Once employers began discovering the benefits of hiring a virtual workforce, the industry grew rapidly—as in 159% between 2005 and 2019. Hiring a remote workforce frees up essential team members so they can focus on scaling the business instead of completing the necessary, yet time-consuming, day-to-day tasks that can bog down productivity.
When the coronavirus made its way into the country, HR departments around the world scrambled to get employees working from home immediately. Globally, it’s estimated that 88% of businesses had employees working at home as the virus quickly spread.
Sadly, not everyone survived the lockdowns but many of the companies that did are keeping their virtual workforces in place. For instance, Facebook has announced plans to have 48,000 employees working from home permanently within the next decade—they will be taking a salary reduction to do it though. Nationwide Insurance is keeping its blended work model allowing the majority of their employees to work from home indefinitely.
Some remote managers are struggling to keep remote employees engaged and that’s an important element of success. Employee engagement increases productivity, promotes long-term employment, and keeps a positive spin on company culture. If you’re new to managing remote teams, I’ve got three tips that can help you.
First things first
Things were probably chaotic right out of the gate for those of you who got your teams off-site and working from home last spring. Hopefully, it didn’t take long to figure out which technology coordinated well with your workflow and which procedures needed a bit of tweaking. After that, things probably fell into place pretty quickly.
If you’re getting ready to set up remote teams, you can take steps that work toward employee engagement before the hiring process begins.
Determine the tasks you’ll have virtual employees complete.
Document every step taken to complete the process.
Consider how team members will interact with each other and create a communication policy.
Create an ad that provides a detailed job description and the skillset expected.
When you’re ready to begin interviewing, you need to be very selective so you’re more likely to hire the right person for the job the first time. Have a predetermined list of questions to help you determine if the applicant is qualified. Ask questions that can help you get a feel for their personality too.
Implement a buddy system so your new employee can reach out immediately with questions or if they encounter a problem.
Your employees are going to notice how well prepared you are for them to step into their new job and ace it from day one. They will show their gratitude through their job performance.
On a personal note…
It’s really important to let your employees know that you care about them as people—if you’ve ever had a job that defines the phrase “feel like a number,” you know the reason why.
A sudden gift out of the blue is a great way to express how much you appreciate your employees. A kind word spoken sincerely is just as well received though.
Showing appreciation creates employee satisfaction. If your management teams handle employee engagement, make it a point to get hands-on now and then yourself. A well-written note of appreciation from the “big boss” boosts morale and keeps that positive vibe flowing throughout your workplace culture.
In addition to occasional morale-boosting, creating employee engagement should be an ongoing process. Some key points to consider include:
Make sure employees are well equipped to work from home. Do they need additional hardware, for instance? Don’t make them buy it out of pocket and reimburse them if they do!
Have team members communicate frequently and consider using video calls to do it because it’s always good to see a smiling face.
Make sure everyone knows how their team connects with the others to reach the end goal.
Monitor your teams’ progress and make adjustments when necessary rather than not being aware there is an issue until it becomes a problem.
Team building time
If you sent employees home to work, they’re going to miss gathering at the water cooler or chatting with their cubicle neighbors. Encourage everyone to stay connected! When we have positive relationships with our workmates, it makes for a better life overall.
Fostering employee relationships is also good for business. A positive workplace culture increases productivity, encourages employee retention, and lowers your turnover rate.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Schedule virtual happy hours or lunch breaks
Virtual team building can include scavenger hunts, trivia games, or book clubs
Host a virtual movie night on Sling or Netflix
Focus on employee health and start hosting virtual workouts
On a serious note, it’s important to remember that not everyone is cut out to be a loner.
When you contact your employees, be aware of their overall demeanor. They could be trying to hide the fact that they’re feeling depressed but you can tell a lot by the sound of someone’s voice. If you notice that their job performance is slipping, though, it’s time to do a little investigating.
Be aware of the signs of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Reach out immediately if you suspect an employee is suffering.
An engaging future
Companies continue to alter business models to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world. The remote workforce is playing a huge role in making that possible. Business owners realize the value of hiring virtual employees and—for many—it’s saving their companies.
And, overall, employees report that they’re happier at home. They don’t miss the commute or having the need to purchase appropriate work attire.
If you already have a remote workforce, use employee engagement techniques to strengthen the bond of trust between employees and management. If you’re planning to start hiring virtual employees, map out an employee engagement strategy that starts with your talent search.
Don’t just focus on the here and now either. As your business continues to evolve and scale, keep your employees involved in your plans for growth. Share the part they will play in it.
Employees appreciate being pulled into the loop. It strengthens the bond of trust, gives them a sense of job security, and promotes self-worth. On the flip side, it increases employee satisfaction which works toward retention—how’s that for an engaging thought?
About the author:
Robert Nickell is the Founder and CEO of Rocket Station, where his team of 800+ people helps small to mid-sized businesses efficiently hire virtual teams to quickly scale while increasing productivity and profitability.
Thanks to Nickell’s attention to detail, focus on developing scalable business processes, and detailed performance tracking, Rocket Station has earned prominent clients such as Kevin Harrington and Kevin O’Leary, as well as thousands of less notable but equally important smaller clients.