Let's be honest; the old-fashioned ways of boosting employee engagement don't cut it in the remote work era. How many virtual pizza parties can one team handle? Cringe-worthy team-building exercises aren't the most effective way to boost morale, especially when your team is working remotely.
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The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to embrace the work-from-home lifestyle, leaving HR professionals scrambling for creative ways to keep their remote teams engaged.
Engaging employees is already challenging, but managing remote teams adds an extra layer of complexity. With the constantly changing compliance laws and COVID-19-related policies, HR professionals are feeling the pressure more than ever.
But don't worry; we've got you covered. In this post, we won't bore you with the same old tactics everyone else is discussing. Instead, we'll give you some unique and effective team-building ideas for remote workers that they'll enjoy. Plus, we'll throw in some actionable engagement goals you can implement today to boost morale and productivity.
Table of Contents
- What is Remote Employee Engagement?
- The Importance of Remote Employee Engagement
- Employee Engagement Activities For Remote Workers
- Top 10 Employee Engagement Goals
- How to Engage Employees by Generation
- Roles Involved in Remote Employee Engagement
- Employee Engagement Statistics
- Remote Employee Engagement Trends
- Automating Remote Employee Engagement
- Ending Note: Don’t Forget to Measure!
- Remote Employee Engagement FAQs
So, let's ditch the tired old methods and get ready to engage your remote team like never before!
What is Remote Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is exactly what it sounds like -- the degree to which employees engage, feel passionate about, feel valued, and are committed to their organization. More specifically, remote employee engagement refers to the extent to which remote employees/off-site employees feel engaged with the team, their work, and the business. With work-from-home here to stay, remote workers often feel less engaged and connected with the company, which can negatively impact overall productivity levels and business performance.
There’s no exact science to measuring employee engagement, as it looks different for different companies, different industries, and different people. However, a good way to gauge engagement levels remotely is by simply communicating with employees about their work, their passion levels, their career goals, and any concerns they may have in the workplace.
Remote employees who are engaged tend to:
Seek and provide useful feedback. Engaged employees foster open communication with not only managers but also their peers. They are extremely interested in staying informed on projects and keeping others informed along the way.
Look at the big picture. Highly engaged employees not only focus on daily tasks but also constantly think about how their work ties into the grand scheme of things.
Exceed expectations. Oftentimes, employees who are truly engaged will go above and beyond the goals set for them, and even when a project does not go as planned, they tend to have a game plan for analyzing and improving on future tasks.
See a future at the company. When your remote employees feel engaged, they communicate long-term career goals with you, refer friends for positions at your company, and stay longer at the company.
The Importance of Remote Employee Engagement
Now that we know employee engagement is a true team effort let’s cover why it’s important to dedicate time and resources to these initiatives.
Engaged Employees Are Healthier
A Gallup survey shows that highly engaged employees are less likely to be obese, struggle with chronic diseases, and be more likely to live a healthier lifestyle (exercise and food). This is because workplaces with strong engagement initiatives in place typically respect employee health needs, including:
Flexible schedules for frequent breaks and exercise
Company fitness initiatives and challenges
Reminders for physical check-ups and telehealth options
Engaged Employees are Less Likely to Leave
When employees are not engaged, challenged, or utilizing their strengths in their roles, they are more likely to leave their current role. Engaged remote employees see a future at their company, and feel their personal needs are being met or heard.
With Millennials occupying the majority of the workforce, retention is even more crucial. This is because 6 in 10 Millennials are open to new job opportunities at any given time, and 21% of Millennials have changed jobs within the past year, which is a whopping 3x the number of non-Millennials surveyed. If engaged, though, millennials that align with your company culture will stay even longer than other generations. They’re also 59x more likely to recommend your organization to peers -- so the satisfaction of Millennials will actually help build brand awareness and market your company.
Engaged Employees Are More Present
Highly engaged workplaces see nearly 41% less absenteeism within their workforce -- likely because employees that understand and support the company mission are excited to come to work every day. This doesn’t mean that highly engaged employees don’t need breaks, but rather that employees with patterns of absenteeism may be struggling in their roles.
Engaged Employees Are More Productive and Innovative
Even with a people-first strategy, productivity is still a key metric that companies use to measure success. Employee engagement is a crucial piece of productivity, and research even shows that highly engaged employees are 17% more productive than their colleagues.
Additionally, Millennial workers, the largest generation in the US workforce, are the most tech-savvy workers in organizations. Thus, every organization and engagement program should feel the pressure to engage this specific generation (among all of the others) in order to ensure maximum workplace productivity.
Engaged employees not only ask questions and reach out when they need support in projects, but they also provide innovative solutions and ideas for the business.
Engaged Employees See Higher Sales Numbers
Because satisfied employees are more productive and offer stronger customer service, there is a direct correlation with company sales. Organizations that are highly engaged record nearly 20% more sales than organizations with unengaged team members. So, investing time and money in your employees to make sure they feel connected, appreciated, and engaged, will literally pay off in the long run.
22 Examples of Employee Engagement Activities For Remote Workers
Before we discuss the specific employee engagement ideas for remote workers, we recommend that you implement certain project management, HR, video conferencing, and team collaboration tools, to make telework interactions easier between and within teams.
Consider giving the following a try:
Slack - Team Communication Tool
Asana - Project Management Tool
GoCo - HR, Benefits, and Payroll Tool
Zoom - Video Conferencing Tool
Milanote - Creative Project Organization Tool
Aside from that, here are some unique ideas that you could consider implementing:
1. Virtual Coffee Breaks
Who says proximity matters when it comes to coffee breaks?
