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Key Tips for Improving Remote Employee Motivation that Leaders Need to Know

One issue that many managers face is keeping their employees motivated. It’s hard to keep employees engaged over a long period of time, as their work becomes more routine. These challenges are even more pronounced for managers of remote teams, who don’t have the advantage of having all their employees in the same space. Remote workers may feel isolated from their employers since they only interact with them online and their motivation levels suffer as a result. Luckily, there are some easy ways for remote team leaders to improve employee motivation.

What is Employee Motivation?

Employee motivation is essentially how engaged your team is with their work. It’s a measure of their energy and commitment, or how passionate they are about their jobs. Managers have a big impact on whether their employees remain motivated. In fact, according to research, managers are responsible for approximately 70% of the variance in team engagement. Therefore, one of the best things any manager can do is focus on the engagement levels of their teams and knowing when and how to motivate employees to work faster.

Benefits of High Employee Motivation

We pay attention to employee motivation because it has a significant impact on our businesses. For example, according to research by Gallup, organizations that performed best when it came to employee engagement saw the following benefits:

  • 81 percent lower absenteeism
  • 18 percent less employee turnover in high-turnover organizations and 43 percent less employee turnover in low-turnover ones
  • 10 percent higher customer loyalty
  • 18 percent higher productivity
  • 23 percent higher profitability

All of these benefits come just from keeping your employees engaged and motivated. It’s hard to think of another single thing you could improve within your business that would have such a wide, positive impact.

As a manager, one of your goals is to improve your business as much as possible for the lowest possible cost. It often doesn’t cost much – if anything at all – to focus more on employee motivation. When you compare this relatively low cost versus the tremendous benefits you can receive, it’s easy to see why focusing on employee engagement is one of the best things you can do as a manager.

How Does Employee Motivation Apply To Remote Teams?

Over the past few years, there has been a significant rise in the number of remote teams. More and more people are working from home, using tools such as video conference software and cloud storage to get their work done. Due to this, many managers are now overseeing teams that don’t work in the same physical location.

Despite this, it’s still important for managers to focus on knowing how to motivate unmotivated employees, even if they work remotely. The only difference is how you approach it. Some of the popular tactics for motivating in-house employees may no longer work with remote employees or you may need to adapt them. However, with a little creativity, it’s still possible to motivate your remote teams and receive all the benefits that come from doing so.

How to Motivate Unmotivated Employees: Best Strategies

Without some solid strategies in place, it’s likely that your employees will eventually lose some of the motivation they had when they were initially hired. Jobs can become monotonous or easier over time, presenting less of a challenge and less excitement to the employee. If you want to know how to motivate lazy employees, here are some great strategies to try:

Set Goals

The first thing you’ll want to try is setting goals. Set goals for both the short-term and the long-term so that everyone knows what they are working towards. Depending on your business, you could set up goals for the entire team or for individual employees. For example, you could create a goal to surpass a certain amount of downloads if you’re a software program or assign each employee with their own individual sales number goal.

When setting goals, look to make them as specific as you can. A good method for creating goals is known as the SMART method, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. For example, rather than setting a goal of increasing sales, a SMART goal would be to increase sales by 10 percent by the end of the month. This is a goal that you can measure at a specific time and track as you go along. It’s also a reasonable goal, which helps employees feel like it’s possible. By using the SMART goal system, you’ll help to keep your employees motivated by giving them something to aim for each day.

Establish an Employee Recognition Program

When someone reaches a goal or accomplishes something else noteworthy, it’s motivating to provide them with some form of recognition. To keep your employees motivated, look to establish some kind of employee recognition program. A common example of this at retail stores is the Employee of the Month program. There are, of course, a lot of other options, many of which work well with remote teams.

For example, you could send out gift cards when your team completes a project ahead of schedule or when a customer service representative receives strong feedback from clients. These little gestures demonstrate that their work is not going unnoticed and that you appreciate what they’re doing. Even a simple message that goes out to the entire team highlighting the accomplishments of a certain team member can go a long way.

In some cases, you could even turn employee recognition into a bit of a competition. For example, you could design a leaderboard that shows which salesperson has made the most sales that month. Then, at the end of that month, you could reward the winner with a prize. This recognizes people who are putting in a lot of work and giving them a reward, while also simultaneously promoting some friendly competition.

