Process Street is a workflow management platform that helps virtual companies and remote teams streamline day-to-day business processes. When it comes to keeping the virtual plates spinning, they’re old pros – and they’ve got tons of handy ideas worth sharing.
In this blog post for Alliance Virtual, Process Street explains how to improve communication in your remote team by making a few simple, yet super efficient changes. If you’re interested in more information like this, check out our post on how to run a virtual company.
Remote teams live and die by their communication skills. It’s no secret that if a team is not talking to each other (preferably spanning across departments) and collaborating, the isolation which remote workers are constantly at risk of can easily set in and wreak havoc with your team’s functionality. This extends to your feedback loop.
Whether you’re looking for input from your team to improve your internal processes, company culture or even to suggest new ideas for content or promotion, it’s vital to your feedback loop that every member of your remote team both feel comfortable speaking out and is heard when they do. After all, nobody likes it when they reach out, only to be rebuffed or ignored on an issue which they deem important; frankly, that’s a good way to lose good employees.
So the problem remains, how can you improve your feedback loop without alienating your team?
Back over at Process Street we run an entirely remote ship, and it can be daunting for new and existing members alike to speak up and provide feedback on anything from documented processes to team practices and members. However, with the right mindset and encouragement, we’ve managed to blast through the communication barrier and tighten up our remote team’s feedback loop. The best part is that you don’t need to force a feedback session in order to do it!
Encourage Communication From The Get-Go
The best way to encourage feedback is to get there early in your employee onboarding process. Introduce any new hire to the rest of your team thoroughly and encourage your existing workforce to reach out to casually chat and start building connections.
This may seem like an odd first step to tightening your remote team’s feedback loop, but the closer your team is, the more comfortable they will be with giving (and receiving) feedback. Encourage collaboration through either group projects or brainstorming sessions, meet and greet with the whole team in person (if possible) and above all else encourage questions.
Ensure Every Member Contributes (Even If It’s Privately)
Although you should be holding regular meetings to both keep track of and help motivate your remote members, if you happen to notice that someone is not contributing regularly to the conversation then consider ringing or messaging them privately to ask for feedback.
A lack of contribution could be due to the remote employee just not having anything to say or question during the rest of the team’s presentations, or it could be that they’re reluctant to speak up. Either way, you need to make sure that they know their voice will be heard and encourage them to voice any questions or feedback during your meetings.
You could even promote this naturally by making each member present their activities since the last call, as this encourages every team member to take the stage for a brief section of the meeting and communicate with both you and the rest of the team.
Document Regular Processes
If you do not document processes which you (and your team) carries out regularly, the potential for feedback is drastically reduced. Documented processes not only serve to provide a useful guideline on how to do any given task for old and new employees alike, but also provide greater quality assurance without any extra effort.
These processes are golden opportunity for feedback, as they can highlight problems with both how your team is currently operating and how individuals currently execute tasks. For example, if an employee regularly carries out content promotion duties incorrectly, without a documented process they are unlikely to even know that they are making a mistake.
Centralize Your Communication
By this we mean that you need to ensure that communication between team members is not isolated to long chain emails where the rest of your team cannot see it; you can make sure that all information is recorded and therefore no-one is left out. This is especially vital in a remote team, as the potential for different time zones makes it difficult for some members to catch up everything that’s going on. If they aren’t up to date, you run the risk of alienating them and destroying that section of your feedback loop.
One way to do this is to ensure that all communication is recorded within a particular app. Back at Process Street, we record all conversations using Slack and Trello to avoid the potential for lost information when using private emails. An alternative option is to integrate your apps to automatically keep everything up to date. For example, using Zapier you could integrate Trello with Slack to pass updates on Trello cards into a direct message to the team manager.
Another way to centralize communication would be to create one-time group chats with the people involved. For example, if you notice that something’s been missed, or you want to give feedback on a project so far, you could create a group chat with everyone concerned and then give your feedback or talk to remote team member individually in the group session. Even though you would be holding a conversation with just one person, this allows the rest of the team to see what’s been done and what to avoid or do instead in the future. Be careful though, as some employees could feel as if you’re putting their mistakes on display by doing this.
In short, the tighter your feedback loop and the more open your team is to both giving and receiving feedback, the healthier the interactions between your remote team will be. Rapid feedback will enable you to adjust your management or operations accordingly, whilst giving you ample opportunity to let the team know where they’re excelling and what could do with a little improvement.