Keeping Remote Employees Engaged

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The pandemic brought on many challenges for businesses- that is no surprise to anyone. One of the most notable changes has been a huge increase in the number of employees working remotely. That shift to remote work has had a significant impact on today’s workforce. Most business experts agree- there is no going back. Remote work is here to stay. How do we, as business owners, adjust and thrive in this new normal? 

On the positive side, employees have enjoyed a better work/life balance. Studies have shown remote employees are happier and more productive. And many remote employees feel more trusted by their employers to do the job they were hired to do. This enhanced trust often increases loyalty to the company. Increased loyalty results in a decrease in costly turnover – win/win! 

 

But unfortunately, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. There have been challenges with this new way of running a business. Some common concerns: 

  • Loss of the spontaneous “water cooler” discussions- how will that affect employee relationships and company culture?  
  • Training an employee remotely can be challenging. Will they feel like part of the team? How will they learn to trust one another and their managers? 
  • How can you ensure your team is meeting their KPIs (key performance indicators) when there isn’t a supervisor “looking over their shoulder” to hold them accountable? 
  • And for employees- they want to know how they’ll be able to make an impression on their supervisors from afar. Will they still have professional development opportunities? What about chances to “learn the ropes” from their colleagues and managers? 

 

At Anequim, remote work is our specialty. It’s in our DNA. In this article- we’ll discuss successful strategies for keeping remote employees engaged. The first thing we want to stress – you can absolutely have success with a remote workforce. If you put the right procedures in place, your employees can be just as productive from their home offices as they are inside your company’s four walls. With that understanding- let’s discuss steps you can take to put your company on the right path to support a thriving remote workforce.

 

1. Build Trust

This may seem obvious- of course you want to have trust between your employees and their managers! But having a trusting relationship becomes extra important when the face-to-face time is more limited. Some strategies to build trust include:

 

  • Hold a daily huddle.
    • Even if it is just a quick call- huddles help maintain your leadership presence and foster a strong connection with your team. 

    • Get creative! Find an activity or game that fits your culture and use it to start the meeting. It will help your team look forward to the daily huddle.

  • Get to know your team, as people.
    • Take the time to learn about family, hobbies, and personal interests. This builds connection with employees- and connection builds trust. 

    • Recognize your employees’ important life events. It shows you care about them as human beings. 

    • Have social time together – happy hours, team lunches, themed gatherings for holidays, etc.

  • Encourage honest communication.
    • Give permission and space to voice frustrations and make suggestions. Rewarding this level of trust goes a long way towards building a strong team. 

    • Listening to employees’ constructive criticism may help solve problems or find efficiencies in their workflows. *Caveat- this doesn’t mean you should open every meeting up for a gripe session. Set expectations up front to keep discussions productive and solutions focused. 

    • Have “clear the air” moments where employees clear up lingering uncomfortable feelings or tension over a situation. Be willing to be vulnerable as a leader when you make mistakes, too- your team will respond in kind.



2. Set clear performance expectations.

Setting clear expectations and timelines becomes critical when you’re managing a remote workforce. Why? Because expectations give employees clarity. So, whether a supervisor is “looking over their shoulder” or not, the employee knows exactly how and when they are expected to contribute to the team’s success. Then, if they’re not contributing, it will be very apparent. 

 

  • Measure, measure, and measure!
    • Having a road map with clear and measurable KPIs helps put everyone on the same page- a great strategy to unify a team working in different locations. 

    • Perform routine qualitative surveys. These ensure your team is meeting customer needs and ensuring client satisfaction. Mistakes can be discovered and corrected right away, which helps your customer and employee experience. 

    • Use tools like call reports, progress notes, etc. to make sure your team is completing tasks and maintaining the quality of service you expect. This gives managers a record of progress, and it also documents a history of customer interactions for future reference. Spot check at the end of the month.

 

3. Thoroughly train your team

Training is key for ensuring your employees know how to do their job- that’s a given. But training remote staff is more complex. Lack of clarity is a big cause of employee unhappiness and costly turnover- so it is important to get this right. How do you accomplish training a new employee over a webcam? And how will your team learn the company culture if they’re not there in person? The answer to both questions is to be thorough and intentional.

 

  • Go through all procedure documents step by step, in person (whenever possible).
    • This allows the new employee to ask questions in real time. An added bonus- reviewing these documents together is a good way to keep supervisors acquainted with operational procedures! 

    • If you can’t do this piece in person, use a webcam. Or make sure you have detailed written procedures for them to read on their own. Create a shared document where the new employee can record questions as they go, and you can respond. 

    • Have your new team member create their own FAQ sheet with the questions and answers they're getting as they go through training. It’ll be a great reference for them in the future.

  • Create clarity around organizational structure and reporting relationships.
    • There are few things more frustrating and stressful for a new employee than not understanding the structure of your organization and having clarity around who they report to. If you have a matrixed company structure, limit the number of reporting relationships as much as you can.

  • Have frequent touch points with managers and colleagues. 
    • Starting a new job- we’ve all been there! It’s overwhelming on the best of days- and completely stressful on the worst. Remember, it’s your job to ensure employees feel welcomed and prepared. Schedule opportunities for them to connect with the team virtually (or in person, if possible) so they begin to see where they fit in and can absorb the company culture from colleagues. 
    • Provide ongoing feedback so your new employee can learn the ropes more quickly as they settle into their new role.


Our motto is: “Make sure your company is the instrument your employees can use to create the life they want”. That is an important message we hope you hear loud and clear. Treat them the way you were treated by your favorite manager. Be intentional. 

While there may be a few extra steps to ensure a remote team feels engaged, connected to their job and your company’s purpose- it is doable if you take the time to do it right. It will pay off in many ways for you and your employees. As always, we’re here to support your success!

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