Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

Remote Employee Engagement – The Manager’s Guide for 2024

Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

Did you know that companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable? In fact, most managers agree that retaining good talent is more difficult than hiring them.

As most of the workforce has adopted remote work after the Coronavirus pandemic hit us, many of us are still struggling to keep our remote employees engaged.

As per statistics, an average employee has started to put at least 3 extra hours in their work since the outbreak of the pandemic.

This sudden shift to remote work has led to 75% of the employees feeling more isolated, 57% of them anxious, and 53% of them emotionally exhausted. (HBR)

Remote work requires a reimagining of employee engagement and this is the issue we are trying to address in this guide.

Employee engagement just like many other issues in an organization adapting to remote work, is one that needs the attention of an HR professional but the extra attention of the managers.

Managers are the key stakeholders in maintaining a high level of employee engagement in the team.

To keep employee engagement high, managers need to take care of factors like building rapport, boosting their morale, recognition, constructive feedback, and more.

Let us discuss each of these and more in detail. But first let us understand what is employee engagement.

What is Remote Employee Engagement?

In simple words, remote employee engagement is the process of keeping employees connected and motivated as they work from home.

Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment the employee has towards the company and its goals.

Engaged employees care for the company; they’re not simply working for a paycheck or a promotion.

The first step towards understanding employee engagement is to understand what motivates people, what drives their actions and how it translates into productivity.

And managers and leaders are the key drivers in ensuring a high level of employee engagement in the organization.

However, the task takes a different course in the context of remote work, as you cannot see your employees in person now and must use the right tools to keep them engaged.

Let us deep dive into various aspects of employee engagement in remote work.

Human connection is of supreme importance, especially in remote work, when the team does not share the same working space.

Building strong relationships in the team helps in having more effective meetings and discussions. And the easiest tool in helping you do so is icebreakers.

Find icebreaker games to build great connect with your remote teams HERE!

While engaging employees seem like an added task on top of your responsibilities, it is crucial for productivity and efficiency. Let’s have a look at why remote employee engagement is important.

Importance of remote employee engagement

Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

1 Engaged remote employees are more productive

When employees are more engaged, they are more invested in their tasks and show exemplary ownership. This is the reason why engaged employees are always more productive than their counterparts.

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2 Engaged employees deliver better service

The ultimate goal of an organization is to deliver excellence. When employee engagement is high, employees go an extra mile in performing their task and lead to better customer satisfaction.

3 Engaged employees are loyal

A disengaged employee always looks for other alternatives. The key to high retention rate is a robust employee engagement culture.

What are the challenges of remote employee engagement?

Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

Every decision made at your company can tip that scale towards either engagement or disengagement, leaving employees either satisfied or completely dissatisfied with the work culture.

If you think that the latest changes due to remote working might have impacted them, it is time to look out for the signs for disengaged employees and make the necessary changes to keep them self-motivated and reestablish the emotional connection.

Whether you are an HR manager or the CEO of the company, you should watch out for these signs of disengaged employees to keep your company culture intact even while working remotely.

1 Absenteeism

If requesting for leaves is coupled with them consistently ignoring pressing deadlines and targets when requesting days off, they are clearly disengaged.

if you have been consistently calling or messaging them to get an answer, or catch them doing everything but their work, you may be looking at a disengaged employee.

Solution: Have frequent one on one meetings to get to the core of the issue and try to understand why they have become disinterested and disengaged.

2 Withdrawal from team-building activities

Another sign to look out for is the level of engagement they have while the HR department or you set up a team-building activity.

Look for team members who are less interested in participating in these activities, who often make an excuse, or are less proactive if involved.

Solution: Stress upon the importance of these activities. Revamp their structure – make them short and crisp while providing attractive perks and recognition to those participate.

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3 Lack of communication

Communication forms the backbone of any organization, more so if the teams are now working remotely.

Missing out on important information, staying quiet or less involved during work calls, not eager to share ideas/problems during one on one calls, are a few signs of disengaged employees.

Solution: An important aspect to consider here is that employees are less likely to communicate if they do not trust their direct supervisors or senior management.

If they feel that their words are falling on deaf ears, they would eventually communicate less.

Thus, it becomes important to build trust with your remote employees.

4 Lacking the zeal to shine

An engaged employee sees an opportunity and seizes it. They innovate, volunteer and improve processes. 

On the contrary, disengaged employees do not defend their ideas, care much about how their work is going, or are less willing to lead a project and be accountable.

Solution: Recognize your employees’ ideas and enthusiasm, make them feel heard, acknowledge their efforts, and provide the right tools and resources for remote working. Absence of a positive work atmosphere can also be a cause for disengaged employees. 

5 Decline in the quality of work

As humans, it is inevitable to not make a mistake, however, making avoidable mistakes can be a sign of disengagement.

