We live in an age of continuously flexing rules of engaging employees when it comes to office hours. Technology and progressive workplace policies allow companies to engage remote employees from anywhere and at anytime. While this opens up a world of possibility in terms of work-life balance, it can also pose unique challenges. Globally dispersed employees can feel disconnected to each other and your company. This is especially true when key communications and activities like all-hands meetings are centered around what’s happening at “headquarters”. Given employees consider culture and connection a key component of job satisfaction, keeping them engaged is critical for both productivity and retention.
1. Find partners on the ground
Office managers or regional communications contacts are your eyes and ears on the ground. They know their local office culture and what’s on their employee’s minds. They also likely have the trust of their colleagues and understand any obstacles or best practices when it comes to getting things done. Seek out and build a partnership with these key contacts to ensure you’re pulling the right levers when trying to engage local teams.
2. Get their attention with unconventional tactics
Find new, unexpected ways to “wow” employees and take them out of their daily routine. The more memorable the message, call to action, or meeting experience is, the more likely they are to “tune in” next time. Try delivering a company announcement in the form of a local news show. Outgoing employees with a mic and smartphone video camera can turn an ordinary communication into something creative and impossible to forget. “Now back to you, Ron…”
3. Don’t assume your remote employees won’t (or can’t) participate
Always provide multiple options for engagement. Not all employees will be able to attend an office happy hour, company all-hands meeting, or take part in the costume contest at work. But if given alternative, virtual ways to join, you’d be surprised. Regional all-hands “viewing parties” or global photo contests are great ways to increase participation and engage remote employees.
4. Tailor your approach to suit local cultures
Know your audience. Remember, what works for one group or location may not work for another. Be sure you’re putting your efforts and resources where it counts. The same initiatives aren’t going to work for everyone, and in some cases may fall flat, even send the wrong message and work against your goals.
5. Go beyond the survey
The best way to know what works to engage remote employees is to ask! Surveys can be great for quick, quantitative and measurable data, budget “under the hood” of what’s on people’s minds, try conducting focus groups. While time intensive, this can be an extremely effective way to provide a space for candid feedback that a survey often cannot. It also helps them know their opinions matter.
6. Build trust with follow-through
Holding a contest? Don’t forget to choose — and widely publicize — the winner(s). Conducting a survey? Make sure to share the results and actions! Rolling out a new tool or policy? Send an update after the first month or quarter with how it’s going, and any feedback received.
Caitlin is an Account Lead at Blue Beyond. For more than a decade she’s partnered closely with clients to develop and lead initiatives related to employee engagement, organizational communications, culture building, and strategic leadership alignment.