by Yasmin Kranewitter
Global virtual teams are increasingly common in today’s work environment, enabling people from all over the globe to work together seamlessly despite the distances between them. However, along with the numerous advantages of virtual teams come new challenges.
One area that can be particularly tricky is giving feedback. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 48% of remote workers and 56% of their managers rate communication and feedback as their top challenge. The lack of face-to-face interaction, different time zones, and cultural differences can make it difficult to provide timely and effective feedback. However, an efficient feedback culture is essential for building trust, improving performance, and enhancing team cohesion. Therefore, virtual teams need to develop strategies and tools to overcome these challenges and create a culture of feedback that supports team growth and success.
This blog article sums up the main points from a LinkedIn Live talk about how to give feedback in global virtual teams with Lech Guzowski (Culture Facilitator and Founder) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (Founder #virtualspacehero).
Lech Guzowski is supporting CEOs & CHROs in creating cultures to overachieve on their business results – Workplace Culture Facilitator.
Lech believes in creating a culture that goes beyond just fitting in, but one that truly stands out. In his work he doesn’t just capture your existing culture, he helps you visualise and design the culture of your dreams, and craft initiatives that bring it to life.
As a leadership coach, Lech doesn’t just skim the surface, he dives deep into the complexities of self-awareness to unleash the full potential of individuals.
Connect with Lech on LinkedIn here
What to consider when giving feedback in a virtual setting?
✅ Make Feedback Intentional
Compared to an on-site setting where you usually have several encounters with your colleagues, In virtual teams, it can be easier for team members to avoid giving feedback. This makes it all the more important to establish a culture of intentional feedback by setting clear expectations for feedback-giving. Effective approaches are to intentionally set aside time during meetings for feedback or to schedule regular sessions, such as weekly meetings, specifically for feedback. This ensures that feedback is given the attention and time it deserves.
✅ Use Digital Tools
Digital tools can be extremely useful for giving feedback in virtual teams. Platforms like Miro, Trello, or Google Workspace provide a quick and easy way to share feedback with team members. They also offer the possibility to store feedback for future reference. The right feedback tool will depend on your team’s specific needs and preferences, but incorporating digital tools into your feedback process can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your feedback and collaboration in virtual teams.
✅ Be Specific and Act Quickly
Providing specific feedback and doing so in a timely manner are crucial components of effective feedback. When giving feedback, always provide specific examples that illustrate the issue you are addressing. This helps colleagues better understand the situation and enables them to address the issue more effectively. Additionally, feedback should be given promptly in order to prevent issues from building up and growing over time. By providing timely feedback, you can help ensure that team members are able to work on the issue right away, preventing it from becoming a larger problem later on.
✅ Consider Potential Language Barriers
Another factor to keep in mind when providing feedback in a global virtual team is the potential language barrier. Although English often is the lingua franca of these teams, not all members may be native speakers or feel confident speaking it. This might lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations, which can hinder the team’s continuous improvement. Therefore, it is essential to establish a “safe space” within the team, where members feel comfortable asking for clarification and making mistakes without fear of judgment. Additionally, clear and concise communication is crucial when providing feedback. Using simple language and avoiding jargon and idioms can help ensure that team members understand each other clearly and can address feedback more effectively.
Be Aware of Cultural Differences
More often than not, in global virtual teams members come from different cultural backgrounds, and feedback styles can vary widely between cultures. For example, in some cultures, direct feedback can be seen as confrontational, while in others, it may be expected. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the cultural norms of your team members and adjust your feedback accordingly.
Make sure you are aware of different communication styles that are prevalent in different cultures and be respectful of cultural differences. Approach this with respectful curiosity, asking questions about colleagues’ cultural norms regarding feedback-giving. This will help you understand their expectations and adapt your feedback approach accordingly.
Feedback Frameworks for Your Daily Work
To conclude with concrete examples of what effective feedback could look like, we would like to sum up by providing you with two innovative frameworks.
➡️ Firstly, the so-called “4A approach”, also used by Netflix, has gained popularity in recent years. It emphasises Attention, Amplification, Alignment, and Accountability. Attention refers to focusing on the most impactful and relevant aspects of a colleague’s work when giving feedback. Amplification highlights the importance of providing concrete suggestions for improvement, while Alignment ensures that the feedback suggestion is aligned with the team’s larger goals and values. Lastly, Accountability specifies who should be responsible for implementing the suggested changes.
➡️ Another popular feedback approach is the so-called “feedforward approach”. Rather than focusing and commenting on past situations, as is done by “feedback”, feedforward focuses on encouraging improvement in the future. By highlighting what can be improved going forward, feedforward helps to establish a more optimistic and future-oriented feedback culture.
In conclusion, virtual teams face unique challenges when it comes to giving feedback due to factors such as distance, cultural differences, and language barriers. However, intentionally making time for feedback, using digital tools, providing specific feedback on time, and being aware of cultural differences can greatly enhance the effectiveness of feedback in virtual teams.
Furthermore, incorporating feedback frameworks such as the 4A approach or the feedforward approach help with providing effective feedback. By considering these issues, virtual teams can overcome the challenges of giving feedback and create a feedback culture that supports team growth and success.