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How to Keep Remote Employees Engaged and Proactive

How to Keep Remote Employees Engaged and Proactive
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Remote work is the new norm in the post-COVID world. While only 17% of U.S. employees worked remotely before 2020, their number had reached 44% during the pandemic. The year 2022 is outside, and the team of those willing to work remotely keeps growing.
For companies and their HR departments, this state of things brings new challenges:

Engaging employees in business processes and encouraging their proactivity for higher revenue growth become even more difficult. Given that only 36% of employees are engaged in the workplace, and 85% are most motivated when internal communications are effective, it's easy to understand how challenging it is to achieve at least the same results with remote talents.

How to know your remote employees aren't proactive? What practices to consider for managing and encouraging the remote workforce? Which communication strategies could help you keep them motivated and productive?

This post is here to provide you with the answers.

How to Know Remote Employees Aren't Engaged

Let's face it, remote workers' true intentions and moods are not that obvious for HR specialists to notice. It's more a prerogative of direct managers collaborating with remotees daily. And while you can offer some standard methods to monitor employee activities and productivity (time trackers, video calls, different communication solutions, etc.), you can't see their motivations.

How do you know if they are on the same page with the company's goals and plans?

Do they follow time management basics to make the most out of their working hours? (This tiny detail can be more critical than some managers believe, given that employee disengagement costs businesses between $450-$550 billion each year.)

Is their communication with managers and team members effective enough for them to feel motivated to do a job the best they can?

As an HR specialist, you can't track such a state of things alone. Even if you ask a remote employee directly, they'll hardly tell you: Some will ignore your tests or surveys, others will prefer neutral answers to avoid conflicts, and those honest and proactive will appear outnumbered.

Here goes a solution:

Cooperate with remote teams' direct managers and teach them how to notice a proactivity lack in employees. Tell them about different employee types and ask them to pay attention to the following signals:

  1. Remote team members look helpless. The signs are phrases like, "We can't do anything with that," "That strategy will never work," and so on.

  2. Employees demonstrate a victim mindset. They start playing a blame game, seeing others guilty for their failures. It's the "Everyone is stupid, not me" mindset and the phrases to pay attention to are something like, "Why do we have to deal with their mistakes?" or "They didn't tell about the updates, so what could I do?"

  3. The communication gets worse. Employees keep quiet about their problems, so a manager doesn't know anything and can't help. Or, every team member works alone and doesn't know (or doesn't even ask) what other colleagues do; they complete tasks but don't get interested in the bigger picture.

    Provide remote team managers with the instruments to measure remote engagement — and monitor and analyze their feedback. Once you see warning results, here's what you can advise managers to change the situation.

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To learn even more about managing remote teams and keeping employees working at home highly engaged, download our ebook now.

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Five Steps to Remote Employees' Engagement and Proactivity:

1. Clear goals and expectations given via the proper communication channels

As an HR specialist, you know the goals behind employee engagement, and this knowledge helps you work better, agree? The same is true for remote employees' motivation and proactivity:

They'll be more efficient when understanding what and why they do. For managers, it's not enough to set tasks and wait for results. Explain they need to provide employees with the purpose of those tasks and their role in the overall business process.

Encourage managers to clarify the company goals to employees. It will help them see why they work here, what the company expects, and how their activities correlate with business goals.

Also, it's critical to communicate those goals and expectations via the proper channels. When your remote workforce is dispersed or multi-generational, it'll hardly be comfortable for all of them to use only one communication channel for interaction with managers. Some prefer getting the info from company emails, while others wait for team chats or voice calls, and that's OK. 

A good practice is to duplicate the general messages in different collaboration channels to ensure all employees will see them. More specific information related to a particular team or talent is better to communicate via the channel this team or person prefers.

