A connected and thriving remote team is within your grasp.
At the onset of the pandemic, many of us stumbled out of our offices and set up workspaces to work from home temporarily. But as it continued to invade people’s lives, the world of work changed forever.
Working remotely quickly became the norm. Millions of employees worldwide made this tremendous career transition, and employers have had to adapt as well. New terms like Zoom fatigue, asynchronous communications, digital by default, distributed workforce, hybrid teams, return to work, and the now dreaded virtual happy hour have become part of the daily conversation.
But as you move forward, it’s crucial to pay close attention to how remote workers feel. Are they motivated? Are they happy? Above all, do they feel engaged?
Remote work and employee engagement
Believe it or not, it’s time to fully embrace how today’s workplace has changed and the new reality of what today’s workforce expects.
of remote workers say they’d like to work remotely even after the pandemic, an increase from 54% in 2020.
Moving to a remote-first workforce has many benefits, including saving on office space costs and opening up your talent pool locally and internationally. However, a remote team still needs to be hired to do great work. Employee engagement experts at Gallup have reams of data touting the benefits of engaging remote employees, including increased productivity, reduced turnover, better customer service, and more!
The good news is that employee engagement doesn’t require face-to-face interactions or physical workspaces. Factors such as purpose, personal and professional development opportunities, ongoing conversations with colleagues and supervisors, and the opportunity to upskill can be fully accessible in a remote workplace.
9 tips for engaging remote employees
As with anything involving people, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, you can never go wrong with some basic tips for creating a remote engagement strategy that works in your team’s favor. Here are nine essential tips for successfully engaging remote employees.
1. Build an intentional onboarding experience
The first impression matters. In fact, 69% of employees are likely to stay at the same company for at least three years if they have a good onboarding experience.
In-person onboarding is one thing, but remote employee onboarding is quite another. Make sure your managers are mindful of your employees’ experience during and after onboarding.
HBR suggests these four goals for successful remote onboarding:
- Have a fast start. Give your new employees a small and simple project to keep them busy during their downtime.
- Focus on building relationships. Encourage informal conversations within your team, turn on your cameras, and make sure you set aside time just to get to know your new team members better.
- Make employees aware of your culture. Be explicit about what’s important to your organization and “how things get done,” as company culture, processes, and procedures are harder to grasp remotely.
- Be clear about expectations. Provide new hires with a written plan or guideline outlining their 30, 60, and 90-day goals. Make sure they know what to expect and when.
2. Set clear goals, KPIs, and performance expectations
Remote workers enjoy the flexibility of not being in the office at a set time. For some, this means getting work done when it fits into their schedule, such as early in the morning or late at night. Remote teams also often have members working in different time zones.
Having team members with different working hours can sometimes result in limited synchronous communication, leading to some employees being unsure of what is expected of them or if their performance is up to the mark.
Clear goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), and performance expectations take the guesswork out and allow more flexibility. When your team members hit their metrics, everyone is happy and on the same page, regardless of individual work schedules.
Using project management tools that let you assign tasks to team members, set deadlines, and outline clear deliverables is a great way to put this into action. Employees are in control of their days while completing their tasks and keeping projects on schedule.
3. Encourage prompt communication with a personal user guide
Setting clear expectations is just as important for softer skills like face-to-face interactions or communication. Having everyone on your team create a personal user guide or manual takes the guesswork out of communication preferences.
The guide’s components should be tailored to your specific team, but here are some sample questions to include:
- Meeting preferences
- Personal and professional values
- Working hours
- Problem-solving approach
- Communication preferences (chat, email, phone call, video call, and so on)
This information is invaluable for understanding your team’s preferences. With prompt and clear communication, your workforce feels more comfortable, belonged, and committed.
4. Prioritize regular check-ins and conversations
Sometimes, the most important thing you can do to drive engagement is simply to ask your team what they need. Try starting your one-on-one conversations with something like, “How can I help you be more productive and feel more connected?” or “How are you feeling? Is there anything I can do to make your work better?”
One-on-one meetings are critical for remote teams and should be prioritized over team huddles. With fewer opportunities for informal check-ins, employees may be waiting for their one-on-one to raise an important question or concern.
Seventy percent of employee engagement comes directly from excellent leadership. So take the time to give your team the attention and support they need to feel valued. As a leader, you’re their direct line to leadership. Transparent and honest conversations can help them feel engaged and connected to the broader company strategy.
