8 foolproof employee engagement ideas for your remote team

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team | Illustrated by: Raff Labrie
Published on August 13, 2020 | Reading time: 10m

Employee engagement is a term used to describe an employee’s sense of connection and commitment to their team, role, and organization. It represents the difference between having employees who go the extra mile for your company and customers, compared to those who simply show up for their paycheck.

The best managers out there know that to get the most hard work out of their employees, they need to find ways to keep them actively engaged. This is especially true during challenging times and as we face new realities like our collective shift to remote work.

Understanding the basics of employee engagement

When a remote employee feels actively engaged, they’re more likely to be energized by their work, motivating to those around them and willing to tackle difficult problems. They will look for ways to be an ambassador to their company, both with colleagues and customers, and help drive their organization forward. 

When an employee is disengaged, they may show up to work each day only to clock in, clock out, and do the bare minimum required. This kind of attitude is not only harmful to the health of their work, but can spill over and sour the mood of their most engaged colleagues. 

The three of the most essential drivers of employee engagement are:

A sense of purpose and connection to one’s day-to-day work

The opportunity to learn continuously and grow in one’s role

Meaningful relationships with one’s manager and colleagues

With these drivers in mind, here are 6 employee engagement ideas to try out with your remote workers today.

8 employee engagement ideas for your team

1. Prioritize (virtual) team connection and relationship-building 

The best managers know that modern workers want more than just a paycheck. They want meaningful connections, to both their work and the people they work with. Especially when the physical barrier of remote work gets in the way of team building, managers need to get more deliberate about ensuring that workplace connections stay strong. 

One of the biggest keys to combating isolation and increasing engagement is obvious but often overlooked: having close relationships at work.

Gallup

Intentionally prioritizing time to boost team relationships will help your employees build trust, feel connected to something larger than their individual tasks, and collaborate more successfully with their colleagues

Try this: Schedule recurring Monday morning team check-ins for everyone to share the highlight of their weekends! Or, consider holding an hour every week and designating a different employee to lead some kind of virtual experience for your team, like virtual team trivia with tools like Kahoot.

2. Allow your employees autonomy in their work 

By giving your team autonomy in their work, you let them know that you trust them enough not to check in at every chance you get and that you feel confident in their skills and abilities. However, nothing kills your employee engagement and motivation quicker than micromanagement. Afterall, modern workers want a coach to help them develop, not a boss to tell them what to do.

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

Steve Jobs

Try this: Let your employees take the lead on projects that come down the funnel. If they have questions along the way, don’t give them the answers, instead, guide them with questions that make them think. That’s what a true coach does.

Coaching-based question examples that drive autonomy and mastery:

BOSS-DRIVEN MICROMANAGEMENT

  • This is what you need to do to overcome these challenges and finish the project.
  • From my experience and expertise, I think this is the best way to do it.
  • This mistake tells me that you are not ready to take on another project. Here’s what you did wrong.

COACHING-BASED DEVELOPMENT

  • What would you need in order to remove your roadblocks?
  • What are different options you can think about to move this project along?
  • What learnings can you take away from this to avoid the same mistake next time? What will you do differently?

While giving employees the answers and doing the work yourself might be quicker in the short term, coaching your team and giving them autonomy will help improve your team’s overall engagement levels and save you time in the long run as they build their expertise.

3. Encourage learning and development on the daily with feedback 

Modern employees need a company culture where they feel like they’re constantly growing and getting better at what they do. They also need support from their managers to feel comfortable carving out time in their day to learn. According to the 2020 LinkedIn Workplace Learning report, 36% of millennials would spend more time learning if it was recognized by their manager. 

By encouraging employees to keep growing and developing, you let them know that their career trajectory matters to you and that you believe in them. But during this shift to remote work, when companies need to likewise focus on implementing new processes, reaching objectives and ensuring everyone is aligned, employee development risks falling through the cracks. 

One way for managers to support employee development on a daily basis is by offering feedback. This can be feedback that prompts them to try something differently, or feedback that validates and recognizes their performance. Employees crave feedback because ultimately it gives them the chance to grow, yet according to what employees tell their managers in our Offievibe pulse surveys 28% of employees report that feedback is not frequent enough to help them understand how to improve!

Read this: This feedback guide will equip you with all the tools you need to make feedback a regular part of your management practice, even from afar!

4. Make employee goals strengths-based and meaningful

People enjoy doing and excelling in what they are best at. Before setting goals with each employee, first invite them to reflect on their strengths and how they want to apply them within the team and the business. With a better understanding of their strengths, you can identify any skill gaps they may have and work towards setting goals that truly drive them! It is not only engaging, but makes work fun and full of purpose. We know this can be tough, so we developed a guided goal-setting tool for managers to set proper goals, based on employee strengths and motivations. 

