Often, when we talk about engaging our employees, we forget about remote team members, those employees housed outside of the main headquartered facilities.
FlexJobs, a site for those seeking telecommuting, flexible-schedule, part-time, and freelance jobs, released its third-annual list of companies that operate mostly or completely remotely.
According to FlexJobs, half of American employees hold a job that is compatible with telework.
The company estimates that telecommuting in the United States has grown 103% over the last decade and projects that 50% of people will work remotely by 2020.
In my book, The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty, I did not specifically refer to the unique plight of the remote team member. Although many of the same Laws apply, there are some specific challenges managers face:
Distance and Exclusion
The saying that “distance makes the heart grow fonder” is not usually the case with remote team members, their managers, and their coworkers.
Remote-work situations include team members working from home or being in a location outside the main hub of the business. In each scenario, remote team members often feel like they are excluded from the happenings inside the main hub. When they feel that way, they often harbor deep resentment, which does not bond them to the organization. To the contrary, this leaves them feeling disconnected. Organizational leaders need to have a strategy to engage their entire workforce, including remote workers.
Managers can find it difficult to hold onsite employees accountable, let alone remote team members because they cannot see what they are doing in their offices. There are no impromptu drop-ins. Even so, managers expect the same results, and many struggle with that dynamic.
Lack of consistent communication remains the number one frustration among all employees. It is no surprise that communication challenges rank high for both remote workers and their managers. OWL Labs’ and TinyPulse’s 2017 State of Remote Work report reveals that “Remote workers say their biggest challenge is staying in the loop.”
Despite these challenges, there are at least 5 ways to immediately engage remote team members and show them some love:
Organizations that often fail to put a communication plan in place will always fall short in the employee loyalty race. There are many ways to keep engaging that remote workforce through communication channels.
- Send personal notes
The written word has power, so establish a process for sending personal handwritten notes to remote team members. We use relationship management software to build relationships with customers, and we can use some digital reminder system to send out sincere notes to our team members, recognizing some recent event or accomplishment.
- Video chat often
You will not “see” your remote team members in the office, but leaders should still initiate video chat calls, planned and spontaneous. The sensory experience that comes from exchanging micro-expressions via video is a close second to the in-person exchange.
While not personal, a monthly newsletter can keep everyone in the organization or on a team on the same page with the same information.
- Group project management
Many group project management tools like Slack allow for team collaboration, and they offer powerful ways to connect your remote team members with your onsite team members. Most of them have chat features, and some even have video features.
“Companies that support remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than companies that don’t.” State of Remote Work
This is an important point. Employees who are given the opportunity to work remotely are much more likely to be loyal. That said, it is critical that remote team members visit the main office regularly, if they are close enough to it.
Pulse surveys are a neat way to consistently gather feedback from team members about their experiences. Team members can use their voice to impact their culture, whether remote or onsite. Establishing a consistent feedback look for remote team members is critical to understanding their needs.
Create recognition processes that incorporate them
Remote team members often feel forgotten when it comes to recognition and perks. This means that what ever recognition and perks you offer on-site team members, you must do your very best to offer the same experience to those off-site.
Organizational leaders must make sure they show remote employees they appreciate them and the value they bring to the organization. Put triggers in place that remind everyone to remember the remote people who also drive business successes.
Set clear expectations of the work to be done
In the 2017 State of Remote Work, OWL Labs and TinyPulse pointed out that “Remote workers with managers who work onsite have 25% fewer career growth conversations than average.” This stems from communicating infrequently and forgetting these team members need the same things the onsite team members need.
Their managers also need to set clear expectations of work to be done. If their manager accomplishes this task, the conversation about career growth should be the natural next step.
When we think about the future of work, remote work will remain a staple for organizations choosing to not be limited by geography and those that must meet the needs of their employees to have flexible jobs. Organizations that focus on reconnecting their remote workers to the rest of their workforce as outlined above will go a long way to retaining them.
Thank you for reading this article.It is crucial that organizations treat all of their employees the same. Although remote employees are destined to have a different experience than those on-site, it does not mean that it should be worse. Show them that they are important, and you will keep them longer than you think!
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