How Do You Keep Remote Employees Productive and Engaged With Their Teams?
Many of us have shifted to working on remote teams and in the hurry to pivot and regain momentum, we may have overlooked how we also needed to adapt to keep remote employees engaged. Employee engagement–a positive connection to the work employees do and a belief in the goals, purpose, and mission of that work–is especially critical in challenging, changing environments.
Historically, Gallup research and data does show a decrease in engagement when employees work remote 100 percent of the time, and ties this decrease to three factors: lack of recognition for good work, lack of coaching conversations about career goals and personal growth, and lack of opportunities to connect with coworkers.
In the rush to pivot, many organizations focused on the question of productivity and whether remote employees had the tools and skills needed to work effectively as a remote team. Managers were tasked with ensuring their leaders and teams were supported with communication technology and enlisted their teams to focus on tangible goals and tasks. Now, as we stretch into the long term, it is equally important to make time for meaningful connections and recognition. Here's a few recommendations based on the Gallup findings to help your remote teams feel engaged:
Step One: Intentionally share and recognize successes
Often, good work done by our virtual teammates is less visible than it would have been in our in-office counterpart. It might be tempting for managers to hold quick catch up meetings to discuss tasks and deliverables only, which might leave them unaware of a successes that an employee should be recognized for. At least once a week, ask "what have you been working on that is exciting or that you are proud of?" Managers could then either invite the rest of the team to share in these small and large wins, or remind teammates to recognize each other to make sure each employee’s contributions are highlighted.
Step Two: Plan focused conversations about career goals and personal growth
As we all dig into remote work, there are fewer organic opportunities to see what positions and growth may be available in an organization. Managers should make a point to be aware of employees' career and personal goals. In this challenging time, they may have many questions or concerns about their future, and their goals may likely shift. During more formal progress reviews, ask questions and try to offer resources to achieve these goals. Even if a promotion is not available, managers can help employees who wish to expand their skills or responsibilities and provide input, feedback, and recognition when an employee shows initiative or innovation that might fall outside their formal job description.
Step Three: Provide opportunities for all employees to connect
Time to connect is especially important as we are all less able to interact with another in person. Typical avenues like shared coffee breaks, "water cooler chat", and even quick walks are likely being missed. Technology—video conferencing, internal social media sites, or collaboration platforms—can help to mitigate these problems for meetings and daily tasks, but can be fatiguing. Especially now that traditionally in-person activities like onboarding, recognition ceremonies, formal training, and performance review are happening virtually, make time for fun. Fun time could look like less formal check ins to kick off a meeting, sharing weekend stories, or shouting out impactful client interactions that directly relate to the team's contributions.
Keeping our newly remote teams' employee engagement high is a challenge that our changing workforce depends on. Start with a goal to invest the same amount of time for recognition, coaching conversations about career goals, and connecting on a personal level that you would have in person. And let us know your favorite ways to engage remote teams in the comments!