Remote field teams and their managers face a host of challenges that are unique to conducting business outside of a central office location. One of these challenges is the difficulty of engaging field representatives who may feel disconnected from the larger organization in which they work. Providing feedback, whether it be positive or negative, is essential for preventing disillusioned remote employees. This post will discuss why a lack of feedback is detrimental to field teams’ performance and how managers can improve their communications practices with remote teams.
Poor Communication Is a Pain Point
In a previous blog post, poor communication was listed among the top five pain points for field reps. Ineffective communications practices hurt employee morale, which in turn lowers productivity. Remote team managers should give feedback to employees frequently. Managers should also keep in mind that field reps do not have the same opportunities for casual communication as their office counterparts, such as team lunches or water cooler conversations. These interactions foster a sense of community within teams and give managers a chance to administer feedback. Because of this void in field reps’ work days, managers need to consciously make an attempt to communicate with their remote teams and offer feedback more regularly.
When feedback is shared with employees, managers need to ensure that it is genuine and specific. In other words, they should avoid making generic comments about a field rep’s work, and should instead point to exact instances where the employee either succeeded or fell short. Employees will be able to pick up on when managers aren’t communicating with them sincerely. This threatens the health of a business because honest and open communication is critical to building trust with employees. Without comprehensive feedback, field reps will lose sight of how their roles impact the long-term goals of the organization. Furthermore, when one employee is feeling the effects of disengagement, the entire team can suffer the consequences.
Tips for Improvement
Organizational leaders need to make sure that strong communications practices are in place for remote field teams and their managers. Ideally, managers should be able to communicate with reps while they are out on client visits, in addition to scheduled meetings. Find a solution that enables reps and managers to converse in real-time using instant messages and billboard announcements. These features allow managers to provide reps with personalized coaching and feedback instantaneously. Managers can also use a cloud-based software solution to offer targeted feedback that is based on forms, audits, notes, photos and other data that a rep collected while in the field. Being able to recognize reps for a job well done or make suggestions for how they can do better as they are working is more efficient than waiting for monthly or quarterly reports before delivering feedback.
An even more hands-on way to evaluate employees’ performances is by conducting ride-alongs with field reps. By doing this, managers can detect subtleties of how reps work and either make recommendations or grant praise based on these observations. Furthermore, the manager and rep can further cultivate their relationship by working side-by-side for the day.
In addition to providing feedback on an individual basis, managers should also publicly acknowledge those employees who excel on the job. Not only does recognition boost employees self-esteem, but it will also give other employees something to strive for. Managers can empower employees with positive feedback through staff-wide emails or billboard announcements on mobile applications.
Remote field teams are likely to feel disconnected and experience burnout if they are not recognized for a strong performance. When employee morale is low, the entire organization is weakened. Providing targeted, meaningful feedback engages remote workers and challenges them to constantly improve at their tasks.
Victoria is a Marketing Associate at Repsly, where she leads the company's P.R. and social media efforts. You can also catch her prepping for slew of exciting industry events. A New England native, Victoria has spent time living in Italy and traveling throughout Europe before settling back in Boston. When she's not planning her next trip, V is probably tasting wine or brushing up on her Italian.