How to scale company culture for distributed teams
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Knowing how to effectively communicate feedback to your employees is one of the clearest tell-tale signs of good leadership. Not only does feedback help your employees develop professionally, it allows for your entire team to succeed and achieve collective goals.
Employee feedback can be given formally, like during a scheduled performance review or one-on-one session. But some of the most impactful employee feedback usually occurs more spontaneously as it’s still fresh in your mind.
So, when exactly should you be giving feedback? And how can you make sure your feedback is put to good use?
To help you navigate the feedback process, we’ve outlined important tips to master your delivery and offer some real-life examples of employee feedback for different situations.
Employee feedback 101
There are three main types of workplace feedback managers can communicate: positive, constructive, and negative feedback.
While all three types of feedback convey details on an employee’s professional performance or abilities, they differ in tone and desired outcome. Let’s look at their primary differences, when you should use each type of feedback, and how to communicate them.
Few things can brighten someone’s day like receiving a compliment or being recognized for their efforts. The workplace is no different. Positive employee feedback acknowledges your team members’ hard work, highlights their strengths, and lets them know you value them.
Who gets tired of hearing that they’ve done something well? While there is no limit to how frequently you can communicate positive employee feedback, reinforcing real-time feedback conversations are great ways to connect with your employees and deepen employee engagement.
For example, providing positive feedback to a team member right after a presentation while it’s still fresh in your mind can remind them to incorporate these elements into future projects. You can lose momentum if you wait several weeks or months for periodic performance reviews to have meaningful feedback conversations.
Employee feedback should be genuine and personal. If you provide positive feedback without referring to specifics, employees might feel like you weren’t paying attention or like you’re trying to hit a compliment quota.
Highlight what you thought they did well, relay positive feedback from other team members or leaders, and thank them for their contributions. A small compliment pointing out an employee’s good qualities can go a long way to make them feel like they’re headed in the right direction and that you’re on the same page.
While giving positive feedback in person or through a video chat is ideal as it establishes an authentic connection, providing quick informal feedback over email or instant messaging can boost morale and improve the employee experience.
Letting an employee know that they’ve done an excellent job on a report or presentation can be a rewarding experience as a manager. Providing constructive feedback, on the other hand, can be more challenging.
The goal of constructive criticism is not to discourage an employee but to support their professional development. As a manager, you can offer suggestions and advice on how they can improve for future projects and team collaboration.
Like positive feedback, you can provide constructive feedback shortly after a challenge arises. If you work in a remote context, book a quick sync to let your colleague know that while you appreciate their work ethic, you feel there is room for improvement in a particular area.
Alternatively, if the issue is not time-sensitive, you can take notes on the situation and address the issue at a later date during a scheduled one-on-one meeting.
The main thing to remember about relaying constructive criticism to a colleague is to do so in a nuanced way. For example, it would be best to acknowledge their efforts while addressing the challenges they may have faced during a complex project or team meeting.
As a manager, there is sometimes no way around relaying negative feedback. It can be uncomfortable, but your role as a leader is to help your employees develop and contribute their best efforts toward the team’s collective goals.
Sometimes this means delivering tough feedback, but only when it will ultimately help them improve. In fact, according to Officevibe Pulse Survey data, 21% of employees say that the feedback they receive doesn’t help them grow and develop, which is why it is vital to support your team when challenges arise.
The more you dwell on an issue, the trickier it will be to overcome it. Resentments may arise, leading to decreased collaboration between peers and dips in employee engagement. By nipping the issue in the bud, you provide your employee with the opportunity to review the way they do things.
If issues arise only once, but you’d like to track the progress of your direct report to see if they become a pattern, you can opt for providing feedback during a scheduled performance review.
Good communication skills are crucial to providing negative feedback. These types of feedback conversations are never easy, but ultimately they will lead to a happier, more inclusive company culture.
While providing in-person feedback might not be an option for distributed teams, tricky conversations are best had through a video call over an email so that your employees can read your body language and tone. The less that is left up to interpretation, the better.
