Good practices for keeping your remote employees engaged

At a time when companies are going through the unprecedented events caused by the health crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, all sorts of questions are being asked about the best way to cope with the most urgent problems in order to maintain business continuity and prepare for the future. These unusual circumstances led the Inside Success Lab, the first think tank dedicated to business transformation, to hold its first remote meeting via Zoom video conferencing software. We learned a great deal during the meeting, and here we want to share it with you to help you keep your teams engaged and maintain business continuity.

Members attending the session mainly discussed the following issues: How can we stay in permanent contact with remote teams? How can we motivate and manage employees and partners remotely, both of whom are absolutely key to maintaining business continuity and transformation programs? What constitutes good practice and where are the pitfalls? Which business continuity KPIs should be introduced?

State of play and current challenges

1- Think of new types of engagement to ensure successful remote management

With business slowing down, the problem that came up the most was that managers and departments were unable to see how engaged the staff were and how well they understood the company’s newly updated objectives.

The challenge therefore is to think of new ways of steering, managing and engaging employees with the aim of achieving the following goals:

  • Succeed in uniting teams that find themselves in very different situations: teams working on missions vs teams working from home vs furloughed teams
  • Manage the teams: maintain team spirit, maintain a sense of engagement, when some employees are having to deal with issues like isolation or difficult personal situations
  • Maintain motivation and staff moral remotely
  • Keep in touch with everyone involved: teams, partners, consultants, clients
  • Reassure employees concerning the company’s situation
  • Keep track of workload schedules, engagement, reverse planning
  • Keep sales teams occupied if their work has slowed down significantly
  • Keep on top of HR information
  • Achieve a satisfactory work/life balance
  • Manage psychosocial risks
  • Continue HR recruitment and onboarding activities

2- Ensure all teams achieve digital transformation so as to maintain engagement and prepare for the future

There are currently two types of company: those that have already bitten the bullet and moved to digitization, and those where transition has yet to take place. But whatever a company’s level of digital maturity, many are having to rethink the way they are organized in order to allow fully remote operation. A fair number of businesses weren’t ready to switch all their teams to remote working, for a number of reasons: their type of business didn’t allow it, lack of technical equipment, lack of software, etc.

But in the current situation, they no longer have any option: digital transformation must take place at speed, and this brings its own challenges:

  • Ensuring all staff have the tools they need to work from home (stable Internet connection, collaborative tools, computer, telephone, dual screen, etc.)
  • Providing manual workers who previously did not have access to computers with the equipment and skills they need
  • Reconciling the different populations of “two-speed” companies, where office work was fully computerized but employees working in the field did not use digital tools
  • Giving staff information about the tools and how to use them
  • Communicating with staff about what the company is doing, short- and medium-term visions, new objectives
  • Managing employees working from home
  • Setting new remote-working rules to ensure uniform engagement
  • Supporting managers as they introduce their teams to working remotely
  • Engaging external workers in remote teamwork

Best practice

1- Introduce new management methods

Whether it’s an ongoing project or a new one, successful virtual coordination demands a continuous, stricter, more regular management routine, if it is to maintain staff engagement remotely.

Such situations increase management workload, so it’s a good idea to both introduce regular team rituals and speed up the launch of remote project management methods, so that digital tools can go on being a time-saving factor for managers:

  • Introduce regular team meetings so that everyone can understand and move forwards: daily morning meetings for the whole team (15 minutes), project meetings, going for One-to-Ones wherever possible, more frequent, but shorter, meetings
  • Organize opportunities to relax and socialize: breakfasts, tea breaks, coffee breaks and virtual afterworks
  • Vary times of meetings
  • Add a video link to meetings to allow more direct contact
  • Have 5 minute breaks between meetings (as though people were moving from one conference room to another)
  • Take time to address the human aspect too, so that it’s not all about objectives and productivity but overcoming anxieties and dealing with people’s personal and family situations
  • Accept that workloads may have to be reduced according to an employee’s childcare/family responsibilities
  • Channel initiatives for learning to use the new tools: try not to have too many different tools or communication channels
  • Train teams to use tools in a collaborative, aligned manner (Whatsapp, Link, Teams, Trello)
  • Remind everyone how the software works at the beginning of any webinar or video-conference (Zoom, Hangout, Skype)
  • Teach managers how to manage and motivate their teams remotely
  • Regularly share messages from the management team – positive communications, good practice, etc.
  • Let teams with a reduced workload get on with key tasks (accelerate a CRM project with sales teams for example and make the most of this time to ensure successful adoption of related practices and processes)

2- Empower teams

The total, abrupt reorganization of their work has raised numerous questions and problems, both personal and professional, that can be factors of disengagement for employees. So it’s important to find ways of reassuring them, dispelling their doubts, and continuing to manage and motivate them all in a personal, uninterrupted manner. Individual engagement is partly based on individual and team empowerment. Here are some of the best practices discussed:

  • Trust your teams
  • Set up a reporting mechanism that will help to assess each team’s work capacity
  • Ask employees to volunteer their services to support the company’s key functions – this promotes both individual autonomy and team solidarity
  • Set team objectives so that progress of work can be monitored by everyone during this time
  • Teach teams to assess their own performance
  • Keep everyone connected by letting people know about team success stories
  • Use challenges to motivate teams

3- Adjust business KPIs

Some teams have decided to keep the same objectives and KPIs in order to show that their teams can keep on doing their jobs whether in the office or from home. But for others, the only option has been to adjust to the crisis, and here the KPIs must be adjusted if they are to keep employees working and engaged with respect to company goals.

  • Define indicators for business continuity
  • Review objectives for both teams and individuals
  • Introduce collective KPIs promoting employee empowerment and autonomy
  • Measure and analyze business during this time so as to understand the impact of the crisis and prepare for recovery
  • Prepare objectives for resumption of business

4- Anticipate under what conditions business might resume and prepare for the future

To prepare for the future, companies need to anticipate the conditions under which business might resume and accelerate their digital transformation. The current feeling of urgency offers a unique opportunity to both accelerate adoption of the tools needed to keep business going now and create a strong core that will strengthen a managerial attitude that has been subject to severe criticism in recent years. Strong management, that puts itself in the front line to help its teams, can be a powerful engagement driver and strengthen collaboration between teams.

Whatever the case may be, here are the three types of KPI to prioritize when preparing for recovery:

  • Quality and performance
  • Collaboration, which will help to create tomorrow’s strong core
  • Skills, which are needed to prepare for the future

And three kinds of objective to measure in order to monitor employee engagement:

  • Personal expression levels
  • Training rates
  • KPI consultation levels