Home-Working The New Normal – How to Engage Remote Employees
Coronavirus and the subsequent international lock-down has radically changed the working world. In just a month we have moved from a mostly office-based economy to a home-working one, and employers are now faced with the challenge of managing a remote work-force.
This rapid change in circumstances is potentially overwhelming, but the good news is that industry is well-prepared for the home-working revolution. There are an abundance of resources and technologies available to help smooth this transition.
So, where do we start?
Maintaining productivity and service levels will be the primary concern during these times, especially since many businesses will be supplying critical services to society.
Companies like Adobe and Google have developed excellent performance management systems that work effectively across their globally distributed teams, making them an ideal model to follow.
Years ago, these innovative companies ditched their annual appraisal in favour of a more frequent, lighter touch check-in process that has proved better suited to remote teams. These performance check-ins occurred at regular intervals, (weekly, monthly, quarterly), and involved assigning and reviewing performance against specific behavioural and productivity goals.
This regular contact is perfect for motivating, engaging and focussing home-based employees who, even at the best of times, can feel abandoned and isolated.
Adobe provide a really easy to use check-in kit here, which you can follow. The below excerpt from Adobe’s check-in manual shows just how easy it is to use. The manual includes detailed documents explaining how to do each of the three check-in steps: Expectations, Feedback and Development. You could repurpose this and have this up and running in your organization in just a few days.
[Excerpt below from Adobe Check-in Manual]
Managers set clear expectations around deliverables, contributions, and behaviour to help employees achieve their business and personal goals.
Managers and employees give each other ongoing, constructive feedback. Employees see how they’re progressing against the expectations, and managers find out if they should be doing anything differently to better support their employees.
Employees drive their own growth by creating actionable career development goals around learning and experience.”
Frequent performance check-ins come with additional management overhead, which is why organisations should invest in a cloud-based employee evaluation tool. These tools are quick and easy to set-up, automating most of the manual labour of frequent check-ins.
Best-of-breed systems are lightening quick to configure, (thanks to inbuilt libraries of goals and appraisal questions and appraisal templates), and will automatically notify and chase staff and managers to submit their evaluations.
Trust, along with a focus on results, is vital to engage and motivate workers
Micro-management is a bad idea at the best of times, but is completely unsustainable when managing a whole organization/team of home-workers.
To truly engage and motivate home-based workers, you’ll need to focus more on results, (rather than activity), and give them the freedom and autonomy to get the work done how and when they want. (This is especially important in this extraordinary lock-down environment.)
Anecdotal research from remote.co who interviewed several CEOs of leading organizations who had been exclusively remote for many years, yielded some useful insights.
GitHub (Now owned by Microsoft) “We give people as much autonomy as possible about how and when they work – what matters is results”
Flexjobs “We are result-oriented as a necessity. As long as the editor completes the work in an appropriate manner and meets the deadline, we don’t interfere with their process”
Scribendi “We give our remote workers a lot of freedom.”
Toggl“We have a result-oriented culture and everyone’s productivity is measured by their results. It works perfectly as we put a lot of trust into our co-workers.”
Pulse Surveys to Boost Engagement
In this new rapidly changing home-working working environment, the traditional, once-yearly employee engagement survey is not fit-for-purpose as it will leave you dangerously out of touch with employee sentiment. The Pulse or Sentiment survey, (provided by the likes of Qualtrics, Culture Amp and Hive), is a more frequent analysis that measures the ongoing mood of your teams, allowing you to react to problems as they happen. Listening to and addressing employee concerns as they occur will help to boost engagement at this difficult time.
Social Media Communication Tools
There are a list of social media tools out there to boost engagement with staff. Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom and Houseparty all allow you to quickly and easily set up affordable or free video conferences. You can set up a regular video conferencing programme composed of team meetings, town hall meetings, lunch-time hangouts, online games, (it doesn’t all have to be serious!) and so on.
This sudden move to home-working has created massive challenges for business. However, the resources do exist to enable a quick and successful transition to the new world of home-working.
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