Even though remote working is becoming a way of life for many businesses and workers, remote worker engagement strategies are still in their earliest more functional stages. It seems that many employers are still geared toward a co-located model with the remote workforce as an afterthought.
We, of course, know this has led to problems of employee engagement in the remote workforce versus the co-located workforce; just ask Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, where poor engagement levels of remote workers led them to shut down the entire scheme. We also know there may be productivity issues as shown by a survey by Citrix. The survey revealed that 43 percent of surveyed homeworkers were watching TV or a movie when they were meant to be working; 24 percent were drinking alcohol; and 20 percent were playing video games.
However, the time is now approaching where employers should be begin developing a proactive and not reactive strategy to engage with the remote workforce to get the most out of them – and below I have outlined some tips on how to do this.
It’s no longer good enough to have the odd, monthly conference call with the remote workers who can sit at home listening on their phone becoming more envious as they hear the raucous background laughter and vibe of the main office. This kind of communication process is geared towards co-located workers and can further alienate remote workers.
It’s time to start operating a more hybrid model of communication where the HR engagement processes are designed to engage effectively with employees whether they are remote or co-located. It’s about developing an engagement process that recognizes the unavoidable difference between the two populations, but more importantly, begins to communicate with the remote/office based hybrid workforce as one.
Now, while I don’t expect the typical employer to be doing this, look at the following example of a next generation, hybrid business events (as they are known), which are designed to engage and communicate with the on-site and remote workforce as a whole. The event was delivered by Cisco, and it was their Cisco Global Sales Experience; a global sales meeting of 17,000 people that took place over three days. The event had many physical locations, but 75 percent of the audience attended via remote viewing location (watching a live broadcast of the event); 20 percent virtually; and 5 percent were actually in the audience in the main broadcast locations.
They had social tools to aid: peer networking, interaction, comments, feedback and voting. Remote or on-site employees could interact with the audience and communicate with the decision makers who could react back. They had a unique gamification element where attendees gained points and badges for social achievements at the event, e.g. interactions, new connections, comments, votes, etc.(a little bit like LinkedIn ‘Influencer of the week’).
Now, let’s stop here. I accept that this is a mind-blowing, next generation, hybrid event engaging remote and office-based workers, which is a world away from where you are now. I accept that, I really do. But, the idea that employers with virtual and onsite hybrid workforces should build a specific engagement strategy to bring remote workers into the fold is totally sound.
A CBS News article gives some more modest examples of what modern firms are starting to do to engage their remote teams. For example, Budget Rent-a-Car has a ‘happiest remote employee of the month award’; KMPG has a guess the Oscars winner for a prize. The article also explained how online games, competitions and social spaces were other great ways to engage with a hybrid remote/office-based workforce. These are all achievable now. I also think that, where possible, try to use online voting systems for key decisions so remote and office-based workers can have an equal say and can both have a voice.
As you can see, the remote and office-based hybrid workforce is a reality in many businesses today, and I believe now is the time that organizations should be developing a HR engagement strategy that connects with this hybrid remote/office-based workforce as one – in order to build greater cohesion and team unity.