Ask your team members to brew mean cups of joe (or make any other drink they want).
Then, get them all onboard a video conferencing tool and start chit-chatting.
Ask them about their day, how they’ve been feeling, if they’re facing any work-related challenges, etc.
Everyone needs a break from work, even if they’re working from home, and small talk over coffee can go a long way.
2. Introduce Them to Your In-House Employees
If you never bothered with the icebreaking or intimate side of onboarding for your remote employees, now is the perfect time to make them feel a part of the team.
Since you’ve probably never had your in-house employees interact with your remote workers, get them all on a video call.
Then, ask them to introduce themselves to their fellow co-workers formally.
To make things interesting, you can have everyone choose from a list of pre-determined questions to break the ice.
3. Home Tours
Your employees may not be comfortable getting on board with this, but home tours are a great way to emotionally connect with your employees and ignite some good ol’ team building.
In a video conference, ask each employee to walk around with their smartphone/laptop and give a quick tour of their beautiful home. This could be especially fun if a team member has just moved into a new home, after the home inspection phase.
Of course, those who aren’t comfortable in doing so must not be forced to do so. Otherwise, you might end up doing more harm than good.
Do your remote employees have something cool to show/share?
Schedule an online show-and-tell and give them a platform to share something interesting.
This could be anything – an awesome gadget, a precious item, an interesting story, or a sick skill that they never got the chance to show off.
Let your remote workforce connect and share whatever they want.
While the concept is to have fun, you can make things more interesting by having a small panel of judges. Turn this into an online workplace X Factor and announce a winner at the end (i.e., the person with the most interesting thing to show or share).
5. One-On-One Video Calls With the Founder(s)
To make the employees feel like their voices are heard, leaders need to have one-on-one meetings with them – whether they work in-house or remotely.
While this may sound exhausting, scheduling a short face-to-face meeting with an employee every day is attainable.
Aside from providing feedback, the remote team members should get the opportunity to share their concerns and opinions.
6. Offering Online Training and Career Advancement Opportunities
If you haven’t already, consider purchasing an online learning management system and uploading different training courses for your employees. When it comes down to it, social distancing can take its toll on an individual’s mental health. A good, productive way to keep oneself occupied is to watch and finish any company-mandated training.
On top of your native training material, consider purchasing and providing access to other relevant training courses, as well. This can allow your employees to advance in their careers in ways that will help them reach their goals.
"When it comes to remote employee engagement, we have found that career advancement opportunities have been a great motivator," says Jonathan Zacharias, President of GR0. "Obviously, it can feel difficult to move up within an organization if you are living on the other side of the country. However, by offering job postings to internal employees before releasing them to the public, we have found that we have been able to reduce employee attrition and promote engagement instead."
It's important to let employees know they can move up in your organization, whether they're located in the office or across the world.
"To help keep remote employees engaged and valued, we work to let them know their development won’t slip through the cracks because they’re not in a traditional office," says Ruben Gamez, Founder of SignWell "We created career maps for any interested teammates so they could get in touch with their biggest aspirations and see how those desires would shape into a real career path with our company. By pairing our career map creation with a virtual team mentorship program, employees are now receiving guidance, insights, and support from employees working in roles related to their potential career paths. Our team has built some strong connections with each other and is motivated for future growth!"
7. Ask for Their Feedback
A great way to ensure remote employee engagement is to ask your teams for feedback.
This feedback could be about anything, including:
Opinions about improving an existing process
Concerns about an ongoing project and how it could be improved
Views about the current management
Opinions about the company culture
Tips on giving the actual workplace a makeover (however, that’s not recommended these days)
You can achieve that through online employee engagement surveys or through one-on-one video calls.
Don’t just stop there – make an effort to show your remote employees that you care and act on their feedback.
8. Invite Them to Play Multiplayer Games
Your employee engagement ideas for remote workers don’t have to be boring or limited to work.
Give your teams a chance to unwind and relax by inviting them to a multiplayer game.
Here are some of our favorites (you just need a mobile device to play these):
The Jack Box Party Pack
Call of Duty: Mobile
Words With Friends 2
Minecraft (Also available in Spanish)
Games don't have to be high-tech. You and your team can come up with simple ideas that help you know each other better.
Once a month, instead of sending a newsletter with company updates, we send a multiple choice trivia quiz where we share fun and interesting facts about different employees," says Jessica Ulloa, Community Manager at MyPerfectResume. "Facts like, 'Which of the following people is a twin?' or 'Whose childhood crush was Ricky Martin?' We then share the answers during our All-hand meetings and let the person share the story behind the response. Our employees love this game, as the questions are always fun. The game allows our employees to get to know their colleagues better and also share fun facts about themselves.
You can even turn your company's regular workflows into opportunities to play games
"Gamifying our teamwork has helped our remote employees stay engaged and motivated," says Lorien Strydom of Financer.com. "We set up a points system or leaderboard, so our teams have something to strive for. This helps create healthy competition and encourages everyone to work together more effectively. You may also want to consider offering rewards for employees who reach certain benchmarks. This could be anything from a gift card to extra vacation days. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is something that your team will appreciate. Gamifying your teamwork is just one way to keep your remote employees engaged and productive. Implementing this strategy can help you take your business to the next level.
Ask each employee if there’s any specific game that they’d like to play. And if it gets enough votes from everyone else, throw it on the list.
9. Allocate Funds to Help Spice Up the Home Office
You can’t provide workstations to your remote employees.
However, there’s a workaround – you can dig up some funds to help pay for their home offices.