Disengaged employees do not aim for maximum quality or meeting expectations.

Solutions: Instead of viewing subpar performances as one of the many red flags, make certain that it is not a result of inefficient processes, insufficient resources or unrealistic targets.

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6 Showing signs of burnout or exhaustion

Has an employee recently complained about how they are tired or exhausted all the time?

Or does any of your employees now have the added work pressure since they have to manage children, families, etc. due to remote working and the lockdown?

Having too much on the plate, often without getting any time to settle in with a new routine, can often result in physical fatigue.

Solutions: If you find an employee falling ill more than usual, or who is always tired, talk to them about the same to understand how you can help them while they get some breathing space to rest or adjust to the new work from home routine.

How to engage remote employees effectively?

Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

1 Understanding employees’ perspective for effective employee engagement

Working remotely under these uncertain circumstances means adapting to a new environment and battling a new set of distractions, along with experiencing an unprecedented fusion of work and private life.

Childcare, managing home, probable illnesses, etc. are just a few of the things that employees are dealing with.

To understand what employees are thinking at this point and to make employee engagement better, it is advisable to communicate about their problems either through one on one meetings or conduct engagement surveys that can help identify issues and help managers resolve them. 

Empathy can be a leader’s most important tool in times like these.

2 Over-communicate with employees

Over-communication in remote work is just communication,” Laurel Farrer, CEO, and founder of Distribute Consulting believes.

Since employees are now working remotely, it is difficult to get the non-verbal cues that managers were used to when working in the office.

Moreover, it is easy to feel disconnected from peers when confined to home, particularly if employees are used to working closely in an office.

Hence, ‘over-communication’ is important to ensure that you and your team members are on the same page to avoid any room for confusion.

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3 Have frequent meetings to engage employee

A study by Gallup revealed that although remote workers tend to have higher morale and lower stress levels than those working in an office, they often miss out on critical social interactions and collaborative opportunities that are vital to the well-being of the business.

Managers, therefore, must use a well-thought-out system of remote meetings to help keep operations running smoothly and ensure every team member is on the same page to keep remote workforce feeling they are a part of the big corporate family.

A few types of meetings that can help are:

          Daily Standup meetings

          Weekly one on one meetings

          All hands meeting

          Mentorship meeting

PRO TIP: Icebreaker questions during any kind of meeting specially held with remote employees can be a great way to build a better connection with the team. 

4 Promoting “individualization” in employees

A crucial element in engaging remote employees is identifying and accepting the individuality of every employee working in a company.

While a few remote workers feel isolated by working alone, many others feel liberated.

A few like the 24/7 access to work, however, many others need to have a real boundary between office and home.

Every remote employee’s methodology differs from the other making it necessary that managers coach the “individual” even when promoting engagement between employees.

5 Define clear expectations to encourage accountability

Engaging remote employees also involves encouraging them to be accountable for their work.

Since you and your employees are not available in the office all day, it is essential that you explain in detail the work that their team members are accountable for, as well as the work style they are expected to follow.

This also includes any interruptions that managers might notice impacting the productivity of the team.

You need to be explicit about what the remote employee must produce including the parameters, deadlines, and metrics of tasks, alongside the manager’s personal expectations.

Must-haves for employee engagement survey software for your remote team

Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

Typically, a tool must be

1Easy to configure, easy to use so that the time spent on understanding the usage, to create the survey and to make it available to all the employees is less. Hence not adding to the existing workload. It should be automated.

2An employee survey software needs to collate relevant information and showcase without additional frills.

3It should provide detailed analytics so that the data can be represented to stakeholders and to make better-informed decisions on the results.

4While the primary goal of the survey could be retention, motivation or even better support, all in all, each of the survey questions should help to understand the pulse of the employees.

5A tool should have anonymous reporting and communication to know deeper employee issues.

6A key deciding factor is affordability. The employee engagement survey software should be under the organizational budget. Most surveys tend to fall under a per-user or organization structure.

While an employee survey software helps in understanding the pulse, if not implemented correctly, it could lead to ineffective usage with no apparent results.

Hence an HR leader should make it a point to run the survey effectively.

  • An HR should communicate the need for the survey and indicate how and when it will be conducted.
  • An HR needs to set clear expectations around the survey with both the stakeholders – management and the employees. With the right expectations, there is no misalignment on the goals.
  • A follow-up with the survey takers is necessary so that everyone valid responds.
  • Once the survey is complete, the HR should provide actionable insights and communicate the same to the survey takers.
  • The task of the survey does not end with insights. The insights should then convert into feasible action.

Fundamentally, an employee software survey tool should help understand the employee needs, especially for remote work which is a tough task as the employee is not in sight.

“I don’t think we need more regulation and more oversight. … What we need are tools that measure the quality of care. A bad survey may be the consequence of how a single employee dealt with a single resident.”

