Top Tips to Boost Remote Team Engagement

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In today's rapidly evolving work landscape, the rise of remote work has transformed the way organizations operate. The remote revolution has brought both opportunities and challenges, particularly in the realm of employee engagement. As businesses adapt to new modes of operation, maintaining high levels of employee engagement remains a critical priority for driving organizational success.

We hosted a webinar with tips on how to improve remote employee engagement. It included Furman Professor Dr. Riley McCallus and our Director of Employee Engagement, Molly Gleeton.

The webinar provided useful advice for business owners on how to increase engagement in their remote workforce. The tips included utilizing technology, being flexible, and prioritizing employee well-being. This blog summarizes the main ideas in the webinar. Enjoy!

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The Impact of the Remote Revolution:

Let's start at the beginning. Well, if the beginning is 2016.. During that time, workers in the U.S. spent only about 4% of workdays working from home. Then, the COVID-19 lockdowns caused more than 60% of workdays in the U.S. to be homebound.

This marked a shift that reshaped the traditional workplace, challenging conventional notions of employee engagement. As organizations embrace remote work arrangements, they must reassess how they foster engagement in virtual environments. 

PTG February Webinar Presentation

 

Research from 2023 shows us that 40% of all full-time employees work remotely, in some capacity. We know that employees require connection with their work, their co-workers, and their place of employment. Managing this becomes difficult when your team may not even be in the same country as where your business is headquartered.

...When COVID started to die down, companies quickly found out that they couldn't just enforce fully in-office jobs. People really wanted that flexibility. So they had to adapt and with that figure out how to ensure employees keep engaged and excited about their jobs while they're not physically in an office.
 
- Molly Gleeton, Director of Employee Engagement with PTG
 
So we know that a significant amount of employees will continue to work from home. How do we create environments of growth and support for this remote workforce?
 
 

Creating Meaningful Work Experiences

During our recent webinar, we discussed the importance of creating a positive workplace culture. This culture values meaningful experiences and is crucial for productivity, satisfaction, and employee retention. A positive workplace culture can lead to higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction. It also helps in retaining employees in the long run.

One of the fundamental pillars emphasized was the importance of regular feedback and communication. This method helps employees feel like they belong and encourages them to make valuable contributions to the business's goals. According to Dr. McCallus, people crave the feeling of growth and improvement, especially in their work lives.

Below, we've timestamped where Dr. McCallus adds additional context to this idea:

 

Dr. McCallus explains how organizations can help employees feel engaged. This is done by helping employees achieve their flow state. Achieving a flow state is important for employee satisfaction. Work that feels challenging but motivates employees to work hard to meet that challenge.

One of the most important ways we can help employees find this type of flow state and boost engagement is helping to connect work to values and goals.
 
Ideally, trying to craft this on as personal of a level as possible in your particular organization is going to be ideal.
 
But it's this idea of connecting to kind of the bigger picture of our job, the bigger picture of our work. 
 
Dr. Riley McCallus, Visiting Assistant Professor at Furman University

 

Some questions you can ask yourself and your employees to help discover what makes an employee feel engaged or not are:

  1. Who are we as an organization?
  2. What does our work mean to people both inside and outside this organization?
  3. What kind of impact are we having?
  4. What kind of impact and purpose do we want to have?

Recognizing external factors that contribute to or block meaningful work experiences is an important piece of the puzzle. Flexible work arrangements like remote work options and adjustable schedules improve employee satisfaction and well-being. Allowing people freedom and flexibility helps them balance work and life, leading to job satisfaction.

You may have heard of these ideas before. They are from a well-known theory in social and organizational psychology called Self Determination Theory. The theory explains that there are 3 primary needs for optimal well-being.

If organizations don't meet these needs, employees will be less motivated and engaged. They may look for fulfillment elsewhere or become disengaged.

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The 3 primary needs are:

Autonomy

Autonomy focuses on the human need to be causal agents in our own lives and environments. We want to be able to make decisions and help plan important things at work and in our organization.