Regular telecommuters might not have this problem, but your in-house employees, who are accustomed to an office environment might have difficulty adjusting to the WFH routine.
Your employees will love you for helping them build up their home offices from scratch (or spice up existing ones).
10. Recognize Them for a Job Well Done
Many professionals suffer from imposter syndrome – a persistent gut-wrenching feeling that you’re not good enough or a fraud. Such feelings of inadequacy could affect an employee’s performance, and ultimately lead to disengagement.
To prevent that from happening, the best thing to do is offer positive feedback and recognize your employees for all their great work.
Celebrating team members and recognizing them for their hard work is an engagement strategy that employees love," says Gregg Dean, Co-founder, and CEO of Layla Sleep. "It not only makes them feel valued for their work completed independently, but it also reminds them that they are a part of something larger which maintains loyalty and trust. We've seen our recognition strategy improve retention and productivity."
Now, it is easier to give them a pat on the back when you’re working in-house.
And things don’t always go so smoothly when everyone’s working from home.
Therefore, to turn it into an easy process, consider opting for modern HR software with built-in performance management and employee feedback tools.
11. Provide Freedom in Choosing Schedules
Employee empowerment and engagement go hand-in-hand.
There’s only so much you can do in that department when it comes to managing a remote workforce.
You can give your employees the freedom to set their own schedules, as long as they’re getting the job done on time, they could be able to pick their working hours.
By letting your employees choose their own working hours, you’ll essentially build a sense of trust and mutual respect. Keep in mind that collaborative work between and within teams is also important. Set clear times when all team members should be available to collaborate or discuss projects and make sure your leadership team is on board with any proposed schedule.
12. Give Peer-to-Peer Feedback a Shot
Feedback doesn’t have to bounce between an employee and their manager.
Fellow co-workers can applaud one another for their hard work, make suggestions, and offer their two cents.
Some employees might consider feedback from their peers more honest. As a result, they’d be more inclined towards acting on it.
Besides, by encouraging peer-to-peer feedback, you can ignite conversations among your employees and boost engagement.
You can also use an employee recognition tool for this purpose.
13. Provide Special Perks and Benefits
Finally, make sure that you’re providing appropriate benefits for your remote employees.
Here are some ideas:
Offer free subscriptions for Netflix, HBO, or Disney+
Provide state-specific healthcare coverage
Give allowances for groceries
Offer generous PTO (just because your employees are working from home doesn’t mean you can always expect them to be available for work – especially in times like these)
Provide access to online fitness training programs
Before anything else, have a chat with your finance department to see what you can realistically afford.
14. Talking About What’s Going on in the World
We’re dealing with an unprecedented crisis, and it’s unreasonable to expect employees to tune out the headlines while they’re working entirely. Try starting every meeting by asking your team how they’re feeling, what’s going on in their world, and how you can support them.
You can also invite your team members to schedule news and family check-ins throughout the day. Make sure they don’t feel like they can’t follow the headlines or check in on their family members. Just invite them to do it in a way that’s conducive to staying focused in between.
15. Host Walking 1:1s to Keep Teams Active
Go for outdoor walks during 1:1 meetings with your team to encourage physical movement throughout the day. Use Zoom from your phones and give each other virtual tours of our neighborhoods.
If you’ve had success with wellness challenges in the past, you might try reviving it with a remote spin. Just make sure it’s accessible for all levels and abilities.
16. Make It a Family Affair
If you're a parent, you know that your biggest challenge in working remotely is going to be keeping your kids entertained throughout the day, especially while you’re on calls. But if your kid has a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out), give them a chance to participate once in a while. Set up a “conference call” for employees’ kids to connect over Zoom.
It gives them a break from boredom, makes them feel involved, and creates space for connectedness for our families.
17. Streamline Remote Onboarding
The COVID-19 pandemic brought major changes to the standard work setting, and many organizations don’t plan on going back into the office. A remote onboarding process done through an HRIS can set the stage for employee engagement by empowering new hires from day 1. Here are a few best practices that will aid in online onboarding:
Create an onboarding program that includes goal tracking for 30, 60, 90, and yearly plans, with video and email check-ins.
Provide links and cloud options for all new hire online assets, from product videos to databases and blog posts.
Set up a remote orientation call with your new employees that makes it easy for employees to get squared away no matter where they are. Create a digital agenda, and send any digital documents that employees need to complete ahead of time.
Schedule an HR-specific virtual orientation, where employees can complete compliance, safety, PTO, benefits, and account set-up tasks. With a digital HRIS like GoCo, new hires can review and digitally sign any HR documents without being overwhelmed with loads of paper.
Offer self-service benefits administration to empower employees. Giving employees the power to view, compare, and select all of their benefits at-a-glance makes them feel valued, and helps alleviate any pain points around navigating open enrollment. Employees know their benefits and resources are available at a click of a button, which makes them feel more valued and connected.
Send employees a fun welcome gift. Here at GoCo, we like to surprise our new employees with their favorite snacks (previously entered into our HRIS), fresh company swag, and even custom, hand-written notes. A personalized gift sets the precedent that you, as a business, care about employees at the individual level.
Remote employee engagement doesn’t begin months later -- in fact, it begins before an employee even begins their first day. The impression you leave on them throughout their onboarding process gives them an idea of how to stay engaged from day 1.
18. Virtually Honor Mental Health
Strong mental health is a key component in nurturing employee engagement. With 40% of U.S. adults struggling with mental health as of June 2020, HR plays a major role in supporting employee wellbeing. Here are a few ways to support positive mental health practices for stronger engagement.
