Employee Engagement

3 Ways to Engage a Remote Workforce

By Andrew Meadows

Aug. 6, 2019

In today’s digital age, more people than ever are working from home.

In fact, a recent survey revealed that 70 percent of professionals across the globe telecommute at least one day a week.

A remote workforce opens a business up to benefits like finding a wider breadth of talent and experience, not to mention potential cost savings. But with less in-person interaction, how can HR professionals and business owners engage their employees without sacrificing their firm’s unique culture?

The balance doesn’t have to be difficult to navigate and implementing these three concepts can help your business and employees thrive.

  1. Set ground rules: When you first consider starting a remote workforce, the road may seem paved with speed bumps. For example, how will you know if your employees are really working and if goals are being met? Setting ground rules can help quantify your employees’ success. Finding a way to measure how and when work is getting done helps ensure your team is being productive and contributing to the bigger picture. Start with establishing objectives and key results with all employees and updating them every six months or so. This allows employees and managers to quantitatively set goals and deadlines, providing concrete results that can be measured and analyzed. While this data is a great start, tracking employee success can’t stop there. Two-thirds of working remote is being qualitatively available. It’s one thing for your employees to accomplish the tasks on their daily checklist, but it is another thing to feel like they are engaged and available throughout the day. The level of communication your employees provide is typically a good indicator of their commitment to the job, so it’s best to encourage an environment of overcommunicating. For instance, knowing that a team member has a doctor’s appointment at 12 p.m. is helpful, but often not enough. Instead, encourage employees to share more detailed information like when they’re planning to leave, how long their commute is and what time they expect to be back online. After all, there’s a big difference between someone being unavailable for three hours versus one or two.
  1. Stay connected: Technology is a great way to foster a culture of collaboration for your remote employees. With hundreds of online messaging and organizational platforms available, it is relatively easy to find one that will provide your employees the tools they need to stay connected. When our company, Ubiquity, transitioned toward having a full-time remote workforce, we saw the need for an instant messaging and video conferencing platform that enabled everyone to communicate at the drop of a hat. Email just won’t cut it when you are telecommuting, so it’s helpful to provide several avenues for communication among employees that allow them to quickly and easily access anyone within the company. That way, quick chats can seamlessly transition to full-on video conferences and no one feels left without a way to be seen and heard. Consider making virtual meetings a consistent weekly or monthly priority. Host formal “town hall” meetings where all employees can share their performance progress and accomplishments. Stay connected on a personal level by sharing birthdays, work anniversaries and other notable milestones or by setting up a “virtual break room” where people can talk about their lives outside work and whatever else is on their mind. These outlets can all help spur collaboration and relationship-building among employees who have limited in-person contact.
  1. Show appreciation: The first word in “human resource” is human, so it’s crucial to recognize your employees as individuals and ensure they feel celebrated for their unique contributions, even from a distance. To keep a finger on the pulse of your employees, start by introducing an employee engagement survey. These can reveal not only how employees think about their jobs, but how they feel. From there, consider utilizing a digital employee engagement tool to check in on the overall mood of your employees on a regular basis. This presents a great opportunity to start a conversation and hash out any pain points or show appreciation for their hard work. We take employee appreciation very seriously and go even further by doling out virtual “high fives” when we see a job well done, sending small seasonal gifts to all remote employees (tea and honey for the fall, flowers for the spring, etc.) and encouraging random acts of workplace kindness such as offering unsolicited praise or mentorship. These can all be huge motivators and help employees feel noticed during the daily grind.

As the American workforce grows increasingly remote, HR professionals must be ready to keep their employees engaged. You cannot build a company culture overnight, but setting ground rules, staying connected and showing appreciation can foster a workplace culture that is reflective of the people who work there.

Andrew Meadows is the senior vice president of HR, brand and culture at Ubiquity Retirement + Savings in San Francisco.

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