How to Ensure Your Remote Staff Is Engaged
While remote workforces come with their share of plusses, they also come with one minus: loneliness.
According to Igloo’s 2019 State of the Digital Workspace report, 70 percent of dispersed team members feel “left out” of the workplace. And with remote work penetrating companies of all sizes in all industries, curbing that sense of isolation should be a top priority.
Google, for instance, staffs half of its worldwide team with temps, contractors and vendors. Yet you'd be surprised to hear that the tech giant created a caste system that excluded those who aren't full-time workers from meetings, certain cafeterias and the campus store. Google even went so far as to require contractors to wear red badges that only served to further alienate them from the rest of the employees. But one former contractor observed that this inequality led to "widespread disgruntlement."
A disengaged remote staff like this can be low on both productivity and morale. That's why it's vital that you, as leaders, take the necessary steps to always keep them locked in.
Make remote workers feel at home
In theory, managing remote workers is challenging. But a remote workforce can actually be a helpful asset to any business. For one, your company's access to qualified employees is no longer limited by geography. The world becomes your talent pool, allowing you to recruit ideal candidates for almost any opening and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
However, a remote setup is also advantageous for employees. Dispersed teams often experience higher employee satisfaction, lower turnover, fewer sick days and greater productivity. They’re also less likely to be late, leave early or get distracted by other employees.
When you treat remote workers like more than second-class citizens, it helps stave off employee burnout and churn. And, according to the 2019 DI Developer Survey Report, it even yields a 20 to 30 percent rise in productivity and morale. To build a remote workforce that's high in both of those areas, use these strategies:
1. Rally team members around reachable goals.
Establishing metrics to measure performance is nothing new. The remote workforce, however, can pose a particular challenge for some employers because team members aren't regularly in the office. Bridge that gap by building measurable goals that in-office and remote employees can work toward together.
But how do you regularly prioritize these numbers for off-site employees? A Queens University of Charlotte study found that 49 percent of Millennials support collaboration through social tools, resources that could certainly help foster companywide camaraderie toward a common goal. Use Slack, Dropbox, GitHub, etc., to monitor progress, highlight metrics and instigate action when necessary.
Programming tools like GitHub and GitPrime have helped our company monitor the performance of our remote engineering teams. For customer support roles, you could always use the software Delighted to capture the Net Promoter Score and track customer satisfaction. Then, automatically post the NPS number to a Slack channel if it drops below a certain level to put it on the team's radar and inspire change.
2. Integrate accountability into the workflow.
According to The Growth Divide Study, more than 90 percent of employees prefer their managers to provide them with real-time feedback. Make remote employees as accountable as in-house staff by scheduling regular check-ins to track progress.
Consider scheduling a standing meeting to monitor off-site employees' status. Go over what a remote worker accomplished yesterday, what’s on his to-do list and whether he has any concerns. Put a phone call on the books to get everything aligned, or utilize BlueJeans, Google Hangouts or Zoom to schedule video meetings and add a more personal touch. Zoom, in particular, has screen-sharing capabilities, which enables those on a call to interact or collaborate on a project.
For remote employees who feel removed from the in-office experience, these regular progress reports provide a glimpse of the regular workplace experience. Make them part of remote employees' day-to-day routines to further engage them.
3. Find creative workarounds.
Companies with international or remote employees run into some issues when it comes time zones. For example, Groove is a small-business customer support platform whose team stretches across nine time zones. No matter what, though, both remote and in-house employees attend a tightly structured 10- to 30-minute meeting every weekday at 10 a.m. Eastern. While this means early mornings and late nights for some, it does help get everyone on the same page to start -- or end -- the day.
Groove's solution isn't an option for every company, so it's important to find some way to navigate around time zone and other issues for remote staff. Encourage remote workers to complete a full profile containing job title, expertise, location, time zone, fluent languages, etc. That way, leadership always knows the best times to set up even an impromptu meeting. It’s also a good practice to post end-of-day summaries to help dispersed team members stay abreast of what’s going on with business. Remember, they can’t always call you with a question.
Working with remote talent isn’t any more hands-on than working with traditional in-office employees. It just requires you to be more mindful in your management style, which will ultimately benefit the entire team.