Invite team members to a guided group meditation. Meditation is known to reduce anxiety, depression, and even physical pain, so organizing a guided group meditation class via video can aid in relaxation and empowerment techniques from the comfort of everyone’s homes.
Promote and remind employees of mental health benefits. Just like physical health, it’s extremely beneficial to continuously track employees' mental well-being. HR pros should consistently promote mental health benefits and promote Employee Assistance Programs if applicable. Many health plans offer mental health support and 24/7 assistance, which can make a world of difference for your remote team.
Offer reimbursement for mental health applications. Don’t forget that small things add up to make a big difference. Promoting the use of Mental Health Applications and reimbursing the costs helps show your employees that you’re constantly supporting them behind the scenes.
Create a Slack channel for team members to share experiences, or encourage them to send you a private message. This is a great way for employees to feel the support from peers, or offer personal suggestions for others.
Mental health is an often overlooked factor that plays a major role in employee engagement, and it’s more important than ever to evaluate your team’s overall efforts around mental health and breaking stigmas.
19. Foster a Culture of Open Communication
Though we’ve covered a number of ways you can show support for employees, it’s equally important to listen to what employees have to say. Ask employees for feedback on their onboarding experience, their day-to-day, and consider doing so anonymously for employee privacy. Take notes on how to improve the virtual experience, and fill any gaps where employees don’t feel supported.
From these learnings, consider offering additional online training, reimbursing employees for home office-related items, streamlining HR processes, and keeping your policy handbooks up-to-date so your team is constantly in the loop. Pulse surveys and employee feedback tools like OfficeVibe, TINYPulse, and 15Five can help employers build great company culture while constantly monitoring employee sentiment.
20. Establish Clear Performance Goals
Your team has likely faced changes in both their personal and professional lives within the past year. It’s important to acknowledge these changes and establish realistic, attainable goals and expectations. On the personal side, make sure you understand what drives employees, and identify common themes in what your employees are saying. Modify your organizational practices for employee morale around these themes.
On the work/performance side, having a streamlined performance management process helps employees create and follow a clear process to achieve goals and greatness (no guesswork). Standardizing and automating performance review workflows can help you empower your employees with:
Faster, simpler administration. Make it easy for employees to understand what is asked of them, and easy to manage checklists, tasks, and permissions.
Major time savings. Instead of manually working through performance evaluations, your employees are able to spend more time on the actual process of improving and learning.
A clear performance schedule. Performance reviews often become a long, tedious process for both HR and employees, and a streamlined performance review process helps ensure timely completion and manual follow-up.
21. Give employees gifts they actually want
Especially in the age of remote work, it’s hard to think of physical items or gifts that can express recognition or appreciation for employees. For holidays or simply just because, give your employees gifts that appeal to a diverse set of interests and demonstrate a genuine appreciation for your employees’ dedication. You want them to truly feel valued -- and sometimes, a stress ball or a keychain just won’t do the job.
We recommend creating a customized holiday gift catalog as we did here at GoCo, which:
Helped us get to know our team better
Didn’t let the gift go to waste
Showed the workforce how much we truly care
The gift catalog included hand-picked items and options of all different themes to cater to our diverse team members.
22. Plan a virtual appreciation event:
A surefire way to ensure that your most valuable assets feel valued is to dedicate a day to appreciating them. The key to executing a successful employee appreciation event for a remote workforce is to plan ahead and take into account any delays you may encounter. A few key components we included in our appreciation event were:
A sweet treat delivered to their doors.
A reimbursement offer to appreciate employees up to a certain amount. They can personalize and spend it on whatever they would find the most helpful!
Create a digital yearbook or personalized messages for every team member.
Send handwritten cards to your team members.
Top 10 Employee Engagement Goals
When it comes to setting goals for your team, there are a lot of different things you can aim for. But if you're looking to increase employee engagement, then here are some goal examples that you can use as inspiration. By focusing on initiatives that get your team excited and motivated, you'll be well on your way to having an engaged workforce!
1. Concentrate High-Engagement Leadership At The Employee Management Level
Employee surveys consistently show that the single most important factor in employee engagement is an employee's relationship with his or her direct manager. In fact, employees don't leave companies; they leave their managers. And they're willing to do this despite tough economic conditions.
According to HR Magazine, engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave an organization. So, managers and team leaders need to become expert relationship builders, and they need to learn how to nourish and sustain those relationships over time.
Managers can build and maintain strong employee relationships at the employee level by:
Leading and coaching employees to success. Without employee performance coaching, there can be no sustained employee engagement. Coaching is all about helping employees to become more effective in their roles both strategically, culturally, and through performance.
Aligning employee goals to business outcomes. It's also about aligning and facilitating each employee's professional development and learning goals with the goals of the team and the organization.
Employees need to know that they are working for their own goals as much as the organization's when they come to work each day. When they have this understanding, they also realize how their individual role impacts business profitability overall.
2. Live Your Organization's Core Values
Your organization's core values should be conducive to creating a work environment that enables active employee engagement and provides employees with opportunities to demonstrate the company's core values through their daily work.
In high-performing organizations, employees and leaders regularly refer to and use their core value statements as a real-time compass and positive shaper of both formal environments and work-life behaviors.
For true leaders at every organizational level, the organization's core values are the moral and ethical law of the land. High-engagement employees thrive on being treated fairly and honestly.
Without checking, can you list your organization's core values -- the ones that are most related to building trusting manager/employee relationships?
Do your employees know these core values and understand their importance?
