Feedback is one of those areas of talent management that has grown harder to tackle in a remote world. In fact, giving feedback has seen a decline right when we need to be communicating the most. While talking about performance with an employee through a screen might feel a little more uncomfortable than it did in the office, there can be real benefits to having open conversations on remote teams. In a world where colleagues are growing more disconnected, how can you provide feedback that will help your team grow and learn effectively?
6 strategies for teams
Giving and receiving feedback can be a little unsettling in the workplace but its importance can’t be underscored enough. It helps employees strengthen their skills so when in doubt, try some of these strategies to get your team more comfortable with talking about what works and what doesn’t.
Make sure employees are ready: If you’re going to give employee feedback, make sure you pick your time and place. Feedback has the most impact when a person is ready to hear it so if you choose to do a debrief in the busiest time of year, for example, you’ll reduce the effectiveness of your words. A better bet would be to schedule a time in advance and provide employees with details on how it will happen. If you’re planning on doing a 360 assessment, a team survey, a one-on-one, or perhaps a more formal performance review, let employees know what to expect so they have the time to get on board. Feedback can be stressful so taking the time to ensure your employees understand the process can help combat some of that anxiety.
Be specific: Often we fall into the habit of being vague when trying to give feedback. It’s easier to spare feelings when you point to a general area of improvement, rather than a specific behaviour. Problem is, that sort of input doesn’t tend to be very helpful. Regardless of whether you have positive or negative feedback to impart, try to be clear about what action or skill you’re commenting on. If someone gave a great presentation, let them know in real-time what you thought of their performance. If there were areas for improvement, give them notes to help them take concrete steps forward. Constructive feedback helps employees learn and gives them a direction to work towards, especially if its given on a regular basis.
Build a culture of feedback: Speaking of sharing regularly with your employees, try to build feedback loops right into your team culture. Get employees used to giving feedback to their team members and receiving it in return. The more you can normalize the process, the easier it will be for peers to hear and act on the feedback they receive. Start by modeling how to give positive feedback in a remote environment. It can be as simple as calling out good work during team meetings to start with, building up to team surveys, or more in-depth manager-employee meetings. The goal is to use feedback to keep communication flowing on a team and to keep levels of psychological safety high. When employees are comfortable with each other mistakes are found more quickly and solutions are created more effectively.
Feedback is a two-way street: One important piece of giving constructive feedback is to make sure it’s not a one-way conversation. Effective feedback is about helping someone improve or recognizing something positive. In order to make the advice stick, it’s useful to have an open discussion about it and give the employee a chance to add input and ask questions. If you have some constructive criticism to pass on, make space to ask employees how they are viewing the particular issue and what you can do together to address the challenge. Again, the more feedback becomes a part of weekly meetings or general team culture, the easier these conversations will become.
360-degree feedback: There are many different ways to convey opinions about performance so part of making it effective is choosing the right method. Maybe one week all it needs to be is a casual kudos here or there. Perhaps the next month you’ll need a more formal review. Also, plan how you want to collect and present feedback to your employees or receive it about yourself. One great way to tackle this challenge is with 360-degree tools. These type of assessments compile anonymous feedback from multiple sources so you can account for team members, managers, clients, or whomever you want to survey for insight. At McQuaig, we offer the McQuaig 360 Leadership Review to help leaders learn what real-world behaviours they should do more or less of to become more effective in their roles.
Don’t leave employees hanging: The importance of communication on a healthy team is vital. Make sure you always follow up with employees after giving feedback to see how they’ve internalized what they’ve learned and whether they need any support in achieving whatever goals or expectations you’ve set up together. Feedback can be unsettling for some workers and you don’t want those feelings to linger without any chance of being resolved. If you’ve been through a similar feedback process yourself, share your experiences with your team and lead by example. Show them how important talking about wins and improvements can be and don’t let anything get swept under the rug.
Consistent feedback improves teams
Regardless of what feedback tool you decide to use with your team, what matters is that you start talking about what is going well and what the team can do better. Start with the positives and get your employees used to pointing out the great things their colleagues have done. Once the team is more used to giving and receiving positive feedback, model how to give constructive criticism and talk about weaker skills or abilities that could use some extra development. When teams can communicate openly together they have an easier time reaching shared goals and deadlines. Considering many employees are still working remotely, the connection feedback provides can be invaluable not just to help teams stay on track but also to keep colleagues together as a unit.