6 steps for engaging your remote employees

Your staff might be half a world away, brainstorming at a local coffee emporium, or working directly with customers in a retail venue. You still have to reach them. Here’s valuable guidance.

Engaging remote workers

How can you engage employees who work remotely—perhaps even thousands of miles away?

There’s not one magic solution, but six key techniques make all the difference in engaging remote employees.

Seventy percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, and 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week, according to IWG in a 2018 report. Whether they’re desk-based, working in a factory, or on the shop floor, engaging remote employees is vital to the success of an organization.

As internal communicators, where do we begin? Perhaps you have employees across multiple countries, speaking an array of languages. Perhaps you have a large fleet of drivers. Maybe you employ a lot of workers who by necessity or free choice work outside the head office.

With the huge increase in workplace technologies available, it’s tempting to think that investing in a new digital tool will be the key to engagement. Yet success will never come from those tools alone. It’s about focusing on your objective and on what your audience wants and needs.

You needn’t dive in with buying an employee app, creating a global newsletter or starting a webinar series to solve engagement challenges. No matter what channels you have at your fingertips, nor what budget you have, apply these six principles for engaging remote employees:

1. Give praise.

Don’t let remote employees feel forgotten. Share success stories of individuals and teams. This could be via your employee newsletter, on the intranet or through a leadership blog.

Wherever it is, make sure you’re highlighting the great work done across different teams, regions or branches.

This will boost pride in the business, foster understanding of the organization as a whole and help employees become better advocates for the brand.

2. Enable employee voice.

Get remote employees involved and contributing. From live online chats with global staff and leaders, to a feedback request via your company magazine, to an ideas-generation scheme—there are so many ways and reasons to ask.

Valuable information can be gathered on how to improve processes, enhance the customer experience and better deliver the organization’s goals.

Just make sure you act on responses, showing what you have heard and have done as a result.

3. Listen to insights.

Do remote employees want to hear more from leaders? Do they understand the company strategy? What channels work best for them? They might be overwhelmed by too much communication or feeling isolated and disconnected. Without research, you won’t know.

Use tactics such as surveys, telephone interviews or online polls to find out. Tailor your communications to different regions, branches or roles, based on what you’ve learned.

4. Get face to face.

Countless research studies have shown that face-to-face communications are the most powerful and engaging. One study found that conversation among co-workers increases performance by 20 percent.

Arrange talks, team meetings and events for remote employees to get to know each other in person.

Arrange for leaders to make informal visits to sites, share information and listen to needs and concerns. When this cannot be done, consider using regular video calls or video conferencing.

5. Empower managers.

Global messages from the head office won’t always hit the mark. Employees want information that is personal and relevant to them. They want to know how they fit in, how they add value and how their team is performing.

Managers are best placed to solve this, but they often feel too busy. Give them tools and ideas to help. A “managers’ packet” can work well on a specific topic—providing key messages, communication guidelines, and an example session plan to help them spark conversations and support their team.

6. Mix it up.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to engaging remote employees. Keep it varied; a range of channels and products will help you succeed.

Some will like a podcast they can listen to while on the road; others will prefer a printed document they can take away and read. Get creative with the way you communicate—make it fun and different to cut through the noise.

Just make sure you’re always driven by your objective to engage, not by the need to populate all your products or channels (such as newsletters, intranets, digital signage) all the time.

Saskia Jones is a communicator, consultant and coach. A version of this post first appeared on the H&H blog.

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