“Reaching your goal of [name the goal] is a big accomplishment! Because of all your hard work and grit, we’ve seen that [name the impact of their work on team/business goals]. Congratulations, and thank you for this contribution to our team’s objectives.”
“I want to congratulate you, not only for your performance but for [name the specific action]. I really appreciate your dedication to the team beyond your day-to-day work. Your collaborative nature and leadership skills truly exemplify our company values. Are there any ways in which I can continue to encourage this positive attitude?”
“Thank you for your extra efforts on [name a specific project or task]. You did an amazing job, and your commitment has not gone unnoticed. Keep up the good work, and let me know how I can continue to support you on future projects.”
“I wanted to let you know that I have noticed how much you have developed your [name the specific soft skills]. I know it can be challenging to overcome [name the challenge], but we can feel your drive to succeed.”
“While I appreciate your dedication to [name the project], it might be helpful to check in with the rest of the team more frequently so that we can adjust deadlines if you need more time. We would be happy to assist you on the project if you feel like you need additional support or resources.”
“I want to talk to you about your priorities. I have noticed that you are doing very well on projects 2 and 3, but 1 is falling through the cracks. I appreciate that you put personal interest in some projects, but it is very important that we prioritize those that align with this month’s objectives. Do you feel like you have all the tools and resources to work on project 1? Do you think there is work you could delegate to stay more aligned with what has to be done first? Let’s revisit and set our goals together.”
“I think it’s great that you ask questions when you need clarification on a task. But lately, I feel like you need more guidance than usual. Your team will always be here to support you, but how can I help you develop your leadership skills and more autonomous work habits?”
“Hey [name of employee]! You’re doing a great job on this project/hile I appreciate your attention to detail, it’s important to practice efficient time management since we are balancing so many projects simultaneously. If you feel like [name of task] is taking you longer than usual, take a step back from it and jump on a different project.”
“I want to talk to you about your work on this last project because your delay impacted the team. I know you worked hard to complete your part on time, and looking back now, we can spot the roadblocks more easily. I’d love to see you be more proactive in spotting them before they impact your delivery next time. How can we make it easier for you to raise the flag on these kinds of things?”
“I’ve noticed that you seem less engaged lately, and it’s important to me that you’re motivated and feeling a sense of purpose in your work. I’m starting to see this impacting other team members as well. I want to make sure we’re all in this together and supporting each other. Is there something going on that I’m not aware of? Do you feel you have enough of a challenge in your work? Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I sensed a tension in our planning meeting yesterday, and I want to be sure that we address it before it impacts our productivity or happiness. We’re all working towards [name a shared goal] here, and it’s okay if we have different ideas than your colleagues on how to get there. What were you feeling in the meeting? What are your main concerns? Let’s schedule a meeting with [name of colleague] to work towards a collaborative resolution.”
“I wanted to talk to you about what you said during the meeting. I understand you may be frustrated with [name of colleague or project], but there is an important code of conduct that must be respected in and out of the workplace. I want to emphasize the importance of prioritizing a safe and professional environment for everyone. Do you agree?”
Shifting to remote work can make giving feedback more challenging. The lack of in-person interaction and nonverbal communication can create additional concerns when delivering any type of feedback, whether it’s positive, constructive, or negative.
“We’ve all been adapting to this new reality differently, and I’ve noticed some of us on the team seem to be struggling to maintain the same pace we had before we went remote. I want to figure out what everyone’s unique blockers are so we can work better together as a team before it starts impacting our performance. What has been particularly challenging for you? Are there any tools you’re missing to be productive? Do you have ideas for how the team can be more efficient together?”
Having trouble addressing feedback on your employee performance?
Take a look at how to give employee performance feedback.
“I’ve noticed you’ve messaged the team outside of our regular working hours a few times since we switched to remote. I want everyone to have flexibility in their scheduling as much as possible, but be sure our efficiency isn’t negatively impacted in the process. What kind of hours have you been working? What do you find helps you maintain your work-life balance?”
“I’ve noticed that you take a long time to reply to important messages recently. I know that it is very important to have focus time, but I need the team’s help to keep an open line of communication for important messages. Let’s discuss some strategies we can implement to stay connected when it’s important that doesn’t get in the way of your productivity. What has been your experience with our communication processes since we all work from home?”
