“The key to learning is feedback. It is nearly impossible to learn anything without it”. American Economist, Steven Levitt
Feedback plays a very pivotal role in all aspects of life especially for our progress in the professional career. Proper feedback reinforces individuals’ growth which leads to the overall development of the team and the organization.
But, as it turns out, most of us don’t love to share our feedback. We constantly worry about offending our team members or hurting their morale. Owing to human emotions, we also fear being disliked.
No matter how little it is talked about, giving feedback is a skill. And like all the other skills, it takes practice to get it right. Here, the real blockade comes when your team members are working from a remote location and you cannot deliver the feedback in person.
So if you have a team of virtual assistants working for you from an offshore location, giving feedback becomes tough due to the limitations of mediums in which you are supposed to communicate your feedback.
In this article, you will learn about some effective ways of delivering feedback to your virtual assistants but before that let’s understand why feedback has an outsized impact when you have an offshore team.
Why Is Providing Feedback Important?
- While working remotely, people do not get informal feedback from colleagues. The usual water cooler conversations that used to cheer people’s spirits and sometimes helped them avoid major mistakes aren’t possible in such a scenario.
- The home office environments can be chaotic with juggling kids, partners, parents, and many other responsibilities. The virtual employees need to feel grounded and confident at work. Here, feedback from the employer paves a way for a positive work relationship which can be a lifeline to normalcy.
- The virtual experience grinds down the connection between both the parties involved. Without a physical presence, words get more power. It is here that the employees are more likely to interpret the most literal version of your words without attaching the emotional clues and thus tend to damage the entire collaboration.
Choose the Best Medium to Communicate
In a physical work environment, we use a countless number of media for communicating. We are used to sending countless texts or emails in a day. However, these media just aren’t appropriate for providing feedback in a remote workplace as they lack the nuances of a spoken conversation.
For the same reason you shouldn’t break up with positive feedback by a text, or you shouldn’t criticize someone’s work by text or email. You also should avoid reserving phone calls just for the “bad” and “not so positive” things, as a scheduled phone call here appears like a harbinger of doom for the virtual assistants.
Of course, a text is fine for a quick appreciation like “I heard you got the XYZ account. Great job!” or to ask for confirmation of information like“Were you going to send me the first draft today?”. However, saving the more intensive stuff for the phone can be a smart idea.
Video is also the best thing to ensure correct feedback. It is a platform that allows you to continue to engage in conversation and gauge the voice, tone, and body language of the people involved. This leads to more meaningful conversation and great bonding between you and your teams.
Additionally, publicly rewarding and recognizing the virtual employees’ achievements act as a motivation catalyst. By expressing yourself in public, you make your words carry a larger meaning. The same implies when employers acknowledge remote workers in meetings, newsletters, or in-office groups — everyone loves for the world to see what they have accomplished right!
Let’s see the 11 ways to deliver feedback to your virtual assistant:
- Create a Feedback Goal
- Make a Feedback Framework
- Prepare for the Feedback Conversation
- Appreciate Timely
- Regular Check-ins
- Be Specific
- Its Two-Way Feedback
- Use the Video for Sensitive Information
- Compassion and Empathy
- Permission for Feedback
- Build a Feedback Culture with Your Virtual Assistants
1. Create a Feedback Goal
While you start working with a virtual team after building one, first start with creating a goal. Perhaps that goal is to provide positive and negative feedback respectively without fail. You’ll notice positive feedback is easier to deliver rather than constructive feedback. The intention here is just to practice.
Once you have successfully taken these steps to provide feedback, start challenging yourself after three weeks of consistent practice to increase the frequency. You’ll gradually learn that the more you practice, the easier it gets. Soon, it will become so intuitive that you will no longer have to sweat about giving feedback to your virtual assistants.
2. Make a Feedback Framework
If you choose the most considered framework that is the compliment sandwich where one gives positive feedback, squeezing in some criticism and then closing it with positive feedback. This type of feedback format isn’t effective. It dilutes the message and confuses the recipient especially in a setting where the team consists of virtual assistants and you are using a virtual mode of communication.
You can personalize your feedback framework as per the nature of your work and the requirements it has. For example here is a simple framework you can use to deliver constructive feedback to your virtual assistants:
- Reiterate their identity — Show your virtual assistants that you have taken the time to consider their situation and are not attacking anything personally.
- Provide context — Explain the time when the behavior was observed, be specific here.
- Describe the behavior — State clearly that you saw why the behavior occurred without jumping to any kind of conclusions.
- Explain the Impact — Make sure to be very clear on how the behavior impacted the work, the client, and the company.
- Provide suggestions — Provide suggestions and ideas on how you can prevent making any errors and how things would be handled differently in the future.
3. Prepare for the Feedback Conversation
Write down all the points that you need to cover while delivering your feedback. Incorporate the feedback framework you have decided on and make sure there is only one key message. Do not try to integrate multiple points in one conversation. Otherwise, the recipient will be confused and would not know what to focus on.
