performance, productivity, and growth.