Competence

Competence is wanting to do well in handling our surroundings, our job, and the tasks we have to do. Referring back to the concept of flow, we enjoy doing well in our strengths, constantly striving to get better at them.

Relatedness

Relatedness taps more into the social aspect of our needs. We tend to have a desire to interact with and connect with other people and also care for other people. Employees are more engaged when they understand how their work affects others and helps them. This leads to higher rates of engagement.

Promoting a culture of continuous learning and growth is important in creating meaningful work experiences. Having one-on-one meetings, or "stay interviews," lets employees share their goals, challenges, and aspirations in a safe space. This personalized approach enables managers to tailor development opportunities that align with individual aspirations, thus fueling motivation and engagement.


Utilizing Your Existing Tools for Instant Improvements

Good news! You likely have tools and apps that can help improve how engaged your employees are. However, using these tools to their full potential is an art that takes time and intention.

In the webinar, Molly shared some of the ways PTG uses Microsoft apps to help drive remote employee engagement. Let's break it down by app:

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft's primary platform for communication and collaboration.

Creating "channels" in Teams offers businesses a way to funnel conversations to more appropriate audiences. One of the first and most important channels you can create in Teams is an "All Company" channel. This is where your entire organization can share work-related announcements, company updates, etc. This can be a channel to post your new hires in, which allows other team members to welcome them to the team!

The next channels we recommend creating are department-specific channels. This allows for more direct conversations around specific topics within that department. This also allows you to control who accesses which conversations.

Using the Praise Feature in Teams

Earlier, we mentioned the importance of employees feeling connected to the work they're doing. One of the ways we're doing that at PTG is by leveraging the "Praise" feature in Teams. When an employee goes out of their way to help a co-worker or generally does a great job, we shout them out in Teams!

We take it a step further and tie this feature to our company values. In the praise message, we call out which of our values a coworker highlighted. 

We have points allocated for each praise sent and received. We track those throughout the year. At the end of the year, employees can cash their points in for a bonus payout, gift cards, and other rewards.

Viva Engage

Viva Engage allows you to create communities for your teams to discuss the things they love/are interested in. At PTG, we have communities for pet owners, video gamers, and chess players. These communities allow employees to connect to others with similar interests without interrupting the general channels.

Microsoft Forms

We mentioned the importance of communicating with your employees consistently. When we do surveys and interviews, our managers save the documents in an individual's Teams chat using Forms. It makes it easy to review and keep track of.

The key to making these apps work is by getting your entire organization to participate and "buy in". Leadership should start the trend and be involved to get others participating and comfortable. If you have questions on how your organization can use these tools like we have, please feel free to reach out!


Addressing Common Issues in Remote Work Engagement

In remote work, keeping employees engaged is important for successful organizations, but it can also be difficult. By addressing common issues head-on and implementing effective strategies, businesses can foster a positive remote work environment conducive to productivity and employee satisfaction.

1. Establishing Clear Communication Channels

Effective communication lies at the heart of remote work engagement. In the webinar, we discussed the importance of using tools like Microsoft Teams for easy communication with remote teams. Using tools such as Microsoft Forms for feedback can help organizations create a culture of communication. Additionally, utilizing Praise for recognizing achievements can foster a culture of appreciation within the organization.

2. Embracing Gamification and Employee Recognition

Companies should encourage employees to demonstrate company values by turning recognition into a game. This helps create a culture of gratitude and teamwork among colleagues. Giving employees points for recognition and letting them exchange them for bonuses or items can help incentivize involvement.

3. Utilizing Collaborative Tools for Community Building

Viva Engage, a tool from Microsoft, helps remote teams build connections and communities beyond just work tasks. Employees can form strong bonds by creating groups with common interests such as pets, gaming, or sports.

This can help boost productivity and morale. Taking breaks to relax and socialize with coworkers is also important. This method boosts employee happiness and improves remote work culture.