2. A growth mindset built via self-development sessions

Remote work provides tons of benefits yet requires tons of self-discipline, energy, and motivation. Employees may feel disconnected, be stressed, or experience a low work-life balance, which hurts proactivity and performance. For a company, it's critical to monitor such things by analyzing employee feedback:

  • Encourage managers to focus on their mentees' personal improvement and performance goals. The way they communicate with teams impacts morale and motivation heavily.

  • Make it part of your company culture to give remote employees a say during team communication sessions. With a focus on their potential, not just their performance, a manager may reveal new opportunities for the company and remote workforce's win-win collaboration.

This approach allows building a growth mindset, flourishing the idea that everyone always has room to stretch for more, regardless of their current position. It helps employees overcome the challenges they face at work, and it drives them into action.

As an HR specialist, you can also initiate self-development sessions for remote employees, where experts in the field would share tips on problem-solving and decision-making skills.

3. Regular and effective communication

Here comes the catch:

Regular doesn't equal effective: Overwhelmed with dozens of messages they get every day via different communication channels, remote employees get stressed, lost, and unintentionally ignore critical messages from managers and you. It often happens that not all employees need to receive this or that information. For the team to stay proactive, managers need to ensure they focus on the essential info only.

So, let's go back to point #1 for a second: You need to determine the channels they prefer and communicate only the essential information via those channels.

Essential goes for what those particular employees need to know, what can influence their work and performance, and what they can't miss for the overall project's success. It’s helpful to segment employees and personalize messages accordingly so they wouldn't get lost in the flood of information or spend time guessing what requires their attention. Tag employees only if your message relates to them.

For example, a communication algorithm could be as follows:

A manager calls an employee by phone weekly to discuss tasks and ask for feedback. Team video calls could come in handy for every team member to take a word so others understand what's going on and what's in plans to do next.

Messaging platforms are perfect for group chats, including small talks for better engagement. And, a manager may also consider one-on-one messaging with employees to discuss individual goals and accomplishments.

4. Remote employees' interaction with non-remote talents

As we know, workers tend to be more productive when they feel like they belong to the rest of the team. When not all of them are in the same place, personal connections suffer, and there's no feeling of camaraderie that would motivate and encourage proactivity.

Why not connect your remote and in-office talents via virtual communication?

Informal conversations also matter for proactivity, so initiate so-called "off-topic" chats where employees could get together and share news, interests, insights, links, memes, and anything like that.

Consider communication software, such as a virtual data room, that allows sharing content and commenting on it for better collaboration.

5. Time flexibility and accomplishment recognition

According to the statistics, 85% of businesses increase their productivity thanks to flexibility, and 90% of employees admit that flexible schedules boost their morale and work performance. When dealing with remote employees, a work-from-everywhere business model supporting flexible work hours seems the only right one.

Some talents may be from different time zones or prefer the lifestyle of digital nomads. So, it would help to organize communication to the schedules of all employees:

  • Encourage them to calendar the time when they are online and available.

  • Periodically check in to ensure the schedule works and aligns with any possible challenges like client needs or time zone differences.

  • Say no to micromanaging seat time: Manage accomplishments, not activity.

For motivation and proactivity to flourish, it's vital to encourage achievements through recognizing accomplishments rather than hours spent at the computer. The business thrives when employees meet collective and personal performance goals, and your task is to organize everything for remote employees to have such a mindset and feel recognized, valued, and connected to the rest of the company.

Make announcements about achievements and recognition part of your managerial approach. Share kudos via your company's HR platform or create a dedicated channel in your internal chat platform, where managers could share their employees' performance and celebrate milestones.

In a Word

Managing and motivating remote teams reminds the same basic approach as a traditional office environment yet requires some upgrades to keep up with the challenges of remote business communication. Do your best to learn which collaboration channels work best, provide your employees with the required tools, and help managers build communication so that talents feel recognized and trusted. It's your weapon to prevent demotivation and productivity lack among your remote workforce.


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About Author:

This article is written by Lesley Vos, a career specialist for college students from Chicago. Lesley is also a seasoned web writer and blogger behind Bid4Papers, the platform helping students and authors with writing solutions.

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