The majority of remote workers, unsurprisingly, do not receive their feedback in person. Instead, they rely on communication technologies ranging from texting to Skype.
The vast majority of respondents are happy with the way their supervisor gives them feedback on their performance.
What these responses indicate is that it’s not necessarily a matter of how or even when — effective management and feedback can happen even in ways that we don’t typically expect to see.
Victor Lipman, management consultant and author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, has seen this dynamic occur with remote employees throughout his career. He boils it down to this primary requirement:
“[E]stablishing, and managing to, very clear, measurable and mutually agreed-upon employee objectives. In the absence of more regular in-person contact, periodic check-ins to review performance against clearly established goals becomes critically important. As I like to say, when it comes to managing for success (whether or not remotely, but especially remotely), clarity is king and queen.”
Eric Siu, founder of Growth Everywhere and CEO of Single Grain, achieves that clarity for his remote employees with these key communication practices:
“Daily 1-on-1s (yes, daily) and using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).”
To facilitate communication and culture with the team as a whole, he makes sure to get everyone face to face on a regular basis:
“Quarterly get-togethers with the whole company. The in-person meetings are invaluable.”
Between those quarterly meetings, remote employees may only “see” their colleagues virtually. But that interaction can be just as positive, if handled right.
In fact, one remote worker who spoke to us anonymously pointed to chat platforms such as Campfire, Yammer, or Slack as a great solution to the disconnect she and other remote workers feel. The key to building relationships is communication, she said, and the beauty of chat tools is that they let off-site employees participate in group conversations all day, unlike videoconferencing or other methods that have a limited time frame.
“It’s important for remote workers to get a sense of how people talk to each other all day during the work day. Remote staff should be encouraged to participate, if necessary, by pinging them specifically to contribute to the conversation. While this wouldn’t fly for introverts in a face-to-face meeting situation, it’s much easier to draw people out online. A channel dedicated to random thoughts, jokes, etc. is also great for remote workers as it replicates the type of banter that happens spontaneously in a shared physical workspace.”
This means that virtual communication has value beyond just getting information to or from a remote worker. It’s about the morale boost of being included with and laughing at the same jokes as their coworkers, being addressed (and appreciated for) more than just their work output.