Many people are continuing to work from home, and indications suggest that remote work to some degree will be a permanent feature of many workplaces. If this describes your organisation, it’s time to start thinking about the unique challenges posed by a remote workforce, and engaging remote employees for sustainable performance.
When it comes to keeping remote employees engaged, first and foremost, one needs to consider that employee engagement is chiefly about removing the barriers that impede employees from doing their best work.
Those barriers can include things like lack of role clarity and unclear goals, poor manager support, lack of access to the information, tools, and resources needed to do the job well, an environment that doesn’t value feedback, or lack of uniting purpose.
Employees who feel a strong sense of belonging, are connected with the business and believe in its purpose, trust their managers, and have access to the tools, training, and resources they need to do their job well are wonderfully motivated and incredibly productive.
Why? The barriers that prevent them from working effectively and efficiently have been removed.
Engaged employees enjoy their work, have high job satisfaction, and importantly, value their team and the company culture.
Assess your team to see if they’re struggling
Our advice to leaders wondering about keeping their remote teams engaged is to start with the basics and assess whether they are struggling with impediments to their jobs.
A highly engaged employee is likely to strongly agree with each of the following statements:
- I have everything I need to do my job efficiently and well.
- I have clear goals and objectives.
- I understand how my performance is measured.
- I meet with my manager consistently.
- When I ask my manager for help, they provide constructive advice.
- I am able to keep clear boundaries between the workday and my personal time.
- I feel that my manager trusts me to do my job.
- My workspace at home is comfortable to work in.
- My leader provides proactive leadership for our team.
- I have good working relationships with my colleagues.
- Our team communicates effectively with each other.
- The meetings I attend are efficient and are a good use of time.
- The company measures remote employee performance fairly.
- I have a clear understanding of the company’s strategic direction.
Using these kinds of questions to assess where your employees stand will enable you to uncover specific impediments to their individual progress, such as:
- Poor communications leaving them without the details needed for the work
- Lack of connection with their peers
- Whether or not the person is becoming isolated
- A manager that is struggling to be present for remote employees
- Potential overwork or burnout
Interpret the results & develop an action plan
Determining the next step is simple – assess the results, select the key areas you will tackle first, and develop the action plan for removing the barriers employees are encountering.
Be sure to communicate clearly and frequently with employees after gathering their feedback. Failing to do so will give a distinct impression that nothing’s happening, and their feedback isn’t valued. Here’s a simple communication plan outline we have found is incredibly effective:
- Share the findings. You don’t need to go into minute detail. Sharing the key findings, especially if the feedback showed a recurring theme, will let your employees know they have been well and truly heard.
- Don’t wait until you have devised your action plan. Instead, simply share the findings and then let them know what’s happening next, e.g. “Within the next 30 days, we will share our plan for addressing the opportunities for improving your feedback highlighted for us.”
- Share your action plan, including the areas you’ll be focusing on, the steps you’ll be taking to make improvements, and your timelines for doing so. We recommend promising some results within 90 days. By modeling the behaviors of planning and accountability, you’ll be building trust with the team – even before you’ve started the work of effecting change.
- Develop a cadence for routine updates. Advise the team of your progress and any associated outcomes.
- Report the results. Our founder, Stefan Wissenbach, likes to say “ Tell them, tell them, tell them.” When you tell them what you’re going to do, tell them what you’re doing, and then tell them what you did, you’ll be conveying – in a clear and accountable way – the value of employees’ feedback and their ability to impact their workplace. This is real and meaningful empowerment, and when you re-survey your team, chances are good you’ll find an increase in participation, enthusiasm, and engagement.
- Re-assess. We recommend re-surveying employees to understand whether the actions taken have been successful, to identify the next set of improvements the organisation should undertake, and to continue to build trust and credibility with the team.
This approach will also help your organisation prevent survey fatigue, which is marked by declines in participation and results when people don’t see any change resulting from their feedback. If people know their feedback is valued and will be acted upon, they are likely to continue to participate enthusiastically and at a high rate. If you’re following up as suggested, you won’t need to worry about survey fatigue.
It’s a good idea to assess or survey employees multiple times a year, to identify issues before they turn into real problems, capture feedback, and do what’s needed to keep the team truly engaged and performing.