Carl Young, Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist

How to measure remote employee engagement

1 Pulse surveys and single-click polls

Short and quick surveys are a great way to maintain a consistent pulse on the vibe in your company.

To keep this process simple, you must use methods like pulse survey with a set of easy questions about how people are feeling at work and what (if anything) they would change.

These must include if employees are pleased with their tasks, working conditions, pay, benefits, supervisor and so on; if the employee is motivated by the goals and missions set by the organization; and if the employee envision a future at the company

2  One on one meeting

Nothing compares to using one-on-one meetings with employees to have a detailed discussion on various topics.

Having regularly scheduled, hour-long one on one meetings also encourages informal chat with each member of your team to get a real sense of what’s going on with them.

However, the advantage of one on one meetings is fruitful only if it is a private, safe conversation to get detail about each issue that’s brought up.

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3 Stay and exit interviews

Using structured interviews for employees is another great way to collect feedback and find out what kept/makes them engaged and what holds them back from feeling at home.

While exit interviews are common in most organizations, one great idea that should be done more often are stay interviews to ask employees and know what makes them want to stay.

The goal with both formats is to find out what you could have done better to improve engagement.

4 Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

This is a small yet effective way to truly gauge loyalty.

While it is one thing to be happy at work, your employees must be willing to recommend the organization as a good place to work.

Or willing to recommend the products/services they sell.

A simple questionnaire can help you find the eNPS score of each employee and act accordingly.

5 Turn to employee recognition activity

The frequency at which employees give and receive recognition sheds light on your engagement levels.

After all, recognition has the greatest impact on employee engagement and productivity and measuring the amount of recognition given is a revealing way to measure employee engagement.

6 Track productivity metrics

While this may seem like an overused and a general tool for something so specific such as measuring employee engagement in remote teams, however, this metric counts the most.

Since productivity measurement is dependent on KPIs, you can look at individual, team or even company-wide figures.

This metric also helps in identifying what stopped employees from giving their best and helping them with the tools they need to succeed in their careers, which in turn drives the outcomes that you are seeking in the marketplace.

How to build rapport with a remote team for employee engagement?

Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

As a manager you must ensure your team has a good rapport with your remote team.

Your job isn’t just to steer projects to a successful end while staying within budgets and timelines.

Your employees are not your workhorses. They’re so much more than ‘just employees.’

You’re also responsible for these crucial roles:

  • Coaching your direct reports through their career development goals
  • Understanding their motivations and ambitions and helping them grow
  • Helping them maintain a balance between their personal and professional lives

The foundation of a productive manager-direct report relationship is trust and empathy.

You can’t build trust if all you share with your team members is a transactional relationship.

Learn about building rapport with your employees for employee engagement.

If you build rapport genuinely with your direct reports, you will engender their trust.

How to build trust for remote employee engagement?

Remote Employee Engagement - Remote Employee Engagement - The Manager's Guide for 2020

Trust is not simply about having positive feelings or liking the people one works with.

By fostering a culture of trust, companies can make a meaningful difference in business outcomes and employee engagement.

This is because a culture of trust enables greater productivity, increased profitability, and better quality products and services.

A Harvard study found that employees at high-trust companies experience:

  • 50% greater productivity
  • 76% more engagement
  • 74% less stress
Being trusted to accomplish tasks on your own is a great motivator. And trust is key to the success of remote teams.

Read this article to know how to build trust with your employees for employee engagement.

The future of remote employee engagement

The focus of every business right now is employee wellbeing while driving business out of this crisis.

People’s physical and mental health bear the brunt in times of high stress and uncertainty around work making it all the more important to have structures and programs in place for employees to lean on, no matter their location.

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Open and honest communication is a great way to encourage employees at all levels to share problems. This can also be done by fostering a community that interacts, learns from, and supports its members.

Managers who go out of their way to make employee wellbeing non-negotiable have engaged workforces who get the required headspace to look after customers – which means a productive remote workforce, doing more work, better.

A study by Gallup found that employees who strongly agree that their leader makes them feel enthusiastic about the future are 69 times more likely to be engaged in their work.

Small changes like temporarily gathering employees for a quick weekly meeting to share the latest info shows that companies are prioritizing them.

Summing up

How managers and employees connect and conduct themselves during this tough period will make a lot of difference when things start going back to the “new normal”.

Staying focused on growth, innovation, and customer obsessiveness is critical to building a sense of togetherness and forms an essential part of engaging remote employees.

When people return to the office, leaders and managers will have the time to reflect on what they learned from “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment” and make better decisions about flexibility.

However, managers who do not pay heed to practice good remote management now will most likely conclude that it just does not work.

Having the patience to engage employees effectively and hold people accountable for the right things, communicating expectations, and individualizing team members can come to a very different conclusion that will have an enormous impact on companies and the future of business.

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