Promote Team Communication

While remote work offers the employee a lot of benefits, one of the drawbacks is that it can be a little isolating. They aren’t working in the same physical location as their coworkers, depriving them of the ability to talk with others throughout the workday. To keep your employees engaged with your business, look to foster communication among your team.

For example, you could set up a virtual happy hour once per week, where everyone brings their drinks and snacks of choice, then relaxes for a bit and talks about topics other than work. You could also set up some games or competitions to give your team something to talk about. For instance, many offices run fantasy sports leagues. Setting up something like this promotes team bonding and gives your team something fun to talk about.

Encouraging this team communication helps everyone to feel more a part of the team. Rather than being an individual employee working alone at home, they are now a part of a group that’s working towards the same goal. This can remove some of the isolation of remote work and keep everyone engaged.

Gather and Implement Remote Team Feedback

Finally, it’s important to gather feedback from your remote teams. Since we don’t work in the same location as these people, we can often forget to get feedback from them. You want to learn how things are going for them and if they have any suggestions for how you could improve. They may have ideas for how you can improve team communication or engagement that you hadn’t thought of before.

Gathering feedback from your remote team can be an easy process. A simple solution is to send out a survey every few weeks, asking how they are feeling. You could also include a section for any ideas they might have to make things better for them. If you have a small team, you could set up one-on-one video calls to conduct quick feedback sessions.

Once you get feedback from your team, look to implement it. Implementing suggestions from your team shows you care about their ideas and that they are an important part of your organization. This is especially important if you receive similar feedback from multiple employees.

Top Tips to Encourage and Inspire Employee Motivation

When implementing your remote team motivation strategies, use the following tips to get the most out of them:

Make Everyone Feel Part of the Team

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A key element of employee engagement is whether or not they feel like part of a team. There needs to be a sense that they are working alongside their fellow remote workers towards a common goal. 

As mentioned earlier, you could encourage your team to participate in activities together outside work, such as virtual happy hours or fantasy leagues. But there are other strategies as well. For example, you can spend more time highlighting how each person’s role is contributing to the overall success of your business. You could also spend more time developing your company’s culture, through methods such as focusing on employee wellness or talking about the values of your company.

It’s easier for people who work in the same physical location to feel like they are on the same team. They are surrounded by their fellow team members and that space is dedicated solely to your business. Remote employees might be working from a home office by themselves and as a result, have a harder time envisioning themselves as on the same team. As the manager of a remote team, you may need to work a little harder to instill this sense of team.

Set an Example

It’s important that you not only establish motivational strategies but that you partake in them as well. For example, don’t just set up virtual happy hours for your team, but participate in them too. Help your employees get to know you better and encourage them to share more information about themselves.

How you lead your team can have a significant impact on your employee’s motivation. If you don’t demonstrate that you’re motivated, your employees won’t either. Since you’re managing a remote team, you need to find ways to set an example without being in the same space.

This could be as simple as sending out emails that are passionate and exciting. When something big happens for your business, or someone accomplishes something, make a big deal out of it. Look to set a positive example whenever you’re interacting with your remote team and they will be more likely to follow suit.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Just as it’s important to get feedback from your remote team, it’s also important to give it. If you feel that an employee is not as engaged as you would like, provide them with some constructive feedback. Tell them what you’re looking for and what you expect. Do this in a way that shows you appreciate having them as a part of your team, you just need a little more from them.

Providing feedback shows that you care about getting the most from your team. You don’t just view your remote employees as expendable. You chose that person for a specific reason and you expect their best performance. This feedback will hopefully not only improve your team’s performance but help them feel like they are an important part of your organization.

Start Improving Your Remote Team’s Motivation

Motivation is a key metric to keep track of, whether your team is working together in-person or remotely. If your team is unmotivated, it’s going to lead to poor results for your business in a variety of ways. On the other hand, if you can keep your team motivated, you’ll see better productivity, less turnover, and happier customers, among other benefits.

Motivating remote workers comes with some additional challenges but it isn’t impossible. It’s largely a matter of helping each worker feel more involved with the business and that they are a part of a team. You can do this with some simple strategies, like establishing clear goals, rewarding achievements, and encouraging more team communication. Once you do this, you’ll help create a strong culture within your remote team and you’ll start to see the benefits throughout your business.