Like it or not, working remotely is the new reality. In fact, remote work has increased exponentially over the last two decades. The proportion of employees in the United States who work primarily from home rose from 0.75% in 1980 to 2.4% in 2010. Remote working has become a part of mainstream work culture as almost 50% of managers are allowed to work remotely in the US, UK and Germany (Source).
Engaging employees when all of them are placed in a single location can be challenging in itself. How do you ensure remote employee engagement effectively?
84% of organizations today have a remote workforce. Hence companies need to find tools and technologies that help their distributed staff communicate and coordinate with each other effectively.
Hiring the right people isn’t an end in itself. They also need to be retained, irrespective of their location. This can help you find ways to strengthen your organization’s growth and productivity.
According to Future of Work Institute, as of late 2009, more than 25 million U.S. employees were working outside a corporate facility at least one day in a week, and this projection has only been increasing over the years.
Smart devices like tablets, mobile phones, along with facilities like cloud computing and unhindered access to hi-speed internet has helped evolve a new genre of workforce that works from different locations. Companies across the globe have opened up to allowing people to work remotely or having a virtual staff.
Like all things, there is a good side and bad side to this as well. Let’s look at them from an employee’s perspective.
– Remote working allows much more flexibility and efficiency in terms of work schedules.
– There is a probability of remote workers feeling isolated and disconnected from their own teams, leading to disengagement.
It is important for companies to ensure that they get to participate in various activities, so that they see an inherent value to what they have contributed to their organization. Companies need to work doubly on ensuring remote employee engagement since traditional methods of interaction like face-to-face communication and physical presence of teams go missing in such cases.
There are many challenges when it comes to engaging such a diverse workforce.
1. Cultural differences
The diversity is not just in terms of location, but also demographic factors like culture and language. A distributed workforce may represent different cultures which, if not managed well, can prove to be counterproductive.
Organizations need to accept that their workforce come from different and unique cultures, and hence their expectations vary accordingly. While it is easy to assume that the employees in one region would have more or less same cultural preferences, a closer look at this may surprise most of us.
2. Language preferences
Since your workforce is geographically spread, their language preferences may also vary. Hence, you need to look at language solutions in this regard. The Guardian Group, with a distributed workforce of 2800, faced this challenge of communication as their employees were spread across countries and spoke three different languages, viz. English, Dutch and Papiamento.
Research has found that employees belonging to the same geographical location can have cultural differences. For instance, Renuka Hamlet from The Guardian Group realized that their employees were more connected to the local business brands that they worked for, rather than seeing themselves as members of a larger group. For such problems, it is important that you communicate ideas in way that appeals to all cultural groups, and makes them feel a part of something bigger. Only then will you be able to instil positive levels of employee engagement.
Technology can be used to a great extent to bridge such gaps. For remote and virtual employees, communication should happen on a regular basis. Such employees should also know that they can reach out to their colleagues easily and at all times. Communication software like online communication, social collaboration software and chat clients can help these employees to get into conversations, which can mostly be light banter, and does not have to be work-related at all times. Engagement should ensure that employees understand and align their objectives with their employer’s brand and goals.
These points aside, there is no one solution for remote employee engagement that fits all situations, in a way that increases productivity and which can be uniformly applied in any kind of an environment with the same desired impact. You can, however, sign up for the multi-award winning Capabiliti free-trial to train, assess and engage with distributed employees and teams, or get in touch with Qustn to design your own solution.
That said, most of the following techniques of engagement have proved to be beneficial for organizations with a distributed workforce.
1. Going social
Usage of social media can help you enhance your team’s collaboration through intranet sites, online communities, instant group messaging and other such tools. Through social media, you can also send out invitations for team based goals and competitions or you can try engaging a team member to be the team’s social media champion.
2. Constant communication
Most teams strive on spontaneous and constant communication. You can find your own way to do this virtually every day. Employees must know that they can reach out to their teams, whenever they want to or have to. You can have a group chat every morning where team members can share their ideas or share information. Communication needs to be at the maximum as you are doing so with a virtual workforce. So repeat, clarify and open up to clearing doubts as and when they come up.
3. Ensuring trust
Since it will not be possible for you to keep a check on each and every employee, it might be a good idea to keep a track of the performance of such employees. You can use a variety of productivity measures to evaluate your team’s activities. You can also introduce virtual badges and awards to keep your employees focused and motivated.
4. Candid interactions
Make sure that your virtual meetings are not always serious. After all, we are human beings and we all like to be playful and be able to talk freely with our colleagues. Your employees are much more likely to reach out to you when they do not take you as a stranger and there is shared banter during meetings.
5. Being ready for offerings
Whether your employees are mobile, are working from home or from a remote office, you need to know who they should contact for on-ground support – if they need something fixed, or need some new equipment, or the latest brochures, etc. You need to make sure that none of their needs go unnoticed.
6. Reaching out
Reach out to all teams to ensure that all your employees understand and accept your ideas and directives, and be open to their feedback at all times, and do all you can to incorporate their suggestions wherever possible. Make sure their needs are addressed timely.
7. Defining policies
Even though a distributed workforce might not have strict timings and schedules, but it is important that curtained policies are well defined for them to ensure effectiveness. For example, you can have strict policies regarding workers’ compensation or performance related bonuses. Things such as who will pay for office furnishings, mobile phone bills or internet connection should also be made clear. Most importantly, during what hours the employee needs to ensure his availability to his team members, also needs to be mentioned.
8. Tangible performance measures
Establish clear expectations about how each employee will be measured and rewarded for their individual and team performances. This will help you ensure that your teams are focused of their to-do lists and they will hold themselves accountable for anything not done properly. Crack the employee engagement code with these tips!
How do you ensure remote employee engagement? Let us know in the comments!