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.
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.
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…”
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.
For example, an office in Bangalore was offered the opportunity to say “hello” via video conference during their company’s morning all hands in California. 50 employees participated even though it was 12 am local time, and they even stayed to join the post-meeting Q&A.
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.
For example, if holding a morning all hands, consider streaming the session again in the evening followed by a separate live Q&A to accommodate global time zones. Encourage local leaders to prioritize participation for their teams.
The best way to know what works to engage remote employees is to ask! Employee engagement 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.
Where to start? Get an all-employee list from your HR department and pull a random sampling across groups, regions and demographics. Virtual focus and live sessions work best in groups of no more the 10-15 people.
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.
Tip: Remember to manage expectations and be realistic about what can be promised and actioned. All input is valuable, but not all input can be applied every time.