These tips will ensure your employees stay focused and involved.
Since the global pandemic hit in early 2020, a lot of us have been forced into the world of remote working. While it has certainly been a growing trend over the years, coronavirus has sped up the timeline for many organisations, meaning that not all companies are well-equipped and prepared for some of the challenges facing remote businesses. One such issue is that of employee engagement. How can we, as managers, CEOs and business leaders engage remote employees and ensure they remain productive and connected to their workplace?
1. Keep them connected to their work
For your employees to feel engaged with their work, they need to have a complete appreciation of the purpose of their role, their goals and how what they do feeds into organisational objectives. This means your goal-setting process needs to be streamlined and well-thought-out. It also means your communication needs to be flawless — employees need to be able to come to their managers to seek clarification and help. Furthermore, managers need to give employees context about why their work matters. Why does their role exist in the first place? How does it feed into the direction of the company? Employees are working for much more than just a pay cheque. They need to know that what they do matters — and why it matters. Connect these dots for your employees to ensure they remain engaged and motivated.
2. Hold regular performance and wellbeing catch-ups
Great communication and solid, trusting relationships make all the difference when it comes to employee engagement. This is true for both on-site and off-site employees. After all, we have known for a while how crucial a role managers play in terms of employee engagement. Don’t let communication break down just because you are now working remotely. Now, more than ever, you need to commit to regular, meaningful discussions relating to performance and wellbeing.
It’s best that managers have one-on-one check-ins with their employees once every two weeks. This way, feedback can be exchanged, concerns can be aired and problematic remote workplace processes can be discussed. Such conversations also allow managers and employees to discuss wellbeing — how are remote employees coping emotionally and mentally with the remote nature of their work? Are they being given all the necessary support? Are they overworking or are they experiencing roadblocks that are preventing progress?
The importance of this regular communication regarding employee engagement can’t be overstated. It allows managers and employees to develop an authentic relationship, which will show employees that they are supported and appreciated.
3. Don’t make all communication about work
If most of your efforts have centred on improving remote-workplace efficiency and productivity, this is completely normal. We all want (and need) our businesses to thrive, so the bottom line has got to be at the top of our lists. It’s how we keep our employees employed. But to keep our employees engaged, we need to think about more than just the bottom line. We also need to think about the social aspect of work.
When we interact in a physical office, a lot of communication is exchanged that has nothing to do with work. We exchange jokes or stories over a cup of coffee or at the watercooler. We build relationships with one another and we connect. This results in increased trust and collaboration, meaning we are generally more productive. We want our employees to support one another. We don’t want our remote employees to feel like isolated cogs in a machine.
So how can businesses promote social interactions while operating remotely? Many organisations choose to incorporate communication tools such as Slack. Using tools like this, it’s easy to set up a channel dedicated to non-work topics, and employees can contact each other directly if they need support or encouragement. Alternatively, some businesses decide to have weekly, remote after-work socials, where employees can unwind and relax. You might consider a regular team quiz or competition, to get the adrenaline pumping, or a cooperative game to build team spirit. There are a lot of ways to help employees build connections — such connections are hugely impactful when it comes to employee wellness and engagement.
4. Incorporate video conferencing
We all instant-message, but when connecting with one another and engaging with our coworkers, you can’t get any better than face-to-face interactions. And you shouldn’t have to go without in-person communication just because you are working remotely. There are lots of options at our disposal today, many of them completely free. A lot of businesses choose to use Google Hangouts internally, for team meetings. Alternatively, you can use tools like Skype or Zoom.
Having regular team video conferences is a great way to encourage meaningful conversations. So much of communication can be missed or misinterpreted when we’re typing. Video conferencing allows us to pick up on intonation, tone, facial expressions and body language. We should also remember that, at our core, we’re all social beings. We crave social interaction and video conferencing can go some way towards satisfying that need and relieving isolation.
5. Carefully consider what tech you’re using
When it comes to improving rates of employee engagement, there are a lot of factors to consider, not least the technology being used within your organisation. This is important whether you’re running a remote company or whether your employees are in-house — but when working remotely, work can grind to a halt completely if technology or tools fail. When they are frustrating to use, employee engagement levels can dip and productivity can slump.
When deciding what tools to incorporate, question whether they are necessary, easy to use and intuitive. So often, we get blindsided by seemingly impressive tech with all the (ultimately unnecessary) bells and whistles. If you want to improve user uptake of your company technology, keep the number of necessary tools to a minimum — less is more. You should also be looking for tools that are so user-friendly they require little to no training. This will result in fewer frustrations and less time wasted.
You might also want to consider how certain tools will impact employee engagement — for example, we can look to time-tracking software. Many companies choose to make use of this software to keep an eye on employee working hours, but others question whether such software actually tracks the wrong metrics (hours spent on a task rather than the quality of the task itself) and whether it has a negative impact on employee engagement. Before monitoring your employees, you should question whether the tool is fair and warranted, or whether it might represent a lack of trust.
Stuart Hearn is CEO and Founder of Clear Review, performance management and employee engagement software. Stuart is an HR writer and speaker, specialising in performance, productivity and wellbeing.