Employee engagement for remote workers is a huge topic in the market today, especially with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) limiting travel and forcing a large part of the working population to work from home that don't typically do so. It is difficult enough to engage employees that are in the same office as you, let alone keeping a geographically dispersed group of employees engaged. In today’s hectic and fast-paced work environment, organizations need to do everything they can do to create an engaging workplace that helps find, attract and develop A-players no matter where they are located.
In the talent war, you need to find the best employees, no matter the time zone. A remote workforce is one of the best ways to do that but can be a little tricky to manage. A recent Harvard Business Review article said that remote workers often feel shunned and left out. Don’t worry, though, we have lots of tips and tricks to help you engage remote workers.
In a modern 21st-century organization, we know it is more important than ever to keep remote employees as engaged as those who are in your office. Employing some of these concepts will not only help you increase your Return on Payroll but have more fun doing it as well and help the employee feel like a part of the team. I have compiled a highlight of some of the advice provided in Chapter 9 of Predictable Results. You can download the free chapter here.
How to Engage Remote Workers Tip 1: Provide Context
The team needs a shared understanding of the purpose, the goal of the company and of their own team. Have a clear, prioritized set of quarterly priorities. Transparently describe the success of the project before any work begins; coach them to develop an action plan with due dates to get to the finish line on time and on budget. Using a cloud-based strategy execution software like Rhythm will clearly align employees working across the organization and provide simple project management tools for all of the important initiatives that your company is taking to hit its goals.
One of the most common complaints from remote teams is they have a harder time knowing how their role fits into the larger goals of the organization. Providing collaboration tools is one of the easiest ways to address this. These tools allow you to communicate across time zones and have workers engaged with the company as a whole, not just their part of it. They must know the 3-year strategic plan of the company, the annual plan and the quarterly plan to be sure that everyone is on the same page. You can’t over-communicate; you need to build a virtual water cooler to encourage remote participation.
How to Engage Remote Employees Tip 2: Provide Tools
The most successful dispersed teams we’ve seen use their business execution system to support individual and team focus on the right priorities; effective, timely, and targeted communication; and a sense of connection across teams and between individuals throughout the organization. Achieve your most important initiatives by getting everybody working on the right things. Using the right tools, all of your employees will know the top priorities of the company, the team and the individual. This gets rid of all of the wasted work that comes from teams that aren’t aligned to the company’s goals.
Other tools to consider:
- Video conferencing like Zoom
- Slack for communication
- Google Drive or DropBox to share files
- Jive or Google Sites for an Intranet site to make it easy to find information
How to Engage Remote Employees Tip 3: Communicate
Don’t just talk, talk in regards to the team's efforts. Email just doesn’t cut it anymore; you get so many it is impossible to keep everyone organized and focused on what they need to do to make themselves and their teams successful. Have weekly adjustment meetings with a structured agenda. Learn everything you need to know about conducting effective weekly staff meetings that solve actual business problems and produce great results in our resource center.
Video calling is essential when a team is spread across the world and in different time zones. According to a famous study, 7% of communication is the words used, 38% is the tone and inflection and a staggering 55% was body language. If you are only using email, you lose 93% of the message. If you only use a phone, you lose 45% of the message. Setting up video conferences will allow you to get nearly 100% of the message you would if you were in the room with them.
How to Engage Remote Workers Tip 4: Design Your Company Culture
Make sure your company culture fully embraces remote employees or those who may need to work from home on occasion. If your culture doesn’t fully embrace their contributions to the team as they don’t see them in the office during the day, you need to adjust that. I have seen some organizations that still think “work from home” needs to be done in air quotes as they aren’t really working - that just isn’t true anymore.
In order to make sure all team members are treated equally, we always invite our remote guests to contribute first. This goes for conference calls, weekly meeting sharing of good news, sharing their “successful if” at the start of the meeting. Any time we have a mix of virtual and on-site employees, we always let the remote participants go first.
How to Engage Remote Employees Tip 5: Provide More Frequent Feedback
Of all of the remote employee engagement ideas in this blog article, this is the one most often overlooked. Many managers get caught up in the day to day operations and have a hard time thinking about the long-term goals and initiatives their associates are working on. Managers need to make sure they have weekly or bi-weekly one on one meetings with all of their team members to keep the working relationship healthy. Frequent contact also allows relationships to grow on a personal level so the manager has a better idea how to improve employee happiness. Managing a remote employee involves effort from both the manager and the employee.
Remote working is here to stay and will only continue to become more pervasive. In order to thrive in the new business environments, leaders to need to leverage their emotional intelligence and improve employee engagement. Work hours don’t exist in today’s connected world; everybody is expected to be on all of the time. Using these tools can encourage your employees to remain fully engaged and contribute 100% effort. Remote employees feel the need to be connected to what is going on in the office and continually feedback on how their work supports the company's strategic plans.
Tools and Tips for Engaging Dispersed Teams and Remote Employees
- Use video whenever possible. Video conferencing is extremely cost-effective and studies have shown that it boosts engagement with remote employees.
- Start all meetings off with a round of good news to keep the energy up and remote team members connected and engaged in the successes of the company overall.
- Use virtual collaboration tools, such as Rhythm Strategy Execution Software, to add accountability to actions assigned during the meeting and to maintain momentum between meetings.
- Make sure your systems and communication tools are designed to help remote team members understand the company’s vision, their team’s purpose, and their roles within it.
- Meet in person whenever possible. For executive teams, make sure that the team gets together for at least quarterly and annual planning.
- Don’t skip Weekly Meetings, even when multiple team members are traveling or on vacation. Establishing this discipline will provide a sense of connection and continuity that helps employees feel part of the bigger picture and helps them engage with new ideas and challenges.
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