The state of the economy has fluctuated rapidly over the last few years. With economic highs and lows sprinkled in just for a bit of a thrill ride. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to close their doors permanently, while many others transitioned to a fully remote operation. This included the workforce. Prior to the worldwide pandemic, only about 5% of the entire workforce was remote. Now, in the last quarter of 2022, that number is significantly higher. This has created a new dynamic for organizations and their leaders to understand and decipher moving forward. It’s long been known how valuable employee engagement and collaboration are to the overall success of an organization. However, prioritizing employee engagement and collaborative techniques looks a little different in the context of remote work.
There are many reasons that employee engagement is so valuable to an organization, but it leads to higher rates of employee retention, higher levels of daily productivity, and can also bolster employee loyalty. All of these benefits combine to make employee engagement a top priority for most organizations who want to remain relevant, competitive, and build a strong brand reputation.
“One of the biggest employee engagement trends in 2022 is the emphasis on flexible work arrangements: Remote work is here to stay. Whether your employees are in the office next door, or half a continent away, companies need to adapt, adjust, and accelerate to meet their needs. A Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow employees to do remote work at least part of the time after the pandemic, and 47% will enable employees to work from home full-time. In a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay for the long-term.”
– Nadia Ponomareva, Head of Recruitment, Horizons –
Culture is the Key
One of the largest factors that influences employee engagement is the company culture. Company culture has come into the limelight in a lot of ways over the past decade or so. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, company culture was already starting to hint at a shift toward prioritizing employee mental health, work-life-balance, and other holistic aspects of running and operating an organization in a way that is both productive, and healthy. Diversity, equity, and inclusion were also starting to gain a lot of traction in modern workplaces as the overall society is becoming slowly more and more progressive. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, company culture took center stage, and became a main priority for almost every organization that wants to remain relevant in the eyes of the modern day consumer.
“Company culture is hands-down a top three priority for most of the candidates that I interview. The only two things that typically fall above culture are compensation, and remote work flexibility. But even that is kind of a part of the company culture in and of itself.”
– Michael Fischer, Founder, Elite HRT –
There are many different elements that contribute to the overall company culture, but this has become a major point of focus for a huge number of organizational leaders, managers, and other influential figures. When people feel respected, valued, and like their work and time is important, it results in higher levels of motivation, a stronger work ethic, and more determination.
“If you don’t feel welcome at your place of work, you’re much less likely to feel engaged with your role, motivated by your responsibilities, or even appreciated for the work that you do. This highlights why a positive company culture that invests in the growth and development of its individuals is so effective and important.
– Juan Pablo Cappello, Co-Founder and CEO, Nue Life –
Facilitating Open Communication
In the largely remote work world that exists today, communication is more important than it ever has been before. Communication skills have always been integral to organizational and employee success, however, with so many professionals now working from home verbal and written communication skills are at a peak value. Establishing open, transparent, and honest communication channels between organizational leaders and the workers themselves is also crucial to creating a productive dynamic in which both parties feel comfortable keeping everyone in the loop.
“There are many skills that can be taught, especially those that are role-specific. Communication skills are ones that, typically, I want to see before making a hiring decision, though. It’s just so crucial to be a good communicator in the modern era of remote work.”
– Sam Sarullo, CMO, Daniel’s Jewelers –
Creating open communication channels is also a way to establish trust and accountability between the workforce and the managers/organizational leaders. When employees know that they’re trusted, it’s easier for them to take ownership over their roles and the functions involved. This in turn leads to higher rates of employee engagement and daily productivity overall.
“When there are open communication channels available, employees aren’t as worried to come to their teams, peers, or managers with questions, concerns, or improvement proposals. This is the goal, to get everyone on the same page but allow them to operate as individual cogs part of the whole.”
– Ryan Delk, CEO, Primer –
Providing the Right Collaboration Tools
A big part of creating a collaborative environment in today’s remote work and work from home environment is to provide your teams with the appropriate collaboration tools that they require to be sufficient, effective, and productive. There are a wide variety of collaboration and productivity tools that are available to enterprise organizations and businesses of all sizes. The right combination of collaboration and teamwork softwares can make your operations as smooth as butter.
“There are quite a few different platforms that can facilitate productivity and collaboration in a remote work setting. Slack has been popular with organizations for years to facilitate internal communications, and video conference softwares makes it super easy to attend a meeting from literally anywhere in the world. You just have to give your team the tools.”
– Chandler Rogers, CEO, Relay –
Collaborating through remote workspaces has already been happening in the professional world for many years. International business professionals, technical-professionals, and other veteran working professionals have been working and collaborating remotely for quite some time. Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a bulk of the professional working world has been exposed to the benefits of working from home, and it likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“It’s not hard to figure out how we can use technology to work remotely indefinitely into the future. Even in the office, client meetings would often be virtual or through a video-conference, so why not make internal team meetings virtual as well, and save everyone 4 hours a day in rush-hour commutes.”
– Lionel Mora, CEO, Neoplants –
The Value of Autonomy
Employee engagement can typically be directly tied to individual role-ownership. However, this requires autonomy. Individual role ownership is when employees buy into the organization and really take accountability and ownership for their roles and responsibilities in that context. With a remote workforce, it’s much easier to allot employees the amount of autonomy needed in order to actually facilitate individual productivity and employee engagement.
“I’ve been managing teams for quite a few years and I have to say that the remote workforce does seem to take more accountability for their work, and I think that could have something to do with how much more autonomy they have now.”
– Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce, La Blanca –
Autonomy is also the opposite of micromanagement which is one of the top deterrents to employee engagement and motivation. Micromanagement practices make employees feel unvalued, unappreciated, and unintelligent. It can lead to frustration, disengagement, and higher rates of employee turnover. By giving employees a certain balance of autonomy, managers can effectively promote individual accountability and productivity.
“Everyone works a little bit differently, but adults don’t want to be treated like children. When you’re being micromanaged, it very much feels like you’re a 16 year old with a babysitter. It is one of the highest contributions to turnover that companies see.”
– Dr. Michael Green, Chief Medical Officer, Winona –
Team Building in the Remote Work World
With the remote work world in full swing, many organizational leaders and managers are also looking for new and creative ways to facilitate team building amongst remote workers. There are a wide variety of fun and creative ways that teams can bond even in a remote environment.
“We like to host a virtual happy hour event every month. It’s typically on the last Thursday of the month, and is just a good way for teams to get together, get to know each other, and blow off some steam.”
– Ryan Azimi, Director of International Development, ETIAS –
Virtual happy hours, while very popular, aren’t the only option to create team building in the remote work environment. Some organizations have even explored dungeons and dragons as a team building activity that is fun, creative, and bonding.
“I’ve heard of some pretty interesting team building activities, but one of my favorites so far is the virtual game night. I think it’s just a good way to get everyone involved while having fun.”
– Justin Olson, Chief Marketing Officer, Fast Pace Health–
A few Final Thoughts
Optimizing employee productivity and collaboration is hugely important for the modern organization that is trying to stay relevant with consumers and the swiftly changing workforce, alike. Try implementing the tips above into your management style, and see if your employees don’t start to report a higher level of engagement.
“Fostering collaboration among your team members helps employees see how their individual efforts impact team success and business outcomes. Employees who work closely with the people counting on them to meet that deadline or come up with a standout idea are more likely to go the extra mile, putting more discretionary effort into their work to make the team proud.”
– Ashley Bell, Author, SnackNation –
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