What values would you and your direct reports add to or change about that list?
What concrete steps are you taking to put these values into action as a means of rewarding and recognizing your employees via formal and informal performance management processes?
3. Recognize and Reward Your Employees
The strongest organizational science is clearly teaching us that employee recognition simultaneously builds and maintains healthy employee/manager relationships and greatly impacts bottom-line performance. Organizations that actively recognize their employees see a 6% higher net profit margin over companies that don't. [ Towers Watson Study ]
Doing effective employee recognition is all about implementing the "3 R's of employee rewards and recognition:"
R1: The Right Kind of Behaviors -- Role Behaviors proven to meet clearly stated performance goals. Examples of clearly defined and communicated performance goals include:
Mastering a new work process or procedure
Demonstrating a core cultural value in relation to co-workers
Meeting or exceeding work quality and quantity metrics
Solving a problem or challenge in a way that creates value for the organization
R2. At the Right Times -- It turns out that the best time to provide effective employee recognition is right when the employee is doing or completing a performance goal.
R3. In The Right Ways - Recognition is something that must happen consistently throughout the year and not just as an annual event. 43% of engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.
4. See Your Employees as People, Not Numbers
Feeling valued, confident, inspired, enthused, and empowered are the key emotions that lead to employee engagement. These emotions can't be fostered unless you build strong relationships with your employees and by seeing them as human beings.
Actively engaged employees are fully aware and secure in the knowledge that their managers really know them and care about them as human beings. Employees thrive when managers really understand and connect with them through the lenses of their personal values, goals, and passions.
Aligning individual goals and organizational goals through shared values is one of the most important distinctions between real leadership and management. Key questions here include:
Do you or your team leaders really know what your employees are passionate about?
Do you know what they most value in life?
Do you know their most heartfelt career aspirations?
What steps are you taking to acknowledge, validate and coach toward the realization of these personal goals, values, and interests?
5. Take a Genuine Interest in Employee Well-being
The bottom line: A healthier, happier employee is a more productive and engaged employee who sticks around for years and rarely misses work.
Heightened employee well-being directly translates into increased employee engagement and performance. The world’s leading organizations are growing and sustaining employee well-being through integrated work-life balance and innovative employee assistance programs.
These wellness and support initiatives provide everything from personal money management to professional counseling with relationship, parenting, and stress management experts. They also provide employees with flex time planning and work-from-home options for maximizing work-life balance in an ever-increasing world of stress and responsibility.
Can you think of a better way to show genuine interest and concern at the employee manager interface than to help solve serious stress, parenting, marriage, family, and money problems?
6. Support and Facilitate Workplace Giving
Many employees have a shared need to know that their work is making a positive difference in the world and to their fellow human beings.
High-performance organizations identify and facilitate ways for their employees to give back to the community as a function of their work — running employee-driven community assistance, volunteering, and go-green programs.
The most effective workplace giving programs allow individual employees and teams to define the why, how, and when of giving back. They also provide solid tools and processes for formally meeting co-created community-giving goals.
7. Channel Positive Relationship Energy into Performance Supporting Structures
Now that you understand the importance of building strong positive relationships and organizational bonding at the employee/manager level, the next question becomes, what do you do with all this new positive relationship energy and employee motivation to generate results-driven organizational performance?
Again, help employees understand how their behaviors align with performance goals. It’s really a cascading effect: senior leadership identifies the over-arching business objectives for the organization, managers then take these objectives and create more focused goals for their teams, and then employees, in partnership with their managers, need to establish their individual goals. The performance management process is crucial to facilitating this process.
In general, help employees establish personal goals by using the SMART methodology:
Specific — Goals are objective, clearly stated, and very specific.
Measurable — The goal’s progress is measurable in terms of objective and easily shareable quantity quality and time measures.
Attainable — It’s one that you can actually achieve and is realistic. High-performing organizations don’t reward goal attainment that is outside of the control of employees or team members. They primarily define, recognize and reward goals that are within the complete control of a given employee.
Relevant — This is where the organizational performance dimension comes into play. Goals need to be clearly linked to meaningful business or positive organizational outcomes. Key questions here include:
To what extent is this goal creating value?
To what extent is it reducing costs or increasing product and service quality to internal and external customers?
Time Bound — The question here becomes: When will the particular task, project, or goal be completed? Not only does time-limit a goal facilitate performance by reducing wasted time, but it enables time-based processes and quality improvements as well.
Setting time-bound goals also enables managers to precision target their recognition and reward efforts on employee behaviors that approximate, meet, and exceed clearly predefined expectations.
8. Increase Employee Involvement
Only 27% of employees feel they are involved in the important decisions made by their organizations. Yet the bottom line is that increased employee involvement = increased employee engagement.
Employees are more likely to buy into and feel a motivation-enhancing sense of ownership for goals when they play a major role in creating them versus feeling that they are simply executing someone else’s vision. In short, it evokes a sense of ownership and shareholder stake in the success of the business.
9. Harness the Incredible Power of Teamwork Whenever Possible
The essence of operating as a high-performing team and using a team-based organizational design is that you already have all of the basic ingredients needed to capitalize on active employee engagement. For example, effective teams must communicate, collaborate and interact with each other in order to meet their goals and objectives.
Effective team leaders know how to instill trust in their teams so that each employee can work with each other and share work, they also know how to reduce conflict by helping each member of the team to get to know one another better and to understand each other’s personalities, and finally, good leaders know how to increase collaborative efforts by conferring with each other and valuing each other’s opinions.
