Leveraging Asynchronous Feedback

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Asynchronous feedback does not occur in real-time. Put another way, it grants the provider some time to compile and deliver their feedback without the pressure of an immediate response.

Have you ever waited days, maybe weeks, to provide feedback on a task or on a colleague’s performance because your schedules didn’t align?

Have you ever been asked for feedback in the moment and found yourself filled with anxiety and tempted to give feedback before you’ve felt ready?

Asynchronous feedback—whether provided via email, video tools like Vidyard, or dedicated user feedback platforms like Usersnap—can have the following benefits:

Promotes feedback momentum

Whether it’s timezone differences or something else altogether, async feedback allows you to keep the momentum going. Too often, professional and project development stalls due to scheduling conflicts or other factors. Adding asynchronous feedback to the mix allows you to progress despite those barriers.

Combats always-on work cultures

Asynchronous feedback creates pockets of space for colleagues to think before they respond. In always-on cultures where space to think is deprioritized, feedback quality (among many other things) is likely to diminish.

By creating a mix of sync and async feedback, you work towards achieving the best of what both have to offer—while combatting the toxicity of always-on cultures.

As Reilly Nolan wrote in this blog about the importance of asynchronous communication:

“By establishing and codifying the use of asynchronous tools and methods, you begin to build guardrails against always-on culture.”

Creates seeker-giver balance

Often, those exhibiting feedback-seeking behavior may be ultra-prepared. They may have very specific questions about areas of a project they’ve thought quite a bit about. In such cases, the feedback dynamic can become out of balance when the giver is tasked with fielding those questions and providing immediate feedback without having time to think. Imbalances like this can create a dynamic that Thomas Peham wrote about in this blog about asynchronous design feedback:

“Just recently I found myself in a situation which required instant design feedback. I like exchanging thoughts and ideas through real-time conversations, however, I wasn’t prepared for the question: ‘What do you think about this design draft?’

And seconds later, I was providing unthoughtful design feedback.”

Note: real-time feedback can be tremendously beneficial. One great way to leverage both the benefits of specific feedback asks and real-time feedback is through a tool like UserTesting. As Jen Henderson wrote in this blog on getting customer feedback:

“You can test using your customers or leverage UserTesting’s Contributor Network. Your customers will get a list of tasks to perform on their own while their screen and voice are being recorded. When they’re done, you receive the results in the form of a video with access to accurate transcripts, more intelligent insights, and machine-powered visualizations.”

When asynchronous feedback isn’t helpful

In my experience, teams can rely too much on asynchronous feedback or become lazy with it. Let me provide examples of each.

On Over-Reliance

Healthy workplace tension can be friction from which brilliant ideas are born and relationships deepen.

However, I’ve seen asynchronous feedback used to try to avoid tension altogether. Rather than having a real-time 1-1 feedback conversation, for example, colleagues may go back and forth via asynchronous means, where elements like helpful non-verbal gestures or reflective mirroring are off the table. The result here can lead to miscommunication and more work for everybody involved.

On Laziness

The ease of today’s messaging tools can lead us to jot down quick messages saying something like:

“Here’s the latest deliverable. I would love your feedback.”

In this case, asking for feedback is just another task on the to-do list, so folks handle it as quickly as possible and then move on.

This makes me feel no-no-no! on a similar level to this:

A person is about to pour Tabasco sauce in their eye.

The primary benefit of asynchronous feedback is the space for all parties to be more thoughtful. In this sense, the feedback seeker should leverage this time to be more specific in their ask. Something more like this:

“Here’s the latest deliverable. I’ve wrestled with the first-fold design, but I still feel it’s missing something. And I don’t know if the rounded corners of our buttons fit our brand aesthetic. I’d love your feedback on those elements and, more broadly, the overall layout.”


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