The concept of employee engagement began in the 1990s and became more widespread in management practice in the 2000s. Research points to organizations with “high” employee engagement being able to outperform those with “low” employee engagement. This is because an “engaged employee” is more enthusiastic about their work and is more likely to give discretionary effort to get things done.
Despite several research studies being published on employee engagement over the years, many organizations have not been able to move the needle on engagement. This is because organizations struggle with what to measure and therefore quantifying the real effect of engagement on their bottom line. Without real numbers, few organizations have made employee engagement a primary strategic initiative. However, organizations such as Google and Apple that have embedded employee engagement in their culture have continued to outperform other organizations.
Over the last few months, the business reality for many organizations has shifted from a live office environment to a virtual office environment. This has made employee engagement a more difficult situation then it had been in the previous decades. Virtual employees can become easily distracted and disengaged. These employees may be doing the bare minimum and, in some cases, could even be sabotaging projects and/or the company’s reputation.
It is important to engage these remote employees and raise their productivity. But how? Here are three main areas that Dale Carnegie™ research has identified as being critical to engaging employees:
1) Satisfaction with Immediate Mangers. The relationship between the manager and employee has a tremendous impact on the employee’s satisfaction with their job. When employees are in a remote situation, they have less chance to develop that relationship and form a bond or loyalty to that manager. So, it is up to the manager to take every opportunity to support and nurture the relationship with their employees. This means understanding what motivates them, what they are proud of, how they like to be recognized, etc. Set aside a time for a weekly one-on-one meeting. Remember the old saying, “People leave their managers not their companies”.
2) Belief in Senior Leadership. Many organizations are siloed by departments and the C-suite is no exception. Organizations that want to engage their employees need to have Senior Leaders set the tone. Senior Leaders need to be transparent. They should have open lines of communication with the rest of the company. This could be done with virtual town halls to make sure remote employees hear what is being communicated. They could also take time to sit in on virtual team meetings or have an open “office hour” each week when employees are allowed to join them virtually for Q&A’s. These types of sessions help employees feel the leaders care and help the leaders know what is going on in their organization.
3) Pride in the Organization. Employees today want to know that they are making a difference. This could be because the organization is producing the “best in class” service/product, it could be because of the impact their product is having on their customers’ lives. It could be that your organization gives back through charity events such as food drives or digs clean water wells in Africa. Whatever your organization does (or is willing to do) make sure your virtual employees know that they have the opportunity to join in and contribute. Virtual employees work harder when they know they are making a positive impact on the work.
Your organization can “move the needle” on virtual employee engagement by focusing on what you can do to increase engagement in these three areas. When you do this, you will have more satisfied productive employees. And, you’ll see it in your bottom line!