Get our free, collaborative goal-setting guide to set your employee on the right path.

Setting Meaningful Goals that Stick

Ask strengths-based questions such as:

  • When do you feel the most motivated at work?
  • What feedback have you received from other people on your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What can you do right now to further develop skills that would be useful in reaching your goals?
Screenshot of the Goal setting in the Officevibe app

To set proper goals remotely, it takes more than a conversation. Managers need structure, a place to record goals, and a process to track progress properly. Learn how Officevibe can help.

5. Prioritize your team’s (and your own) wellbeing 

What teams around the world are telling their managers through Officevibe is that 47% of employees feel overwhelmed at work right now. As things change in the workforce and the pressure to perform is a fire under all managers’ you know what, remember to be mindful of the consequences of pushing employees too far. 

According to McKinsey, employees who feel their organizations are responding well to the Covid-19 pandemic and prioritizing employee health and safety are “four times more engaged and six times times more likely to report a positive state of well-being.” 

What can you do?

We wrote an article on how to tackle employee stress and burnout during remote work that you might find helpful for more tips!

6. Promote a psychologically safe and inclusive culture

Employees need to feel a sense of psychological safety within their team in order to comfortably express what’s on their minds, get through conflict, and be themselves. Psychologically safe teams “trust each other to experiment without judgement, voice opinions without being shamed, and fail without being labelled a failure.” 

What are the positive effects of building psychologically safe and inclusive team cultures? 

the positive effects of building psychologically safe

Here are two tips we recommend to foster team psychological safety:

  1. Embrace mistakes: Instead of creating a culture of fear where mistakes = blame, encourage a culture of learning where employees are encouraged to think outside the box and test things, then share their learnings. This “permission” to try and fail is motivating, engaging, and makes work fun and educational all at once.
  2. Normalize difficult conversations: Make raising flags, being radically candid and having tough talks a valued part of your team’s day-to-day. Encourage employees to enter into these conversations as collaborators looking for a solution together. 

To help you understand how psychologically safe your team is feeling, you can solicit feedback from your team through Officevibe’s Anonymous Survey Tool

7. Solicit employee feedback on a continuous basis 

Your number one job as a manager is to create a positive and engaging working environment for your team. One of the best ways to figure out where you need to improve is to ask them for feedback. Everything from how they feel about the frequency of recognition they get from you, to whether they understand the team objectives, to if they feel comfortable in their work environment. 

Consider employee feedback an ‘X marks the spot’ for where you need to take action as a leader. The most precious treasure a leader can uncover is their team’s honest feelings and needs. 

Collecting this kind of data is even more important now that we’ve shifted to remote work. People are adapting to change and it’s hard to gauge how everyone is doing without the face-to-face interacitons. 

Screenshot of the overall engagement score screen in the Officevibe app

Officevibe’s engagement survey can help, and it’s free. Join our community of 50K managers worldwide who choose Officevibe to keep employees engaged and performing on a continuous basis. Sign up for free!

It played a huge role in transitioning [to remote work], especially in terms of flexibility. We were able to really adapt, case-by-case, to every employee’s needs using Officevibe metrics along with the Feedback they gave us in the platform.

Kristin Heckersbruch, Culture and People Manager at Nolk

By focusing your energy on improving employee engagement, you’ll experience higher employee satisfaction, higher retention within your team, and increased productivity, which are all things that you hope for as a manager! 

Tip: Let them know why you are doing this, and that it’s safe to share their opinion in this survey. You can share the results with your team once they come in, and start working together on engagement initiatives.

8. Ensure everyone is clear on what’s expected of them, and why 

Do your employees know what is expected of them? Are their roles and objectives clear? Do they understand how their individual work connects to the larger objectives of the business? 

 A manager who does not properly communicate and align their employees around expectations is like a teacher who assigns a test without telling students what to study. It’s nerve-wracking, and it sets people up to fail, which is a catalyst to disengagement. 

Employees need the big picture to feel a sense of purpose and they need to understand clearly what their manager expects of them to contribute to this larger vision. 

Managers need to communicate:

  1. The company vision and objectives 
  2. The team objectives and how they impact the company goal
  3. How each individual employee is expected to contribute to reaching this goal

Tip: Use your 1-on-1 meetings to ensure employees have total clarity. Take time to go over their goal progress and what you expect of them, and give them space to ask questions to ensure total alignment.

How do you improve employee engagement on your team? Feel free to share in the comments below!