Cultivating a feedback-friendly remote culture helps everyone at a company. Employees who feel confident enough to tell leaders what is and is not working provide valuable insight that can spur organizational change. Likewise, workers don’t have to second-guess their performance when they have managers who routinely provide constructive feedback; they know which actions their boss finds praiseworthy and they possess a roadmap of what needs improvement.
Establishing an environment where such give and take is the norm, however, requires effort—especially when team members work from different locations.
Here are some ways to bridge the distance and build a feedback-friendly remote culture:
Make it the norm.
An annual performance review or a once-a-year engagement survey isn’t going to cut it. These out-of-the-ordinary actions tend to feel impersonal and oftentimes are too far removed from actual events for either workers or managers to remember details.
“People want to feel connected to their company and team day-to-day. And leaders should want to take the pulse of their teams regularly,” says Neil Bedwell, founding partner at Local Industries.
Thus, it pays to provide multiple outlets so that opportunities for feedback are everywhere. Scheduled check-ins via phone or Skype offer managers and telecommuters a designated time for one-to-one conversation. Group conference calls or brainstorming sessions encourage idea generation and multiple perspectives on overcoming challenges. And a channel on the company’s chat platform devoted to anytime thoughts serves the same purpose as an in-office suggestion box.
Or try this suggestion from Bedwell, which is particularly suitable for remote workplaces. “Learn from consumer products and focus on fast-twitch feedback collected in short bursts of one-to-five quick questions submitted in seconds through a mobile device. I prefer graphics, grids, and emojis as response mechanics over numbered choices or open-form feedback.”
Focus on the big picture.
Whether you’re a manager or a worker, giving and receiving feedback can be uncomfortable or even rather scary. You might worry about hurting someone’s feelings, looking like a whiner, or hearing hard truths you’d prefer to ignore. An effective way to make exchanges easier is to concentrate on the ultimate goal—improving the company.
“When people are connected and aligned with a bigger purpose—a compelling purpose—giving and receiving feedback becomes about making the work ‘space’ (albeit remote) and all the people who support the vision much better equipped to fulfill on the big purpose of the work in the first place,” says Magi Graziano, CEO of KeenAlignment.
Presenting feedback in terms of how changes or ideas will help the company acknowledges common ground and keeps statements from seeming like affronts. Workers who see themselves as valued contributors can welcome specific suggestions on improving productivity, and leaders can hear employee frustrations as important signals about what the organization must investigate. And this safe, connected remote workplace will ultimately beget the most important ingredient of genuine feedback—trust.
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