Really high-performance teams actually distribute the leadership role among team members, taking on and relinquishing the leadership role based on the team’s current performance goals and by recognizing and leveraging the “superpowers” of each team member.
10. Hire Based on Core Values and Leadership Skills First and For Optimal Work-Role Compatibility or Management Skills Second
The world’s leading high-engagement organizations hire for leadership potential as expressed in individual values that align with core organizational values. Finding employees who will fit into the company’s culture is more important than hiring based on work role competency.
For example, a high-performing team is a direct result of the leader who manages it. The best managers have personalities that are predisposed to the role: strong work ethic, natural leadership, genuine interest in helping others, and intent on finding the right solutions.
Underperforming, low-engagement organizations, on the other hand, continue to hire managers primarily based on their work skills rather than their demonstrated capacity for leadership effectiveness. These are the organizations that are most likely to be hemorrhaging top talent.
These are the same managers who can’t tell you what their organization’s core values are or why each value is most critical in continuously guiding and shaping a real high-engagement organization through expert relationship building and maintenance.
What are your organization’s core values? What is the best example of when you consciously made a leadership decision today, that was in complete alignment with those values?
Ideas for Employee Engagement by Generation
To fully empathize and understand your employees’ needs, it’s extremely important to recognize that employees of different generations may need different things. With up to 5 generations working alongside each other, let’s talk about the unique generational needs that HR needs to be well versed on.
The Silent Generation (Born 1925-1942)
Though the large majority of The Silent Generation is retired, of the 20 million adults in this population, they still make up 1% of the workforce. To engage these team members with extensive knowledge and life experiences:
Prioritize face-to-face interactions
Host generational events where family members, grandchildren, and children can be involved
Value their privacy. Especially when it comes to financial discussions in the workplace, members of the Silent Generation may prefer confidentiality
Offer extra assistance when it comes to learning new technologies or changing workplace habits
Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)
With a greater percentage of older adults (65+) participating in the workforce than ever before, Baby Boomers are an extremely valuable and important generation to engage. To better engage the Baby Boomer generation in the workforce, make sure to:
Create opportunities for flexibility, learning & development. If employees of this age group are given the opportunity for continuous growth and flexible work schedules, they are less likely to want to retire.
Take the time to help these employees understand their benefits and services.
Provide financial training and assistance for retirement planning.
Motivate with acknowledgment and recognition. Baby Boomers are likely to respond well to occupational success.
Give them the space to mentor. Baby Boomers feel comfortable and helpful in mentoring positions, and may want to contribute to intergenerational training.
Generation X (Born 1965-1980)
The middle child of the generations, Gen X employees are integral parts of our work teams. This workforce prioritizes autonomy, resourcefulness, and self-reliance. As an HR manager, make sure to:
Avoid micromanagement. With a Do-It-Yourself mentality, Gen X’s may feel discouraged and disengaged under micromanagement. Allow them the space to be creative and independent, and offer feedback constructively.
Provide flexibility. Encourage Gen X’s ability to multitask, whether it’s offering a family-friendly program or giving the option for remote work.
Open up leadership opportunities to them. Gen X currently holds more than half of the leadership positions in the world -- and they value opportunities for professional development and learning. They are used to taking the lead and leading the charge in training processes and new assignments.
Enable autonomy with technology. Gen X, though not as connected as Millennials, can thrive greatly with the help of technology. Take the time to help Gen X with new communication platforms and applications, and they will adapt quickly.
Millennials (Born 1981-1996)
As the fastest-growing generation in the current workforce, keeping Millennials engaged should be top-of-mind. Here are a few ways to specifically attract and retain Millennials in the workplace.
Support diversity. 69% of employees who believe their management teams are diverse think of their work environments as engaging.
Offer competitive salary packages. Millennials are known to shop and carefully consider job offers, more than any generation before them. In fact, 92% of Millennials believe that money is the top priority in an employer.
Offer remote work options. Remote work options are a must for Millennial employees.
Improve internal communications. Millennials communicate through a variety of digital platforms and messaging applications -- so improving internal communications will, in turn, improve productivity.
Digitize. Millennials grew up in a largely digital age, which means that organizations with mostly digitized processes will appeal more to them. Adopting technology to streamline processes, whether it’s communication tools, project management tools, or HR software, will keep employees engaged more so than manual processes.
Generation Z (Born 1997 or later)
As Generation Z begins to join the workforce, it’s important to note how this generation differs compared to the ones before. Make sure to:
Use modern technology. Similar to Millennials, Generation Z is most familiar with the digital world. To ensure that this generation is engaged, it only makes sense to incorporate more communication, collaboration, and relationship-building tools. Having an interactive Org Chart allows them to learn more about the company dynamic. Using digital learning tools and videos can prove to help greatly as well.
Focus on diversity and inclusion. As the most ethnically diverse generation to date, Gen Z values diversity in many ways. Organizations should prioritize not only DEI training, but also offer activities, celebrations, and opportunities for employees to educate the team.
Offer frequent feedback. Because of how streamlined modern technology is, Generation Z expects frequent updates and feedback on their progress. In fact, 66% of Gen Z-ers said they needed feedback from their manager every few weeks in order to stay at their job.
Roles Involved in Remote Employee Engagement
HR is often tasked with employee engagement as a whole, but it’s important to understand that each and every member of the organization plays a different role in keeping a remote workforce engaged.
The Role of Human Resources in Remote Employee Engagement:
HR plays a role in every step of remote employee engagement, from creating and putting an engagement strategy into action to using tools to track progress and personally reaching out to employees to gauge the success of initiatives.
