how to give effective remote feedback during COVID-19.

COVID-19 has forced millions of employees to turn their homes into offices. Twitter has even made it mandatory for all workers globally to work from home. As a consequence, most teams are having to adapt to increasingly remote ways of operating. For the majority of employees and employers, it’s a new challenge. Unfortunately for the latter, it’s managers who have the daunting task of implementing these new structures and activities.

One of the requirements for adapting to COVID-19 is effective feedback. Without normal proximity to each other, non-existent contact hours and severe disruption to familiar feedback channels, it’s critical to adapt how you give feedback so that it still acts as a positive driver to individuals and performance. Here are five ways to give effective feedback whilst your team is remote.

1. Give good feedback

Obvious, but necessary. Good feedback is more important than ever. Even with modern technologies allowing us to imitate being in the same room as others, and with so many tools enabling instant feedback, remote working requires a more thoughtful approach because teams are now more independent, less monitored and often less easily engaged. In short, how you give feedback can have a dramatic difference in maintaining order, activity and morale during COVID-19. To refresh yourself on the fundamentals of good feedback, people power Impraise have put together an essential guide that uses their formula C.O.I.N. Read it here.

2. Use video

Tools such as Slack and Whatsapp can be used to give feedback, and they should be, but don’t only rely on them. Whilst they’re great for maintaining regular feedback, words without body language, tone or facial expressions can easily be misinterpreted. And even if you’re on a phone call, that all-important face-to-face interaction isn’t there. So, make sure you use video to at least give some of your feedback, whether that’s as a team or one-to-one. Using video is critical to establishing a human connection with your team whilst they’re remote, and that’s good not only for the quality of feedback but also for the team’s spirit. Isolation breeds loneliness, so give your team a friendly face.

3. Increase frequency

Research shows that frequent communication results in higher engagement and higher morale, two things that are at risk with remote teams. And this is where instant messaging tools can be utilized the most. It may not be the most valuable form of feedback, but it does allow you to create a near-constant stream of communication. Use it to schedule daily feedback sessions with each employee, initiate regular team huddles and positively reinforce employee’s work. COVID-19 has torn down the familiar ways of giving frequent feedback, so it’s imperative that you build it back up and further using the tools you have. For more strategies to use instant messaging at work, Harvard Business Review has written a thorough guide here.

4. Adapt your feedback

Because remote working for many is new, there are also new reasons to give feedback. Now is the time to think about giving more feedback about collaborative working, recognizing small contributions that employees make and championing adjustments that team members are making for their new work routines. And the expectations you used to assess performance in the office aren’t as relevant anymore, so feedback should be focused more on results with increased flexibility towards how they are delivered. Aim to create positive loops of feedback and performance that keep motivation high. Celebrate the small things.

5. Maintain regular 1-to-1s

Use video unless someone is firmly against it. Whilst remote working, 1-to-1s are the most personal form of feedback, so including a face, expressions and some body language will make it a more effective session. Video will also allow you as a manager to see how each employee is fairing on an emotional level in the midst of COVID-19; it’s easy to hide negatives emotions behind words on Slack. And 1-to-1s are perfect for building trust between manager and employee whilst setting clear expectations and goals. If possible, 1-to-1s should be a weekly item. If you want to read more about the perfect 1-to-1, performance management platform Reflektive has created the ultimate guide to 1-to-1s, available for free download here.

 

Next read: 7 inspiring business responses to the coronavirus outbreak