Feedback By Tech Or Face-to-Face?

A common concern raised by HR and managers when they begin using a feedback tool is what kind of impact it will have on face-to-face feedback. Will it actually disrupt communication flows in the office, rather than improve them? As with all new technology, the benefits can be significant when integrated in a way that strengthens your current process.

In the age of open office spaces, Slack has made it possible to keep up communication, while at the same time keeping noise and distractions to a minimum. The snooze feature means you can join in when you want and escape when you need to concentrate. With the need for more cross collaborative projects today, the right tools keep communication open, without making it overwhelming.

Better and faster communication channels means businesses can act and adapt to industry changes immediately, not next year. Likewise, feedback tools can significantly help you increase employee engagement, and learning and development when combined with face-to-face feedback.

Here is a short guide to help you better identify when feedback tools can be beneficial and when feedback should come directly from you.

Benefits of feedback tools

Growth of people

Employees are able to get feedback when it’s needed, not when it’s convenient. With communication technology speeding up the rate of change, businesses need workforces with a high learning agility. However, a busier workplace also means that managers, peers and employees are often in and out of meetings and traveling to close the next deal, meet investors, etc. This fast-paced environment makes it easy to let things slide, even something as important as growth and development. Technology, on the other hand, allows people to easily give feedback when it’s needed, not months later. Likewise, people who have received feedback have it stored in the system so they can review what they need to focus on.

Facilitates interdepartmental feedback

Rather than sticking to rigid departmental lines, today we are seeing a rise in the use of ad hoc cross functional teams. Being able to work with a designer, developers, a sales exec and content writer in one team can really strengthen a project from all sides and increase the chances of success. However, people in different departments may not always have time to have 1-on-1s with ad hoc team members, missing out on a great opportunity for growth. Feedback tools help to cut down departmental knowledge barriers by allowing employees to ask for and give feedback to anyone within the company.

Training feedback habits

This leads us to another useful aspect. Not everyone finds giving and receiving feedback easy. In her research, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck distinguishes between people who have a growth mindset towards feedback and those who have a fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset will often start to feel emotional or angry when they receive constructive feedback. Luckily, this “fear of feedback” is something that can be overcome. Feedback tools can help by allowing the person to privately receive the feedback giving them time to objectively consider what was said.

One reason for emotional responses to feedback is our brain’s natural negativity bias. Even if we receive both positive and constructive feedback we have a natural tendency to focus more on what we consider to be the negative aspects of our performance. This means that all of the positive aspects of our performance can be easily forgotten. Having feedback written down and stored means that employees can go back and read their feedback with fresh eyes and really analyze what’s being said. From there, it’s much easier to come up with a truly effective development plan.

Starting to give upward feedback

If it’s hard for some to give feedback to peers, it’s 10 times harder to give it to managers; even harder to an executive. Starting off with anonymous feedback gives people the chance to ease into it. Once managers have built trust by showing that there will be no consequences for giving upward feedback, employees will feel more comfortable being open. The best way to do this is for managers to really act on the feedback they receive and demonstrate how open they are to it.

Data

One of the best parts about using a feedback tool is that the information is instantly generated into helpful data. With people analytics, employees are able to track their progress and can store the feedback they receive to easily recall and set-goals. For managers, the information can provide valuable insights into the coaching needs of their team. HR can use the data to identify skill gaps and make better hiring decisions. Meanwhile, employees can use this information to track and take ownership of their development process.

When to give feedback face-to-face

During regular 1-on-1s

Even if you’re busy, you should always make time to give face-to-face feedback at weekly or bi-monthly 1-on-1s. Though tools can help you train feedback behavior, body language and tone of voice can give more clues as to the other person’s feelings towards feedback.

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In a serious situation

Giving very serious feedback face-to-face can also underscore the gravity of the situation and the need to find a solution. For example, if your report is regularly missing deadlines for team projects this can seriously impact the success of others on your team. In this case it’s important that you have a talk with them to find out what is keeping them from meeting deadlines, how you can help, and what steps they can take to get back on track.

Celebrate the big wins

Big wins should be acknowledged in person. While showing recognition for reaching smaller milestones via feedback tools is a great way to regularly show your support, taking time to celebrate major achievements is essential for building team spirit. When a member of a sales team lands a large account or your HR team deploys a big new feature, it’s important that you show appreciation and acknowledge their contribution to the team or company goals. This not only keeps up the motivation, but it will also set an example for others.

Conclusion

Rather than decreasing face-to-face communication, feedback tools can help enrich the feedback being exchanged within your team by training feedback habits, giving employees the confidence to be open to superiors with their feedback and providing information that can serve as a starting point for more effective 1-on-1 conversations.