With remote work becoming the new normal, it’s surprising how little managers know about engaging and rewarding remote employees. Remember that survey which reveaed that 34% of business leaders were convinced that by 2020, more than half of their full-time workforce would be working remotely? (http://www.fastcompany.com/3034286/the-future-of-work/will-half-of-people-be-working-remotely-by-2020) Whether it’s really going to happen or not, managers need to be prepared for working with telecommuters because there are more and more of them on the job market.
It doesn’t really matter whether employees work on-site or remotely – all of them need to be engaged and motivated to do their jobs in the best ways they can. In fact, remote workers may easily feel undervalued, isolated and out of touch with company principles and values. Leaders of remote teams often report a lack of control over their employees, citing freedom in customer interactions and flexible schedules as two major challenges they need to face daily.
Despite these issues, enterprises are hiring and will hire remote employees in the future – they simply cannot miss out on bringing in new talent from various corners of the planet. Here are 9 tips to help you engage and recognize remote employees, motivating them to go that extra mile in completing their tasks.
1. Recognize consistently
Positive messaging and recognition needs to happen on a regular basis. Only by delivering regular praise to employees you’ll be able to keep them engaged in their work. How to be consistent in recognizing remote workers? Use Skype, social media and instant messaging to deliver regular recognition messages that reach employees in real-time, preferably right after you see the results of their work.
2. Learn about the cultures of your employees
If you’re managing a team of remote workers scattered across the globe, you need to be open-minded and learn key facts about their cultures. Be sure to learn the traditions of your multinational workforce and you’ll be on your way to building a team culture that will provide a safe space for recognition. Note down important national holidays in your calendar – knowing abut them will help you earn the respect of your employees, at the same time boosting their team morale.
3. Provide means for informal communication
As a team leader, you’re the one to make sure that your employees have the space to interact with each other in a less formal manner. Some managers like to hold informal “water-cooler” sessions through Skype once a week. It helps to keep the lines of communication open, fostering team spirit and a sense of friendliness among remote workers. Employees can use this time for office chit-chat, updating each other about their personal and professional lives alike.
4. Meet face-to-face once a month
Even if our cutting-edge communication technologies help to create a seamless workflow, face-to-face meetings still hold most power for employee engagement and recognition. Provided that your workers don’t live too far from the office, try to organize a get together at least once a month. You can hold brainstorming sessions to try out new ideas, or do some team building exercises to help your team collaborate smoothly. If your team members live far from the office, schedule web-conferencing sessions and virtual team building to make them feel as if they were part of the team.
5. Give your team tools for recognizing each other
You can foster engagement among your workers if you help them to recognize each other as well. Offer them a range of strategies to use for thanking one another for a job well done – it can be online thank-you notes, cards or inexpensive gifts. Make sure that all workers know how and when send such tokens of recognition to each other. This is a smart strategy for fostering team morale and engagement.
6. Use gamification techniques
One of the best strategies for boosting employee engagement and motivation is gamification. It can be applied to many different aspects of your work and, if well-designed and properly deployed, will bring you excellent results. Start by organizing an online team activity – for instance, an office bingo, where workers fill in a square every time one of them completes a task. This kind of gamified environment will help you create a sense of collectivity in work and provide workers with a different way of interacting with their workload.
7. Rewards remote employees
It’s clear that employees need to be rewarded for their effort. But how to do it when you cannot count on a spontaneous ‘Great job!’ remark to do the trick? Gamification can help you here as well. Create a special award you’ll be handing out to a remote employee each week. It can be the most productive, helpful or simply the happiest remote employee of the week award. Allow your team to nominate and vote for employees, and reward winners with gift cards or similar prizes.
8. Foster team-building with a virtual bulletin board
It’s important that your remote team can interact with each other just like they would in the office. Hardly anyone will share a joke in a common work thread – but they’ll be eager to do it if you provide them with a special bulletin board. Employees can use this board to post jokes, cartoons and comments. This will help remote workers to feel less isolated and more a part of a team.
9. Make it personal with hand-written thank-you notes
Nothing says thank you like a hand-written, personalized note sent by snail mail. While emails are easy to get your point across in an instant, using traditional mail to send a remote worker a note expressing your appreciation will work wonders. You can be sure that they’ll feel every bit as recognized as they should be when working on-site. On that note, make sure to send personalized birthday cards to your remote workers as well. Nothing works better to boost their engagement and morale.
Employee recognition is important not only for the day to day work delivered by your team, but also in a long term perspective once you consider the problem of employee retention. Keeping your remote employees happy, you’ll enter into long collaborations which will only make it easier to reach your business goals. Failing to recognize the effort they put in to help you achieve your objectives, you can be sure to deal with motivation and productivity issues sooner or later.
About the author: Amelia Knott is a HR professional at aubiz.net – an ABN search database. She is interested in Human Resources, employee engagement techniques and gamification of recruitment. She shares her insights through blogging.