HR is responsible for:
Identifying remote tools, software, strategies, and methods for employee engagement
Holding leadership and team members accountable for initiatives
Listening to employee feedback, measuring engagement over time, and intervening when engagement problems arise
Developing employees and discussing career progression paths virtually
The Role of Senior Leadership in Remote Employee Engagement:
Leadership sets an example for the entire organization’s culture, tone, and attitude toward remote employee engagement. If employees understand how important remote engagement is to senior leaders, they’re more likely to follow suit or speak up if they don’t feel heard.
Senior leaders are responsible for:
Exhibiting a passionate and enthusiastic attitude toward remote employee engagement
Training department managers and mid-level leaders on engagement strategies
Communicating new approaches in engagement initiatives
Updating the organization on progress and gaps where engagement can be improved
Supporting HR in establishing engagement strategies
The Role of Managers in Remote Employee Engagement:
Managers have similar responsibilities in comparison to senior leaders, with the exception of one key difference -- employee relationships. Because department managers and mid-level leaders work daily with team members, they serve as a trustworthy advisors, often with the “inside scoop”.
Managers are responsible for:
Creating and developing trusting connections with members of their team
Recognizing and rewarding employees for good performance
Collaborating with team members to establish personal and team goals
Supporting employees as they progress professionally within the organization
Listening to employee pain points and communicating with leadership or HR
The Role of Employees in Remote Engagement:
To improve employee engagement in a remote setting, it’s important to go straight to the source. Employees aren't only your most valuable asset, but they also provide valuable insights into what’s working and what isn’t working within your initiatives.
Employees are responsible for:
Providing feedback on the current remote engagement strategy
Bringing forward areas they struggle in and ideas on how to improve these pain points
Meet with other employees to brainstorm and discuss their thoughts
Asking for feedback and support on their career development goals
Update managers with progress toward personal goals
Employee Engagement Statistics
Gallup believes that many companies are approaching employee engagement from the wrong angle. Instead of viewing the subject in general terms like creating a positive office atmosphere, it asserts HR personnel should focus on the specific work-related items that the rank and file require to be productive. The polling giant is backing up the argument with an exhaustive 214-page study released recently.
For its survey, Gallup asked a group of U.S.-based professionals about the tools, business processes, and other resources that are available to them in the workplace. About a third of the participants ended up meeting the study’s productivity-focused definition of an engaged employee, while the rest expressed various degrees of dissatisfaction.
From there, the pollster correlated the responses with market data to measure the impact that a business-oriented approach to encouraging productivity can make.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to Gallup, teams that rank among the top quarter of their companies in engagement outperform the others across practically all major business criteria.
Their lead is especially noticeable when compared to the bottom quarter. Employees at the best-scoring units are on average 17 percent more productive, receive 10 percent higher marks when it comes to customer engagement, and generate 20 percent more sales. Gallup claims that the net result is a 21 percent difference in profitability among the surveyed groups.
The Employee Perspective
The improved business performance that to-the-point engagement policies seem to produce is mirrored in employees’ attitudes towards their work. According to Gallup, the most engaged teams generally see 44 percent fewer unwarranted employee absences than the bottom quarter while also experiencing lower turnover, which is likely another one of the factors behind their increased profitability.
The fact that fewer resources have to go towards finding and training replacements is by itself beneficial to the bottom line, even when not taking into account the impact on overall output.
The study found that only 37 percent of the employees considered engaged are actively looking for new jobs, a much smaller proportion than in the broader workforce. The specific turnover rate varies among companies. Organizations with a high annualized burn rate (which Gallup defines as more than 40 percent) on average achieve 24 percent less turnover by following its engagement checklist, while firms with higher retention see a massive 59 percent improvement. The efficiency gains from holding onto employees longer can add up quickly on such a scale.
Gallup collected the engagement data at the center of its study using a poll that contained just 12 questions about respondents’ work life. It covered core topics such as whether they have all the equipment they need and how much room there is for advancement in their company. According to the pollster, these questions have changed little in the roughly 20 years that it’s been conducting such studies due to one simple reason: addressing the core work priorities in an office remains the most important part of engaging employees. In other words, many firms would do well to return to the basics before setting up that extra ping-pong table in the recreational area.
A few more stats to consider:
A 2020 study measuring anxiety and job engagement showed that the effects of the pandemic, along with remote work, increased feelings of anxiety and increased the focus on mortality, which in turn caused lower employee engagement and productivity levels
The stock market correlates with fluctuations in employee engagement within the US in the past year
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15% of employees are engaged at work
22% of remote employees have trouble unplugging and maintaining a work-life balance
Since COVID-19 hit, 53% of employees reported feeling more emotionally exhausted
Though 71% of business executives state that employee engagement is crucial to a company's success, the reality in the stats is that the majority of employees, both remote and in-person, feel unengaged -- and this has only been exacerbated by the circumstances of the pandemic.
And, as the stats above show, generational differences impact employee engagement as well. For instance, even though Millennials make up the large majority of the workforce, they are the least engaged generation. This, among many other issues, is driving the push for better overall employee engagement in the workforce.
With the large-scale shift to remote work here to stay, HR plays a key role in remote employee engagement. This guide covers everything from basic definitions to engagement automation tips so that you can not only keep employees happy but also spend more time on higher-value HR tasks.
Remote Employee Engagement Trends
Though remote employee engagement follows many of the same trends as in-office employee engagement, here are a few trends that are here to stay with the shift to work-from-home.
