When Marissa Mayer took over as CEO of Yahoo!, one of her first moves was herding remote employees back into the office. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important,” the company said. “We need to be working side by side.”
Can collaboration work if employees aren’t in the same place at the same time? The challenge is engaging remote employees. So, how do you connect with employees you don’t see every day and unify a scattered workforce?
We compiled five of our favorite tips to engage remote employees and connect with your team.
1. Start Early. Remote employees often don’t experience your workplace culture. Engage them early by making workplace culture part of their training. Create brief videos about your culture. Film short interviews of your leaders describing your company. Or send out a survey asking current employees what they think new hires should know.
It’s never too late to start. If you notice a disconnect within your remote workforce, use these methods to catch them up on your company’s culture.
2. Give Them a Platform. Many of your employees may never meet in person. It’s important to create situations that allow them to connect. As part of HP’s 2013 wellness campaign, the Power of Prevention, a platform was created to unite their global workforce. Called “Stories of Hope,” the platform allowed employees all over the world to connect, share experiences, and support each other.
If your company doesn’t have a unifying initiative, such as a wellness program, try software that creates a daily forum. Chatter and SharePoint are great workplace programs that allow employees to bridge the gap and collaborate in real-time.
3. Get Personal. They may seem small, but those pockets of in-office downtime—chitchatting before a meeting, reminiscing about the weekend while the coffee brews—are valuable for forging personal relationships. Without them, leaders may struggle to find time to connect with employees individually.
Make getting to know your remote employees a priority. Try setting a weekly reminder to send a friendly email to your telecommuters. Or set aside a few minutes of each phone call to chat about life outside of work. Even a handwritten note sent to your employees’ homes shows initiative to connect on a personal level.
4. Balance Your Efforts. Make sure that your engagement efforts are balanced between in-office employees and remote employees. If you recognize your office with a desk drop item, translate that effort by sending a direct mail piece to your remote employees. Instead of in-office presentations, hold webcasts to let your remote employees participate.
Don’t forget to balance your perks, too. If you take your team to lunch to celebrate a team accomplishment, extend the camaraderie by sending remote employees a gift card to a restaurant in their area. If you thank your team with doughnuts and coffee for pulling an all-nighter, remember your remote employees with a sincere email or care package of coffee packets.
5. Face ‘Em. There’s no better way to connect with employees than by looking them in the eye. So don’t let your remote employees just be voices on the phone. If they’re not in the office, make your employees “virtually present” by conducting meetings using Skype, WebX, or FaceTime. The rest of your team will be able to put a name to a face, and seeing the team together fosters community.
Thanks to innovation, working remotely has become a solution for many. Collaboration and communication don’t need to suffer because your workforce is scattered all over the state—or the world. The key to success is keeping your employees engaged—whenever, wherever.