Successfully Build Employee Engagement Even While Remote
Remote work was on the rise, even before the pandemic hit, with the number of people working from home increasing by 159% since 2009, according to a Global Workplace Analytics report. While working virtually has a number of benefits for employees (time and money saved on commuting, more flexibility and autonomy, improved mental health, etc.), there is concern that the lack of physical presence in a workplace could impact employee engagement. However, there are effective ways to successfully build employee engagement even while remote.
The Importance of Employee Engagement
Research indicates that most employees who switched to remote work in 2020 are happy and productive working from home, but there is a disconnect with management. Leaders fear that workers aren’t as connected or engaged and would prefer an in-person return to the office. To successfully navigate these diverging views, organizations need a more holistic view of the needs of their workforce, their preferences for remote work, and the potential impacts to their employee experience, including engagement levels.
Employee engagement describes how employees feel about the organization (an emotional attachment) and what they are willing to do as a result. Engaged employees feel connected to the organization, their department, and their work. Additionally, they are positive advocates for the company and are more likely to continue their employment.
Organizations can assess employee engagement by measuring these four indicators:
- Intent to stay
- Referral behavior
- Pride in the organization
- Intrinsic motivation
It’s important to understand these drivers because engagement is linked to a number of critical business outcomes, including employee turnover, financial performance, and customer retention. But how exactly is remote work affecting engagement?
Improving Engagement in Remote Workers
Some have been quick to assume that remote workers are less engaged than their in-office counterparts, but Perceptyx data indicates that’s not necessarily true. In fact, hybrid workers, those who spend part of their time working virtually and part from the office, are actually the most engaged. Therefore, for organizations that can offer and encourage hybrid working, it may be to both their benefit as well as employees. But for organizations with a fully remote workforce, all is not lost. While engagement scores are not as high when compared to hybrid employees, they are not bleak. About 2 in 5 remote employees expect to stay at their employer for at least the next 12 months, which is the same as fully in-person employees. However, for referral behavior, pride in company, and intrinsic motivation, remote employees all score significantly lower than hybrid or in-person employees.
The good news is that there is significant opportunity to engage your remote employees. Here are five ways to increase engagement in virtual workers.
Make sure employees feel valued. Recognition is mentioned time and time again as a priority for employees. In fact, 37% of employees stated recognition is the most important thing to them in a Great Places to Work Study. Be sure to celebrate successes and other personal milestones in private as well as more public departmental meetings or Slack channels. This is especially important for remote workers and conveys that their hard work is not going unnoticed.
Ensure there is equity in growth opportunities. More and more, we’re seeing opportunity for growth and upward mobility as both a driver of employee engagement and a common reason for attrition. And for remote employees, who are frequent victims of officism and more likely to believe they are passed up for promotions, organizations should be transparent about their practices and eligibility for advancement opportunities. And when remote employees are promoted, make sure it’s widely communicated so that their peers at-home feel hopeful about their own advancement opportunities.
Train managers to effectively oversee and evaluate remote employees. Our research has found that managers are more likely to believe remote workers are not as productive as in-person workers. We’ve also heard that managers struggle to evaluate the performance of remote employees. However, this is really a perception and competency gap on behalf of the managers. Organizations need to train their leaders and ensure they have the skills and tools they need to effectively oversee remote team members. This will help reduce unconscious or proximity biases and create more equitable opportunities for all.
Prioritize open, strategic communication. Many remote workers are suffering from Zoom fatigue. While open, transparent communication is necessary to keep remote employees in the loop, it does not have to be excessive. Ensure your leaders are communicating effectively but not overdoing it with meetings that can lead to burnout. Encourage use of communication channels like Slack or Microsoft Teams to send and receive quick messages, but be sure to set expectations for communication during and after business hours, and honor the preferences of your team members. Be open with how you like to communicate as well as how you want to be communicated with.
Encourage collaboration and team building. If you have team members working both in the office and remote, make sure leaders are allowing time for personal check-ins and small talk as well as group collaboration and team building. Establish set times to touch base as a team and provide everyone the opportunity to share or give their ideas and opinions. Its easy to leave a remote team member out of an impromptu in-office meeting, but over time that can be damaging to team culture and morale. By setting team meeting policies up-front, and always providing the opportunity for remote team members to participate virtually, unwanted biases and impacts can be avoided.
Don’t Lose Sight of Remote Workers
As vaccination rates rise and infection rates decline, many organizations are encouraging workers to come back to the office. But given the strong preference among employees for greater flexibility, we expect that some level of virtual work is here to stay. This means that keeping virtual workers top of mind and engaged will continue to be important. Fortunately, with advances in technology, there’s no shortage of options to stay connected.
Keeping a pulse on your overall employee experience, including engagement levels, will also be important as the workplace evolves. By working with a partner like Perceptyx, that can help you gather and analyze timely data from all employees and filter it by key demographic criteria, including workplace location, you can easily monitor engagement drivers and how they are changing over time.
Schedule a demo today to learn more.