Remote workers, offshore employees, outsourced talent; whatever you address them by, their importance in the corporate backdrop has only grown over the years.
Why? Simply because businesses get access to a varied pool of cheap talent with a flexibility that is just never possible to implement in-house. But this does not mean that hiring remote talent does not come with its fair share of trouble.
To begin with, it is common for remote workers to feel less engaged and disconnected from the company since they are not in your office or with their teams. This can have a substantial and detrimental effect on their morale and productivity.
Therefore, keeping remote employees engaged is an important part of leading a remote team. In the words of John C. Maxwell, Leadership Speaker, “To collaborative team members, completing one another is more important than competing with one another.”
So let’s take a look at the leading ways in which you can do this, and making such employees more passionate about the vision and goals of the company:
Use collaborative tools
The best ways to kick-start the engagement wagon is to make remote workers go through similar productivity drills that in-house workers go through. Using tools that organise their workflows and help them collaborate with their team members.
Managers often make the mistake of relying on emails to manage remote employees, resulting in project delays and untracked files. By treating them as in-house employees, not only do you make them feel inclusive but also ensure that projects stay on track!
Prioritise open communication
Making remote employees a part of the open communication protocol can closely mimic an actual working environment. Collaborative communication tools such as live chat software and Slack can help you synchronise distributed teams, bringing them all on the same page.
Through live chat, employees can collaborate visually by sharing their screen and web resources so that managers can give visual instructions to the team member and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
With integrated co-browsing feature managers can even access employees screen to perform complex procedures and bring quick resolution to their problems.
When remote workers know that both managers and colleagues are just a message away, they feel inclusive and learn to value ideas and feedback. You can also pair this with group surveys and allow them to voice their concerns and needs, making them feel heard.
Give Importance to small talk
Without the water cooler conversations, it is difficult for employees to feel connected to their counterparts. To solve this, managers can foster a working environment that promotes small talk that is free from the usual work jargon.
Remote workers should feel free to reach out to each other and share details about their lives, talk about their favourite football teams, or even ask casual opinions from team members!
The idea is to cultivate the sense of a community that can digitally hang out with each other even after work!
Recognise contributions where due
As the adage goes, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’.
It is fairly (rather unfairly) common for remote workers to not receive recognition for their work. Since such workers may not always have access to upper management, managers often take credit for their work, sweeping their rewards along the way! It is important that you realise such loopholes in your operational processes and ensure that gaps are accordingly filled.
But while it is important to recognise contributions, it is also important to do so publicly. This will send a clear message to other offshore employees that there is immense room for positive work ethics to be valued. One great way to do this is by offering them befitting rewards for their contributions.
Clarify targets and goals
It is easy for remote workers to be in the dark about the long term goals of the company, with managers often resorting to day to day monitoring tactics, without working on the baselines.
Instead of constantly monitoring them, you need to give them a clear sense of direction on day zero. Their monthly, weekly, or even daily objectives should always be within reach. Not only will this make them more productive, but it will also free them from the shackles of micromanagement. Which brings us to our next point…
Nothing can kill productivity, especially with offshore employees than trying to micromanage their every move. It just doesn’t fit. It can be tempting for managers to link every offshoring setback to the cultural difference of working from home, but such generalisations would only make matters worse.
As the author, Jason Fried puts it, “If you run your ship with the conviction that everyone’s a slacker, your employees will put all their ingenuity into proving you right.”
Hence, always look at the bigger picture and refrain from jumping the gun at pointing fingers!
Provide time management assistance
Time management is one professional hurdle that almost all offshore employees report at some point or another. If they are working from homes, household chores or the necessity to engage with other family members can often interfere with their work life.
Thus, extending the necessary time management tools and the requisite training to such employees will allow them to better manage deadlines.
One powerful way to do this is to leverage project management tools such as Trello that help to collaborate, prioritise projects, and get more work done.
Make them an active part of meetings
With so many video conferencing tools today such as Google Hangout and Uber Conference, this one is a no-brainer. Such tools give the engagement the look and feel of a one-on-one session, making them more inclusive.
While it is easy to engage in-house employees with a conference set up, it has been quite challenging to address remote workers. But all of this is in the past today.
A recent survey by GoWall suggests that as many as 73% of the workers today participate in virtual or a combination of virtual and face-to-face meetings. But the same survey also states that about 50% of the participants were disappointed that workers came to the meeting unprepared.
Thus, sharing the agenda of the meeting is not enough. Managers should be able to design meaningful conversation flows prior to hosting the virtual sessions in order to get the most out of their offshore employees.
Give importance to feedback
While you already know that it is important to offer employees feedback, the frequency needs to be even higher in the case of remote employees.
Since they lack the face to face engagement with the management that an office environment would provide, it becomes difficult for them to evaluate themselves. They might perceive their work to be below par in times of excellent performances and vice versa.
One effective way to combat this is by sharing the clear scope of work with each offshore employee during their orientation. Using this as a baseline, you can then compare their performance and give them quarterly feedback accordingly.
Hurdles of remote employee engagement are not easy to overcome. These 9 tips should set you in the right management groove, paving way for an uptick in engagement from all of your remote workers!
About the Author
Sam Makad is an experienced writer and marketing consultant. His expertise lies on marketing and advertising. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their business and overall ROI. Reach out to Sam Makad on Twitteror LinkedIn