How to Engage Remote Employees in 2023: 5 Smart Ways
Your business turned fully digital and you're not sure how to engage remote employees as well as the office workers? Here's a guide for you.
Employee engagement represents the personal investment and emotional commitment employees have towards their company. Engaged employees love their jobs, and therefore, incorporating smart solutions to get remote employees engaged is a win-win!
Engaged employees work harder, stay with the company longer, and are more productive. Gallup Studies indicates that higher employee engagement has a definite impact on key business outcomes, including a company's profitability.
That's why successful companies around the world make sure to take measures to boost levels of employee satisfaction and engagement. They organize training workshops and one-on-one coaching, offer more flexibility such as remote work options, and so on.
However, the strategies for engaging remote employees can present some challenges. Remote teams have their own set of challenges, which dampen morale and engagement. Communication can be confusing, team coordination can be weak, and lack of physical proximity in remote teams can lead to dampened team spirit, low trust, and feelings of isolation.
All these issues have solutions. Here are five smart ways to keep your remote workers engaged.
1. Use Agile to Manage Your Remote Team
Engaging employees to coordinate with each other while working remotely on complex projects can be difficult. Ineffective communication, unclear directions, and poor intra-team and inter-departmental coordination in the company culture can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and conflict — all of which are bad for employees working from home. Implementing an Agile project management approach can minimize these roadblocks and boost engagement.
The Agile approach is centered around the principles of adaptability, mutual accountability, continuous improvement, frequent communication, and empowerment of every single employee. That's why it's perfect for remote or offshore teams.
For instance, the Agile methodology allows people to communicate openly and frequently discuss roadblocks. Team members can openly share their challenges in scrum meetings, without fear of judgment. That's because they know that the entire team is there to support them in working remotely towards a solution, rather than playing a blame game. This sort of support is extremely vital for a remote work team, where people often feel isolated and wish that they had more help.
Creating an atmosphere of trust and efficient coordination between stakeholders from different departments is always tricky, and more so in a remote setting. The Agile approach also includes frameworks like implementing scrum artifacts for managing cross-functional teams, which can help.
For example, if your product management team has to work closely with the marketing team, the Agile methodology ensures that these stakeholders have clear and efficient ways to communicate, provide their inputs, make decisions, be debriefed, and so on.
The Agile methodology includes all the key engagement activities that HR experts talk about — frequent check-ins, mutual accountability, coaching, etc.
2. Invest in Frequent Training
The more knowledgeable your team members are about their roles and the company culture, the more productive they will be. That's why successful companies make sure to invest in training and development. This includes on-the-job mentoring and shadowing, as well as regular training workshops on technical and soft skills (You may want to browse for helpful bootcamps resources from time to time).
Employees feel excited about training programs that help them build the vital skills they need to grow in their careers. They also function as team-building opportunities where team members can develop better relationships amongst themselves. That's why they are a great remote employee engagement tool.
With a remote work team, you can't assemble a group of people for a training workshop in a boardroom. But why let that limitation stop you?
You can always host live webinars and organize a few workshops a month. In fact, live webinars can often be far more effective than conventional workshops. You can have far more attendees, and these webinars can be easily recorded so people can refer to the videos later on.
But why live webinars?
Because that will allow participants to ask questions, interact with the trainer, and feel part of a live group event. You can also make these webinars interactive like virtual meetings between employees working from home. Make sure to use your employees' existing knowledge base by encouraging participants to share their own inputs and experiences during these virtual training sessions. These small touches can make a significant difference in employee engagement and productivity.
3. Create a Customer-Focused Culture
In most companies, especially mid-sized and above, the majority of employees fail to understand the link between their own duties and the organization's goals. That's because companies rarely make an effort to explain that link to their employees, unless, of course, they are at a senior level.
Working-from-home disconnect leads to a lack of purpose and puts a damper on your strategies to keep remote employees engaged. So, unless people can clearly identify themselves with a meaningful purpose, it's hard for them to feel truly engaged. This shared purpose is more difficult to assimilate in a remote work team, where people are physically separated from their team.
This feeling of purpose is most important in customer-facing roles such as sales and support. A lack of engagement there will lead to stunted revenue growth and excessive customer churn - both of which can be disastrous.
So how do you instill a shared purpose?
By creating a customer-focused culture. Link everything people do with the mission of delighting customers. Have dedicated virtual meetings to help remote sales and support teams by discussing customer needs at least a couple of times a month. Use these meetings to discuss people's customer interaction experiences over calls, webchats, video conferencing, co-browsing sessions, etc.
Discuss, analyze, and document the most common customer interaction mistakes that people are making so they can be avoided in the future. And what about other teams, such as finance, HR, IT, etc., which are not customer-facing at all? It would be a great idea to hold virtual meetings on customer needs with them too — not as frequently, but at least once a quarter.
The customer should always be the focal point of everything that happens in an organization, whatever the team might be. Creating a customer-centric company culture is a great way to build a sense of shared purpose and is perfect for boosting engagement.
