Three Ways to Boost Engagement with Remote Workers
By Deborah LaMere, Vice President of Employee Experience, Ceridian
A recent study by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom found that remote workers earn more, quit less and are happier than their office-bound colleagues. This is great news for both remote workers and the companies they work with. But it also highlights the point that a company's engagement with remote workers becomes even more important when you don't have daily, in-person face time.
Forty-three percent of workers are remote, according to a recent Gallup poll. We're moving into an environment where we can work anywhere and anytime. One reason for this shift is that companies are balancing the cost of physical real estate for their teams against savings from letting people work virtually, and another is the ability to access key talent in markets where the company may not have an office.
Ceridian supports workplace flexibility -- 20 percent of our employees are virtual, with an additional number of employees working in telecommuting arrangements. As a global company, we can only do this successfully by working with, trusting and accommodating our team members.
We must also ensure our remote workers remain engaged with their teams and with the company. We do this in a number of ways: leading and integrating the team with clear communication, addressing the technological needs of remote workers, and by creating social and educational opportunities that are on par with in-office workers.
Lead by Example
Optimizing the remote working experience starts with clear communication from leadership, and seamless integration with the rest of the team. For example, use visual communication tools, like Skype, video chats or screen sharing, for meetings. Make your "open-door policy" applicable virtually as well as in-person. And take time to chat for a few minutes with your remote worker as you would with an in-office employee -- whether it's about reiterating or clarifying expectations for projects, or more personally to foster a connection.
Also, lead by example by being cognizant of workflow. If you're a remote employee, there might be an expectation that you have to be "on" all the time. If an employee sees their leader always on and emailing 24/7, there is pressure put on that employee. It's fine to send an email after hours, but don't expect an immediate response until you make it clear that it's an emergency.
Develop Talent and Career Paths
A concern I've heard is that remote workers may get stuck at a certain career level. It's the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" mentality. At Ceridian, we want to make sure we're getting the best and brightest talent, and we also want to make sure that we've got development plans for them -- whether they work remotely or in the office.
That means they understand their career paths and continue to set goals for growth, whether it's progressing into management, making a lateral move by exploring other opportunities in the organization, or bolstering their skillsets through educational opportunities.
Another way of keeping and building engagement with remote workers is with intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, and understanding how each person likes to be motivated. That's where a manager really needs to understand their employees and how they want to be recognized. Managers need to have those one-on-ones with their team members, including remote workers, and really focus on understanding their motivations to continually engage them.
Get Creative with Social Engagement
At Ceridian, we recognize the challenges of keeping our remote team members engaged, and spend quite a bit of time exploring ways to continue engaging them.
For example, we've put some of our Fun-at-Work program budget towards virtual teams. We have more than 25 team members in Phoenix, but they don't have an office, so they get together every so often for happy hour. In our Minneapolis office, everyone is invited to our monthly social.
Through our global intranet and social channels, we share organizational news to keep every employee updated, and encourage everyone to share their pictures and stories and participate in our organizational initiatives, from volunteerism to committee membership.
Often, it's the small things that create the best engagement, like including remote workers in office giveaways.
In our recent July engagement pulse survey, nearly 80 percent of our virtual workforce in Canada and the U.S. reported that they feel engaged. While it's a great number, when I look at these results, I think, "How can I continue to engage my team?" That may mean better collaboration tools and Fun-at-Work activities. The results are a good sign that we're doing something right but there's always room for improvement through communication and innovation.