“We know that the shift to remote has been challenging for everyone. Thank you for your continued resilience and hard work over [amount of time] that we have been working from home. I look forward to our continued virtual collaboration, and hopefully, we have the opportunity to work together in person in the future!”
Pro tip: It can be easy to draw assumptions about people’s work habits or work-from-home reality, especially when we’re apart.
The truth is that the only way to know for sure is to ask, and this is also the best way to support your employees in the ways that they need to be supported.
An awesome way to do this? Check in on your team member’s productivity and blockers in your regular one-on-one meetings.
Sometimes, as a manager, you will have to share feedback that comes from your upper leadership, or from external stakeholders. This can be awkward, especially if you don’t necessarily agree with the perspective of the third party. The best path forward is transparency and objectivity.
“In our weekly managers’ sync, we have a roundtable to share what our teams have been working on. It leads to some fascinating discussions! This week [name the person in upper management] offered some interesting insights I hadn’t considered, and I wanted to share them with you. From their perspective, they weren’t sure that we made the right call on [name the decision]. What do you make of that? I’m relaying this to you but feel free to reach out to them directly to discuss it further as well.”
“I had a conversation with [name the person] the other day, and they shared some feedback that I thought could be valuable to you. Since they’re not in our day-to-day, they find that your public messages don’t always have enough context for them to grasp everything. They suggested [mention the specific feedback example] that I think we can try. What do you think?”
“I wanted to talk to you about some feedback I received from a client that impacts your work. I want to hear your perspective to see how we can adapt this external perspective to make our work better. Have you noticed this issue as well?”
“We received some feedback from a member of the general public about a recent interaction you had with a customer. We want to get the full picture of the situation; could you tell us about what occurred so that we can resolve the issue swiftly and fairly?”
According to Officevibe Pulse Survey data, 17% of employees say that the feedback they receive isn’t specific enough.
Feedback shouldn’t be arbitrary. For it to be useful and impactful, it has to be focused on what a person did (as opposed to who they are as a person) and on the outcome of their actions.
It can be easy to overlook the actionable steps following a feedback conversation, but employee feedback must be applicable in the future for it to be worth sharing. The goal of giving employee feedback should always be to help the other person improve.
Feedback should be a two-way conversation. You and your employees should work collaboratively to uncover learnings and apply them to future projects. This is where you can let your strong leadership skills shine; your role as a manager can transform into that of a coach, creating a culture of ongoing employee development.
Be open to your employee’s take on the situation and be willing to hear them out. The best way to do this is to always follow feedback with an open-ended question.
Officevibe Pulse Survey data shows that 25% of employees feel that the frequency of feedback they receive is not enough to help them understand how they can improve.
In the fast-paced modern workforce, you need to develop a feedback channel with your team that goes beyond their annual performance review. Frequent coaching has proven to be a gamechanger for intrinsic motivation, employee engagement, and improved employee experience.
Recurring one-on-one meetings are an excellent opportunity to give employee feedback regularly. Officevibe lets you and your employee set talking points in advance in a shared agenda, so you both know what you’ll discuss. Plus, you can set trackable action items at the end of every meeting, ensuring feedback leads to tangible outcomes.
Providing feedback is an ongoing process that helps your direct reports thrive in the workplace, but knowing how to give feedback can be challenging, especially when you have to communicate negative or constructive criticism.
One of the best ways to give feedback, regardless of type, is to follow the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) model. The SBI model suggests you give context to the situation, identify the behavior to be discussed, and share the impact that this behavior may have had.
While it’s crucial to provide employees with feedback, it’s equally important to get employee feedback so that your team can voice their ideas, opinions, and concerns.
Receiving manager feedback can nip productivity issues in the bud, help you grow in your leadership role, and increase employee engagement on your team.
Officevibe’s Employee Feedback tool helps managers collect meaningful insights and employee input from their team with Pulse Surveys, meeting templates, and manager guides.
By making feedback a part of your company culture, you build open lines of communication to understand how your team feels in a safe, judgment-free space.
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