Field managers often evaluate employees in annual or quarterly reviews, but executives should be giving feedback to managers and field techs about team performance, too.
When teams work well together, they deliver better customer service and are happier employees. While on-site visits are often done solo, field techs are, in a sense, always working as a team, as the more productive and efficient one team member is, the more efficient the team is as a whole. That’s why feedback from top leadership and fellow employees is a must. And not just one or twice a year, but in real-time.
Feedback Is Part Everyone’s Job Description
To foster continual feedback, the C-suite should make open communication and team feedback part of the company culture. All executives, managers and employees should feel it’s their responsibility to give praise and constructive criticism.
“You can’t be the only one holding everyone accountable because you can’t possibly observe everything that’s going on,” Mary Shapiro, author of the HBR Guide to Leading Teams and organizational behavior professor at Simmons College, told Harvard Business Review. “You want to give everyone the opportunity to say his piece.”
Feedback could include, for example, a tech’s interactions with customers, his communication with other techs, or his overall performance on the job. Regardless of the topic, executives, managers and techs should be on the same page about expectations for dividing on-the-job responsibilities and timeliness in particular, notes Shapiro.
Executives As Moderators
Since techs are often on the road, it’s important for executives to meet regularly with field techs to allow them to give feedback to one another and for the execs to give feedback to the team as a whole, suggests Shapiro. When techs give feedback, executives should moderate the conversation since giving and receiving criticism and praise doesn’t come naturally to all. If the conversation is at a standstill, execs can prompt the team by asking questions like “On a scale of one to five, how well is the team sharing the workload? What needs to change?” writes Rebecca Knight on HBR.
At insurance company Aflac, executives hold quarterly feedback meetings around a particular topic or situation that employees had to deal with over that period as a way for employees to learn from one another and for executives to gain insight into what employees are thinking. These sessions, moderated by executives, provide time for employees to reflect on their performance and executives to find ways to improve processes, notes Aflac’s chief administrative officer Laree Daniel, according to HBR.
Problems & Solutions Should Empower Employees
While individual criticism is usually given in private, team criticism should always be given in public so that the entire team is hearing the same thing, suggests Roger Schwarz, organizational psychologist and author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams, on HBR. To keep employees engaged and motivated, executives should keep a positive attitude and focus on empowering the team by coming up with a strategy to solve a problem.
For example, David S. Rose, angel investor and CEO of management platform Gust, addresses organizational problems by dividing employees into sub-groups and having them brainstorm solutions to share with the team as a whole, according to HBR. The result? “We came up with a plan and whole team felt empowered. We knew what the problems were and we figured out how to solve them,” Rose told HBR.
Whether executives are giving feedback to managers and field techs or field techs are collaborating among themselves, team feedback is just as essential as individual feedback for field service organizations. Executives are responsible for setting the strategy and expectations with field techs, fostering a culture where open communication and feedback is encouraged and keeping the conversation flowing.