4. Integrate Freelancers into Your Processes
There's a significant shift taking place in the global economy right now. An increasing number of people are choosing to freelance - either full time or as a side hustle. Freelancers contribute an estimated $1.3 trillion to the US economy. So what does this mean for your company? If you are not hiring freelancers as part of your remote work team already, chances are that you will in the near future. It certainly has advantages. You could hire specialized talent who might otherwise be too expensive, such as a data security expert. Or hire experts for roles that do not have enough work to justify hiring a full-time employee, such as a video producer.
Employees feel like doing their best when you integrate them as part of your team rather than treat them as external vendors. They will be far more committed to you if you treat them as your own! Moreover, they will develop a far better rapport with your own team members, which is always great for collaboration and team productivity.
For example, if you are making a corporate video, enable your freelance video producer to work remotely with your internal team. That will allow them to come up with far better ideas and create content that more closely matches the company's branding and its customers' aspirations. This is especially vital if you want to create impactful videos with a far-reaching impact, like brands such as Red Bull and Lowe's.
You don't have to do much to engage your freelancers. Just add them to your Slack channel and your project management tool as team members. Invite them to virtual meetings and live training webinars. Be consistently timely when a freelance invoice comes in. If you organize remote team retreats, invite them too! That's it!
5. Centralize Your Communication
Communication can get really confusing in a remote work team. This leads to misunderstandings, conflicts, stress, and consequently lower levels of employee engagement. But a few simple tactics can make it more straightforward and provide answers to the question: how do you get remote employees engaged? First, have clear guidelines for when to use different media like email, chat, or video conferencing. Additionally, be sure everyone is happy and engaged by continuing to send out pulse-surveys. You can also promote employee wellness with programs like Vantage Fit. Communication becomes a lot simpler when all members working remotely are heard and can stick to these guidelines.
Use live chats for back-and-forth check-ins between team members or when you need an answer quickly. However, don't use it for trying to convey complex information or discussing emotionally sensitive matters.
Video calls are the closest you can get to a face-to-face conversation. That's why it's the best medium to explain something complicated (perhaps over Google Hangout) or to have a sensitive conversation, such as a feedback session.
Avoid using email for a back-and-forth conversation within your internal team. Instead, use it for:
- Sending long project updates and data
- Forwarding information from external parties like vendors and customers
- Detailed company-wide or team-wide announcements
- When you don't need an answer immediately
All these tools give you the freedom to communicate in accordance with what the situation demands, but there's also a drawback. Managing a bunch of different media can be confusing. However, it's super easy to streamline team communication with Mailbird.
Mailbird is way more than just an email client. It's an all-in-one centralized communication hub that integrates with chat and video apps, which you can use right from its dashboard. For instance, you can chat on Slack or WhatsApp directly from the Mailbird dashboard and have video calls too. No need to keep multiple applications open at the same time.
And there's much more
Locating older emails is a pain in most email management tools, but Mailbird's Contact Manager and user interface make it a breeze. Just click on a contact and you can see all the conversations you have had with that person. Since Mailbird also integrates with G-suite and several project management apps, you can do a substantial amount of work remotely while keeping these apps at the center of all your communication. The simpler your communication tech is, the less frustrated your employees working remotely will be, and the more time and headspace they will be able to dedicate to their jobs!
Using Mailbird is a great way to simplify your communication, and hence boost engagement, so you should give it a try.
How to Engage Remote Employees: Final Thoughts
Boosting your remote work team's engagement is certainly not hard. When you are looking for ways to get remote employees engaged, focus on these key aspects, and you will have a committed and productive team that will take your business forward.
Which of these methods will you apply today?
About the author:
Peter Banerjea is the Co-Founder of Startup Voyager, a blog about startup growth stories and also a content marketing agency. His work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc, HuffPost, Fast Company, and Lifehacker. He has also delivered speaking engagements for British Telecom, AXA, Kuoni, IHS Markit, JCB, GKN, and several more organizations.
How do I keep remote employees engaged?
Here are some tips you can use to get remote employees engaged: - Use the Agile approach to manage your remote workforce. - Invest in your employees' training and development. - Give your employees a meaningful purpose. - Hire freelancers and integrate them into your team.- Have clear communication with your team by using an email service such as Mailbird.
Are remote employees more productive?
Studies have shown that employees are more productive when they can work from home. Working from home allows them to cut back on their commuting time and other expenses, such as lunch and coffee. Remote workforce can struggle with work-life balance, but they can increase their productivity and output by taking breaks between tasks.
Are remote workers happier?
A recent study has shown that remote workers are happier in their jobs than workers in an office. Remote workers reported having better focus, less stress, and a healthier work-life balance.
How do you implement remote working?
Here are some tips on how to implement a remote workforce in your company: - Have a strict and clear working policy. - Provide the right hardware and software for your remote workers.- Engage in constant communication with your team. - Monitor your team's productivity and output.