Recently, I read this article about remote workers from Harvard Business Review and honestly, it annoyed me. The premise of the article is that research indicates you shouldn’t hire remote workers because they’ll quit. I disagree – not just because the entire Resourceful HR team is remote AND highly engaged—but also because today’s labor shortage is increasing by the day and remote workers are an important source of potential talent for any organization.
The issue is not with remote workers,
it’s with the organizations employing them.
“Without the ability to have organic conversations in the break room or at each other’s cubicles, it takes a more concentrated effort for remote workers to engage with others,” reports Business News Daily. “A lack of engagement can lead to isolation and loneliness, a lack of passion for the company’s vision or goals and feeling unhappy and unappreciated.”
If you hire remote talent, you must actually engage them. You can’t just leave them be and ignore them. Looking at the Resourceful HR team, and how we intentionally engage as a remote workforce, I can offer some ideas based on our experience:
1. Commit to connecting, regularly.
Quarterly all company video calls are an essential way we stay engaged. Not only do we share company updates during video calls, but we also take the opportunity to celebrate achievements and milestones, and simply get to know each other. Seeing everyone’s face, as well as their cats as they jump on the desks, or hearing dogs or kids in the background, makes everyone human and easier to connect with.
Periodic in-person team events also provide an opportunity to connect. Whether it is a casual game of putt-putt golf, or an all-day retreat, we try to incorporate in-person events into the year. Everything from bowling, to cooking classes, baby showers, to retirement celebrations, it doesn’t happen often but when it does, we make sure to spend time getting to know our teammates.
2. Put systems in place to collaborate.
Intranets create opportunities to interact. We have an internal site to post updates to the team. These posts are often to share articles relevant to the work we do, or updates about what is happening in the marketplace. The internal site it is also an opportunity to share as we would around the watercooler. We all shared pictures of our kids’ and our own Halloween costumes. I let the team know about a band concert I was performing in and another team member asked if we were interested in participating in a 5k with her. It’s a simple tool that allows us to all share and interact when we have the time in our day.
Instant messaging is another easy way to get quick questions answered or find out how the weekend went. It’s our way of having that quick “hallway” chat—regardless of where we’re located.
Weekly team calls keep you in touch. On our team calls we take a few minutes to check in on how people are doing or if there is anything interesting going on in their world. We also share success stories. These calls ensure that everyone has a view of what the team is working on and where we are making an impact.
Collaboration tools are critical to remote worker engagement. Whether it is a simple file sharing system, or a more elaborate resource that brings all the work together in an organized manner, these tools make it easy to get work done wherever you are. Having easy access to the information and tools employees need to do the work is critical to keeping them engaged.
3. Establish clear expectations of each team member.
Remote workers can’t be assessed based on when they showed up in the office or how much time they took for lunch. Performance must be assessed based on results. Setting clear expectations of what each team member needs to focus on and how that contributes to moving the mission forward is essential.
If you find that your remote team isn’t engaged or has a high rate of turnover, it likely means they don’t have the tools, resources and/or support to thrive. In which case I recommend grabbing a copy of Remote: Office Not Required. It’s a quick, easy-to-read book with a lot of useful and practical tips on engaging, managing, and retaining a strong remote workforce.
As for remote workers leaving, we have team members who have three, five and even 10 years of tenure with Resourceful HR. We’re proof that with some thought and care, you can make it work for your organization, too.
If you are looking for assistance in keeping your remote employees engaged, let’s talk. As part of our monthly HR Services, we can partner to create a plan with you based on what you want to accomplish and where the business is going. We do the research and share what works in other organizations—including our own—to save you the time of extensive trial and error.