Remote workforces have increasingly become more prominent in businesses today. The 2018 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey revealed that employers continue to rely on virtual workers to expand the pool of available talent and as many as 72 percent of respondents said they had employees working remotely.
Despite this strong representation of a remote workforce, only slightly more than half of organizational leaders felt these remote employees were offered effective support. This is a lost opportunity. Studies summarized by the Society for Human Resource Management suggest that workers who telecommute may be more productive than their in-office colleagues. But without reliable engagement practices, a remote employee could feel forgotten, disconnected, and unmotivated.
If your company has remote workers or is thinking about starting a remote work policy, consider the following employee engagement ideas to help ensure employees’ time at the business is productive and positive.
Engaging remote employees begins before the hiring process even starts. Your employees want to give you their best but it's up to you to empower them to do so. Every employer faces challenges with managing a remote workforce. Some of these, such as ensuring accountability, tracking overtime, and ensuring data security should be addressed in a work-from-home policy. This is where specific procedures outlining the remote arrangement are stated. Hours of availability, communication frequency, and availability across time zones should be considered.
Onboard with clear expectations and frequent communication
Managers should attempt to hire individuals who are self-starters and have the motivation to succeed in a remote position. Just like a remote worker's in-office colleagues, effective onboarding is the best way to make a great first impression. A positive onboarding experience sets the stage for a culture of engagement that is critical to a long and successful career within the company. Technology in the form of videos, webinars, podcasts, and more can help remote workers learn more about company culture, values, and history. HR software can also help facilitate collaboration across the company, allowing managers and HR staff located in other offices to easily share resources with remote employees.
Along with learning about the company, a manager should set clear expectations for their remote employees from the beginning, including:
- Guidelines for when they are expected to work;
- Job responsibilities; and
- Performance goals.
Finally, when a manager takes time to discuss the employee's expectations about working remotely, it sets a precedent for clear and open communication, which are critical to effectively managing offsite employees. This an ongoing conversation that should continue throughout the employee's career.
Provide meaningful learning and growth opportunities
Out of sight is not out of mind. The manager should schedule regular one-on-one meetings and explain key performance indicators for job evaluation. Feedback and follow-through on the employee's performance is critical to productivity and accountability.
Look for opportunities for the employee to evolve and develop in their role. A learning management system (LMS) is an ideal way to administer, document, track, report, and deliver educational resources, training programs, and opportunities to all employees. An LMS not only allows employees to learn when it is most convenient for them, but it allows for anytime, anywhere access on any device — a notable benefit for offsite workers.
Include remote employees in teambuilding activities
In the absence of face-to-face contact with colleagues and managers, teambuilding activities play an important role in engaging and nurturing a sense of camaraderie. It's time for managers to move beyond the mindset that individuals need to be physically present to be part of a team event. Online communications such as a quote of the day, email bingo, or trivia quizzes serve to unite employees. If an in-office reward is offered, consider gift cards, or a gathering via webcam. Health and wellness contests, such as team-based step counting or other healthy behaviors can also be organized and tracked remotely to include remote workers.
Use the right technology to manage remote employees
There are key strategies to engage remote employees and manage a remote workforce; using the right technology is one of the more important ones. Virtual communication options such as Microsoft OneNote, SharePoint, Slack, OneDrive, Yammer, and Google Hangouts allow employees to share knowledge, encourage conversation, and enhance meetings while staying connected with their supervisor, team, and company. Providing technical training to instruct remote employees and their managers on virtual tools and resources can encourage use.
Other collaboration tools include having an HR infrastructure complete with a human resource management system (HRMS) that can serve a remote workforce. Convenient access to mission-critical information and data security are essential considerations.
Engage to thrive
A remote workforce thrives when employers achieve engagement through productivity and connectivity at the personal and technological level. When a business has remote workers, the right HR technology must be part of the equation. With these factors in place, both the company and the remote employee are ultimately set up for continued success.