While you prepare your feedback, ask yourself again and again: Does my message have empathy? Did I test my assumptions? Have I created the message with positive intent? Make sure to practice your delivery in the mirror or with a peer. It’s one thing to think about your conversations; it’s another to practice out loud.
4. Appreciate Timely
An anonymous research shows as many as 79% of people mention “lack of appreciation” as one of the top reasons they leave their job. This doesn’t mean that you have to go out of your way to thank your virtual assistant for every bit of task completed.
But it does mean that if you want to be a good employer, starting from a standpoint of appreciation is a good rule of thumb. Appreciate good performance and good employees for what they’re bringing to your team!
5. Regular Check-ins
“No news is good news” is a notion that will quickly destroy your feedback culture. The feedback that is frequent and ongoing is an indispensable component to building a culture of continuous feedback, trust, communication, minimizing abrupt work surprises, and preventing big misses. This becomes even more paramount in the virtual workplace.
Ultimately, employees want to perform well and develop. To accomplish this, they need regular support to discuss their progress and plans.
You need to set up regular online meetings as a team to review the process, not necessarily your results. Answer questions like, “Is communication effective?” “Do you feel supported enough?” “Are there any blocks you are facing?” Whether the answer to these is “Yes” or “No”, make sure you ask why.
And it’s just as important to understand why something is working, so it can be sustained, as it is to identify exactly what needs to be changed.
6. Be Specific
Everyone loves to hear “Great Job” but in the virtual world, it isn’t accompanied by smiles and handshakes. If you want a positive behavior to be continued do not forget to be specific when you call it out.
It is far more productive to let the remote worker know exactly what performance trait you want them to continue rather than giving vague and ambiguous feedback. Try to make all the feedback personal and unique like transitioning from “Good job!” to “I saw that your latest marketing mailer generated 5,400 new sales leads, that’s thrice the previous one, great job!”
7. Its Two-Way Feedback
It’s easy to fall into a pattern with remote workers of just communicating one-sided feedback and moving on. However, there’s a lot to learn by opening the door to responses from your virtual staff as well. Consider that understanding them, their goals, and challenges can help you better manage them productively.
Virtual assistants have the advantage of not seeing the day-to-day developments on a work project, but still understanding the larger goals and motives of your organization. Their feedback to you can be priceless. By ensuring two-way feedback, you get the added benefit of them feeling included in the team.
8. Use the Video for Sensitive Information
If you have ever received a message and spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to interpret it, then you couldn’t agree less that a simple text can be read in myriad ways. That’s exactly why when it’s time to deliver constructive feedback remotely to a virtual assistant, a video call is the best alternative to face-to-face meetings.
Whereas visual prompts such as body language and facial expressions get lost in voice calls, video-calls bring back those crucial, nonverbal communicators.
Research studies have shown that video calls are just as effective as in-person meetings, as long as you frame the video to capture your body language and not just your facial expressions.
9. Compassion and Empathy
Since your virtual employee may not have the regular opportunity to comprehend your tone or body language, establishing mutual trust and reassurance will help your message become more approachable. Taking this into account, you must be wondering how you can show genuine compassion without coming across as diplomatic or up a compliment sandwich with a slice of criticism in the middle.
Try to utilize the same josh as you would hopefully use at the office. Begin with some small talk, use a measured tone, and, if appropriate, applaud your virtual assistant on their work.
10. Permission for Feedback
Establish a way of seeking permission for immediate feedback when we see a team member’s behavior as unhelpful. This appears a bit odd, so let’s understand it through context.
When we work with someone in the same physical space, we do gather a lot of information about a person’s current mood and their general state of mind. If we happen to know them relatively well, it’s easy to gauge whether they are in the mood to receive feedback or even to listen to a bit of criticism.
And while we work away from others, we lose a lot of this additional information. We don’t know whether someone has had a really bad day and our little criticism might just feel like they’re being kicked when they’re down.
Sometimes we feel like we can take any kind of feedback, and we welcome it wholeheartedly while sometimes we feel like the Universe is against us and we just need to get through the next few weeks as best as we can.
So having a system where you can first ask permission to give immediate, corrective feedback might be extremely useful.
11. Build a Feedback Culture with Your Virtual Assistants
One of the major crises of working apart from other team members is that we find it difficult to comprehend how our virtual assistants are doing. There are times when virtual assistants start to wondering whether their work is any good and whether they are contributing enough to the team’s growth.
One of your major responsibilities as a manager, as an employer is to create a culture of feedback, and this applies whether you are working in a physically live office or remote.
Feedback is one of the predominant steps to take when delegating your work to someone especially when it’s about your hired virtual assistants. It is crucial to building a good working relationship with your virtual assistant and at the same time ensuring great communication.
The best way to influence your virtual assistants’ work is through well-timed, organized, expertly worded feedback—the kind that gets you what you want while motivating your Virtual Assistants to do even better in the future.