How to Increase Remote Employee Engagement
The remote workforce is on the rise.
Over half of hiring managers agree that telecommuting is growing for full-time employees—not just freelancers—and they expect that over a third of staff members will be remote within a decade.
The benefits of letting employees work outside of the main office are compelling. You can seek out better talent when you’re not limited by geography, and the flexibility of remote work is an alluring benefit for many employees. But it brings its challenges.
The difficulty of collaboration and communication is one of the top challenges remote employees cite in Buffer’s study of remote work (tied only with loneliness), and staying motivated doesn’t fall far behind it.
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This is on par with the research Poppulo’s Denise Cox shared in our webinar on working with remote employees. “We’ve polled communicators like yourselves. We asked if your remote workforce were less satisfied with internal communications than your HQ-based employees. We see the same thing, 83% said yes or don’t know.”
The benefits of offering remote work are big enough that it’s not going anywhere, so businesses need to figure out how to adapt and help employees stay engaged, no matter where they’re located.
3 Ways to Improve Remote Worker Engagement
In the webinar, Cox discussed a few good strategies internal communications (IC) professionals can take to increase engagement amongst employees that work outside of the office.
1. Use different content formats
Poppulo’s global survey confirmed what most people suspect: most internal communication happens over email. And most of the billions of emails sent each day are text-based. Employees are inundated with messages to their inbox that require time to read—time they often can’t afford, so they don’t even bother.
One way to stand out and get your remote employees to actually pay attention is changing up the content formats you use to communicate important information. As Cox shared in the webinar, Experian found success with this approach.
When they wanted to make sure employees paid attention to their annual people survey, they turned the information into an infographic. That was so successful, they started doing the same for other content they shared with their workforce, such as their quarterly reports.
Infographics are only one option though. Video is rich media that you can embed in your emails or share on your intranet. Podcasts allow your employees to multitask—they can fit listening in with the other tasks they need to get done.
By shaking things up and giving your remote employees multiple ways to engage with your messaging, you can get their attention and make sure they absorb the information you send.
2. Personalize your messages
The best way to get your remote employees to tune out is by sending information that’s not relevant. And when you do it once, you risk losing their interest in your future communication attempts. If they’re busy, why bother paying attention to messages that aren’t useful to them personally?
To keep your remote employees engaged, you need to make sure your communications with them always speak to their specific needs and interests.
“The right data lets you figure out who needs the communication and why they need it,” explains Cox. “A big engager is acknowledging the relationship and knowing who they are. That is what makes an employee feel like they’re really connected.”
The right technology can make this easier. Cox described the personalized employee email newsletter Surrey County Council sends. They have four departments and the email has four individual boxes that are dynamically filled in for each employee based on their position.
“It is one dynamically generated employee newsletter, created from one template, but each individual employee receives one that has their personalized banner,” says Cox.
When employees know that every message you send includes information relevant to them, they’ll consistently interact with the information you provide.
3. Make communications two way
A lot of employee communication is focused on finding the right ways to get your messaging out to employees. But sharing your message is only half of how effective communication works. The other half is listening. To understand your remote employees well enough to keep your messages relevant and useful, you have to find ways to hear back from them.
That can be especially challenging with employees that aren’t in the office with you, making a face-to-face meeting harder to accomplish. Challenging, but not impossible.
“Opening up two-way communication channels [with remote employees] is possible with the right technology,” Cox says. Barclays shared an article with employees about overused business jargon that included an open comments section they could submit to.
Having the opportunity to weigh in on a subject they had strong feelings about got employees interacting with the content the company shared.
They extended the cycle of communication by putting employee contributions in the company newsletter for everyone to see and interact with. It got employees throughout the company engaged and helped them all feel connected—no matter where they were working from.
Remote Shouldn’t Mean Disconnected
As the percentage of employees that work remotely inevitably grows, businesses have to put more effort into making sure all employees have the resources and opportunities they need to feel like an active and important part of the larger team.
Employee Communications has a role to play in helping remote workers stay engaged and connected to the rest of the business. It may require a little bit of creativity and experimentation (something good technology and analytics can help with), but you can keep your remote employees in the loop and make sure their experience with the company is as positive as everyone else’s.