5. Celebrate professional milestones
A work anniversary is a special day for employees. It’s an opportunity for them to reflect on the past year and their contribution to their company’s success.
While traditional celebrations like lunch or dinner aren’t always possible when working remotely, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t happen at all. There are many ways to celebrate anniversaries remotely, including digital birthday cards for the whole company to sign or an integrated program via an employee recognition platform that automatically highlights work anniversaries and birthdays.
These occasions are an excellent opportunity to show appreciation for an employee’s work. This appreciation and recognition are integral to an employee’s overall engagement.
6. Share transparent long-term career paths
Mapping out career paths for different roles is also critical to engagement. Having a cohesive team working toward your organization’s goals is great, but remember that each team member also has personal career goals.
If employees don’t see a future with your company, you see less discretion, innovation, and creativity.
Providing career paths and growth opportunities is not only critical to engagement but also retention. Twenty-nine percent of workers cited a lack of growth opportunities as the reason they wanted to quit. So, take the time to sit down and work out your remote engagement strategy.
A good place to start is to present your team members with options and ideas to pursue their careers within your company. Concrete options make it easier for them to see that you believe in their growth and want to follow the conversation around it actively.
Once they show interest in a direction, support them by providing opportunities to gain the experience and training they need to progress to the next level.
7. Build your employer brand
Your employer branding shows how current and potential employees see your company. Branding about culture, flexibility, hiring, and onboarding is part of your employer’s brand. Your human resources team should work with your marketing team to develop a brand that looks and feels right for your company.
Connect with your human resources (HR) team to get a clear picture of your company’s vision for employee experience. Understand employer branding and make sure you communicate it to your remote team. Poor employer branding can be costly. And you certainly don’t want to be responsible for negatively impacting your company’s image.
Don’t forget the swag! Even if your team is remote, they still want to show their company pride. And that can be via anything from a branded mug to a t-shirt. Branded items strengthen team spirit and pride and make your employees feel like they’re part of the team and something bigger.
8. Recognize your team well and often
Employee recognition is crucial in today’s work landscape. It fosters employee engagement and belonging. Modern recognition tools allow remote workers to showcase their colleagues’ achievements in one accessible hub, so employees feel seen and managers are more aware of the great work being done on their team.
Recognized employees are happier, perform better, are more productive, and are more likely to collaborate with the rest of the team. A robust recognition culture can also help organizations fight the Great Resignation. External employers can easily compete on salary, but they find it challenging to replicate a culture that makes employees feel recognized and empowered.
9. Embrace water cooler moments
The jury might still be out on virtual social gatherings and happy hours, but remote teams need informal moments of connection to build relationships and feel engaged.
One way to do this is to schedule a time to chat and catch up at the start of virtual meetings, even if it means starting a few minutes late. Another way to accommodate this is to allow team chat rooms to go off-topic, encourage team members to share life updates, and share personal interests and experiences. It doesn’t have to be complicated!
Friendships at work are essential for engagement. In fact, 63% of women say they’re more engaged when they have a “best friend” at work.
If you’re planning a formal virtual social event with a large group, consider a more formal moderated event for a seamless experience. Virtual escape rooms or games are great options for having fun without awkward pauses or people talking to each other trying to get their say.
Regardless of your approach, remember that relationships matter. While you may be colleagues, you’re first and foremost people who crave authentic connection, especially with those you spend the most time with.
Now that people have experienced remote work, there’s no going back for many.
As more organizations understand that remote work is what many high-performing workers want, they must also recognize that it’s no longer an advantage in and of itself. It’s a baseline.
With organizations now hiring from a global talent pool, your remote team has a literal world of options when they’re dissatisfied or de-motivated. And while other companies can compete on salaries and benefits, they just fail to emulate a culture that fosters engaged teams.
While engagement and culture are primarily the responsibility of knowledgeable and experienced HR teams in traditional office workplaces, this is not the case with remote teams. In remote teams, interactions are often confined to face-to-face groups, meaning team leaders (and members) are responsible for driving engagement and building team culture.
Above all, don’t forget that efforts to motivate employees to achieve maximum productivity, motivation, innovation, and loyalty are critical to future success.
Metaverse is becoming the next big thing companies are leveraging to connect their remote workforce. Learn more about how to organize fun and engaging company events with metaverse.