Companies are relying on remote workers at an increasing rate each day. In fact, in the United States, more than 4.7 million people work remotely at least part of the time. Some companies allow their local employees to work from home, while others hire solely remote-based employees from all over the world.
At the same time, employee engagement remains a serious concern for many organizations. The number of actively disengaged employees is actually on the rise, reaching 15% in the United States. In addition, only 20% of people globally report that they are engaged with their jobs. As organizations continue to rely more heavily on remote work, it’s essential that you don’t lose focus of your employee engagement levels. Below, we’ll outline some strategies you can use to keep your remote employees engaged and get the best results from them.
Focus on Your Onboarding Process
A great time to start thinking about how you’re engaging remote employees is before you even hire them. If you want your remote employees to feel engaged with your organization, you need to focus on this from the moment you hire them all the way through the onboarding process. It’s often much easier to onboard employees in person when you’re able to interact with them and show them around the office. This is harder to do when you’re potentially thousands of miles apart and can’t interact as directly with the new hire.
Instead, you need to find ways to make your onboarding process engaging for new employees. For starters, you should examine your onboarding materials and make sure your remote employees can easily view them from their remote stations. After that, you can focus on making virtual introductions, preferably through video conferencing software. This allows your new employees to put faces to names and helps them to feel like a part of the team.
Finally, ensure the person responsible for onboarding the new employee spends plenty of one-on-one time introducing them to the organization. Having a dedicated person for this task gives the new remote employee someone they can rely on.
Host Social Events
One of the reasons that it’s easier to engage in-person employees is because they have the opportunity to interact with one another. There are in-person meetings, conversations in the break room, and employee get-togethers outside of work. When you work remotely, these opportunities are more limited. Therefore, if you want to engage your remote employees, you need to find ways to help them socialize with one another, despite working in different locations.
For example, you could hold a virtual happy hour through video conferencing. Send your employees a gift card for a food delivery service or send them a bottle of wine. Then get everyone together at the same time on video chat and talk about things other than work. You can also do something similar around the holidays, using them as an excuse to get your employees together for some lighthearted interactions. This will help your remote employees feel more closely connected to their coworkers, which in turn helps them feel more engaged with your organization.
Provide Public Feedback
Most employees appreciate it when you acknowledge their hard work. When an employee accomplishes something special, such as reaching a milestone within your company, completing a large project, or making an impressive sale, there are several ways you can go about recognizing it. For instance, you could provide them with a bonus, a promotion, or some public feedback. Public feedback is when you praise someone for accomplishing something special to the entire company, or to a particular team within it. You don’t need to be in an office environment in order to do this, making it a good option for engaging remote employees.
To provide some public feedback to your remote workers, show your appreciation in a place where everyone can see it. For example, you can write a message and email it to the entire team, include it within a group messaging app like Slack, or include it in your organization’s next newsletter. The employee you’re spotlighting will appreciate the positive attention and others within your organization may work harder in hopes of receiving their own public praise.
Encourage Employee Feedback
Another thing that helps employees feel engaged with their organization is when the organization listens to, and acts on, employee feedback. This helps them feel like they are a part of the team and that they have some say in the direction of the company. When you have remote workers, it can sometimes be easy to forget to ask for their feedback because you do not see them every day. However, it’s important that you put systems in place to gather this feedback, as it not only keeps your remote workers engaged, but it can improve your business.
An easy way to start this is by sending out an employee survey every few weeks or months. You can ask simple questions about how your remote workers feel working for you. Also, give your remote workers space to provide suggestions for how they would improve things or what changes they would like to see. Then, besides this, consider scheduling one-on-one interviews with your employees where you can gather more in-depth feedback. Finally, implement the feedback as best you can to improve the experience of your remote employees and keep them engaged.
Run Remote Contests and Competitions
Contests and competitions are a great way to encourage some friendly inner-organization rivalries. Sometimes people need just a little extra motivation to do something, like winning a contest, and your remote employees are no different. At the same time, non-work-related contests can get your remote employees to engage with one another and talk about something outside of work.
One example of this is a simple sales contest. Whoever completes the most sales, or generates the highest sales revenue, in a month gains a bonus. You can post updates at the end of each day to encourage your remote employees to compete against one another.
For something a little less serious, you can try a game like fantasy football. Build your league out of your remote employees and give a prize to the winner at the end of the season. You don’t need to know much about football in order to play and it gives your remote employees something to talk about each week during the season. You can also find plenty of other similar fantasy games, like some related to reality TV shows. Pick a fun one for your remote team and see if you can get everyone engaged with the contest.
Focus on Engaging Remote Employees
When you don’t physically see your employees every day, it can become hard to gauge their engagement level. You can’t rely on their body language or demeanor to help you decide how they’re feeling. This makes it even more important that you actively implement strategies to improve their engagement level, to ensure you’re getting the most from them. Choose one or two of the strategies above to start with and see if you notice any tangible results. Continue trying new methods until you find what works to keep your remote employees engaged.