4. Implementing Flexible Work Hours

Businesses can help employees achieve a better work-life balance and avoid burnout. Allowing employees to choose their own schedules and take breaks when needed is crucial. By giving employees more control over their work hours, businesses can support their well-being and productivity.

This flexibility can lead to happier and more engaged employees. When employees can manage their time, they can balance work and personal life better. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

5. Prioritizing Employee Well-being Through Regular Check-ins

Regular check-ins are important for understanding employee well-being and addressing any issues they may have. These check-ins can take the form of one-on-one meetings or stay interviews. They provide an opportunity to support employees and ensure they feel supported in their roles.

By conducting regular check-ins, managers can stay informed about any challenges employees may be facing and offer assistance as needed. We've used the term "stay interview" a few times now, so let's explain what they are in detail.

 

Unlocking Employee Engagement: The Power of Stay Interviews

Often times when we see organizations suffer from large rates of turnover or frankly variable rates of turnover, they often will rely on exit interviews to gather information on what went wrong, what was not sufficient, what what caused this employee to leave.

Dr. Riley McCallus, Visiting Assistant Professor at Furman University

 

Exit interviews uncover what could have been done differently, in the past. Businesses ask these questions to an employee who's already out the door, which is too late in the timeline.

Stay interviews are proactive discussions between managers and employees aimed at exploring their current job satisfaction, career aspirations, and potential areas for improvement before the need of an exit interview.

To implement stay interviews effectively:

  • Set Clear Objectives: Define the purpose and goals of stay interviews to ensure meaningful conversations.
  • Establish a Safe Environment: Create a confidential space where employees feel comfortable sharing their feedback and concerns.
  • Provide Training for Managers: Equip managers with the skills and tools to conduct meaningful conversations and follow up on action plans.

Here is a list of Exit Interview questions and their Stay Interview counterparts:

Exit Interview Questions Stay Interview Questions
What prompted your decision to leave the company? What motivates you to stay with the company?
Were there any specific issues or concerns that led to your departure? Are there any areas of your job that you find particularly fulfilling?
How would you rate your overall experience working here? What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
Did you feel adequately supported in your role? How can we better support you in your current role?
Were there any opportunities for career advancement that you felt were lacking? What are your career aspirations, and how can we help you achieve them?
Did you receive sufficient training and development opportunities? Are there any skills or areas of expertise you would like to develop further?
How would you describe the organizational culture here? What do you appreciate most about the company culture?
Do you have any suggestions for improving the workplace environment? What changes or improvements would make your job more satisfying?
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with us? Is there anything you would like to discuss or address to enhance your job satisfaction?

 

Conclusion

Remote work has changed how we do business, bringing both opportunities and challenges for keeping remote teams engaged. Dr. Riley McCallus and Molly Gleeton both emphasize the importance of creating meaningful work experiences. This involves connecting work to values, promoting autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and prioritizing employee well-being.

Using tools like Microsoft Teams and Viva Engage can improve communication and build communities within remote teams. Recognizing achievements through gamification, offering flexible work hours, and conducting regular check-ins also contribute to engagement.

We hope you found some ideas to help create a positive remote work culture and support the growth and satisfaction of your remote teams. These tips will help your team stay connected, valued, and supported, even when miles apart.

Palmetto Technology Group (PTG) is an award-winning IT support and managed service provider headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina. We believe in delivering phenomenal IT experiences by people you’ll love. As a trusted partner, our goal is to help business owners lower their risk, secure their data, and promote productive employees. Learn more: About Palmetto Technology Group (goptg.com)

 

FAQs

    How can employee tracking technology impact trust within an organization?
    What are the benefits of offering flexibility in work hours for remote employees?
    How can organizations effectively gather feedback from remote employees?
    What role do one-on-one meetings play in employee engagement and performance management?
    How can organizations gamify employee recognition to enhance engagement?

     

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