People-first company culture
Improving company culture towards a people-first approach is crucial in the coming years. When your entire workforce is scattered across the state, the country, or even the world, ensuring that your remote team members feel cared for and respected by leadership and their own peers is a path that all organizations must take to stay competitive.
Increase In Work-Life Balance
With the lines between home and office becoming blurred in a remote environment, organizations are becoming more cautious about setting boundaries and flexible policies around work-life balance. Employers will need to take on additional initiatives to encourage employees to log off when they need to, and set boundaries between their home office and their home life.
Digital Tools and Cloud Technology Here To Stay
In order to stay on top of remote employee engagement trends, we expect to see more and more digital tools and cloud technology to support daily functions -- from HR software for HR managers to online communication tools like ULTATEL, paper is becoming obsolete.
Emphasis On DEI
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become an increasingly larger focus for HR. When remote employees feel included, regardless of their background or characteristics, they tend to be more engaged with the business, and in turn, positively contribute to business profitability, team morale, and retention. Within DEIB initiatives, we expect to see a larger focus on gender equality and women empowerment in the remote sphere, including issues around how to stop women from leaving the workforce, and how to support working parents better.
Career growth opportunities
Understanding and facilitating career growth among remote employees will be a major focus for businesses in years to come. Career progression is positively correlated with high employee engagement -- businesses that listen, support, and offer a clear path for advancement are more likely to retain Millennials, Gen Xers, and Gen Zers.
Automating Remote Employee Engagement
Now that you know some of the best practices for remote employee engagement, you may be wondering: Where do I begin? How can I manage all of these initiatives on my own? With an automated HRIS, you don’t have to take on all of the responsibilities on your own. From better feedback to leadership development, here’s how an HR software like GoCo can help automate employee engagement tasks.
Capture feedback and performance reviews. Automating your performance review process with workflows means that reviews are streamlined, tasks and due dates are assigned dynamically, teams are always in sync, reminders are automated, and HR can track and report on progress along the way. This makes it a lot easier to open communication and feedback channels on how to engage remote team members while staying on task.
Streamline onboarding checklists. We mentioned above that remote onboarding can foster stronger employee relationships, and GoCo’s automated onboarding workflows do just that. From sending a virtual offer letter to scheduling meetings with key stakeholders, you can customize and streamline your entire process in minutes. Automated employee checklists won’t overwhelm employees, and they can easily follow along with any tasks required of them. This also mitigates the risk of human error on the employee side and minimizes the chance of losing employee forms.
Simplify benefits administration. It’s no secret that navigating health plans and open enrollment can be extremely confusing, especially on paper. Using digital benefits software helps remote employees view and stay in control of all of their health insurance and plan options from the comfort of their own homes. This means employees stay more engaged with what they’re being offered, and they can easily access telehealth and mental health options with a click of a button.
Create a workflow for any HR checklist. With HR workflow software, you can get creative with the types of data you collect and the checklists you automate. A great use case for improving employee engagement remotely is to create an employee survey workflow. HR managers can easily customize and trigger employee engagement questionnaires to improve and promote positive organizational culture.
Update policies and documents in seconds. Employees who don’t feel that they’re in the loop are much more likely to leave the organization. A great way to make sure every employee is up-to-speed on the latest company policies is to use an HRIS for document management. HR managers can make updates to policies and documents digitally, and mass send the updates to all employees for acknowledgment. This reduces the risk of forgetting a team member or missing a paper handout.
Have Fun, But Don’t Forget to Measure!
In the end, it’s important to have a process in place for actually measuring how engaged your remote employees are.
What’s the point of implementing those employee engagement ideas for remote workers if they’re not working?
For those who’ve never done this before, the best way to measure employee engagement is to use surveys.
You can include as many questions as you want in your surveys (as long as they’re relevant).
Here are a few examples of employee engagement survey questions:
Do your coworkers respect you?
Does the management live up to the core values of the company?
Do you get enough creative freedom from your supervisor?
On a scale of X-Y, how satisfied are you with your job?
Do you find your job meaningful?
In the end, make sure you’re using the right metrics, such as:
Employee Engagement Index – a simple score that directly reflects how engaged your employees are. There are a number of ways you can measure the employee engagement index, one of which involves calculating the mean score for favorable/positive survey responses.
Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) – this score reflects how likely your employees are to recommend your company to someone looking for a job. To calculate, categorize your employees into two groups – promoters (satisfied) and detractors (dissatisfied). Then, subtract the percentage of the former from that of the latter.
Employee Turnover Rate – the rate at which your employees abandon ship says a lot about the engagement.
If you’ve tried everything, maybe try revisiting your remote work policy and look for any potential flaws. The GoCo team is working hard to support HR pros through COVID-19. Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for more tools and tips 💚
Remote Employee Engagement FAQs
The benefits of having a highly engaged workforce include decreased absenteeism, higher productivity, increased innovation, and higher sales.
Employee engagement is linked to employee health because workplaces with strong engagement initiatives in place typically respect employee health needs such as flexible schedules for frequent breaks and exercise, company fitness initiatives and challenges, reminders for physical check-ups and telehealth options.
It is essential to engage Millennials in the workplace because they occupy the majority of the US workforce. If engaged within your company culture, they may stay even longer than other generations; they’re also 59x more likely to recommend your organization to peers, which can help build brand awareness and market your company.
An unengaged team has a negative impact on business sales as organizations with highly engaged employees record nearly 20% more sales than those with unengaged team members.
Highly engaged employees not only ask questions and reach out when they need support in projects, but they also provide innovative solutions and ideas for the business. This helps to drive creativity and productivity within a company.
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