Engaging Remote Teams in 2022

More than 19 million US workers have quit their jobs since April 2021 (source). There’s a myriad of reasons why, but one of the biggest is that the remote employee experience is bad. Workers consistently cite loneliness and isolation as the most difficult aspects of remote work. Most companies don’t invest enough in team culture, let alone remote team culture. So, in this article, we’ll focus on two ways People Leaders can create engaging, effective remote team cultures. 

Effective Onboarding

Creating an onboarding process that’s interactive and integrates new employees into the culture from Day 1 is arguably the most important step in fostering high employee engagement. First impressions are everything!

Below, you’ll find 3 ways you can transform your onboarding experience into one that creates trust and communication amongst your employees.

Provide new employees with a company culture handbook.

Culture handbooks are a great initial touchpoint for new employees because they clearly articulate what behaviors you’d like to encourage (and ones you want to discourage) - much like a style guide for designers. 

If it’s your first time making a culture handbook, keep it simple! Having something is dramatically better than nothing. Even a simple document explaining why your company exists, its values, and how your employees’ actions reflect those things will do just fine.

Break the ice with structured, celebratory events.

Bringing on new employees is no small undertaking: it takes, on average, 24 days and $4,000 dollars to hire and onboard a new employee (source). In other words, it’s a huge deal. Be sure to celebrate this very important milestone. 

Virtual icebreaker events are an excellent way to make introductions feel like a celebratory welcome, as opposed to an “all-business” function. Click the link below for some other employee engagement activities that focus on getting to know employees outside of their resume.

Check out: 3 Ways To Integrate New Remote Hires Into Your Team Culture

Place a strong emphasis on continued development.

Given how difficult hiring is, you’ll want to make every effort to retain the talent that you bring on. One of the ways to do that is by making personal growth a priority for new employees. Traditionally, companies set aside a learning and development budget for tools and resources that allow their employees to pursue new interests. However, if you’re unable to do that right now, no worries.

Instead, provide team members with opportunities to learn from one another. During those initial icebreaker events, make it a point for everyone to learn what each other’s personal goals and corresponding interests are. Then, schedule a series of casual lunch-and-learn sessions for your employees to have fun discussions about all the new things they’re learning! This works wonders for building up trust and communication between new and veteran employees.

Upgrade your team socials
Question Roulette is the best Zoom alternative for running icebreaker activities that delight

Collaborative Culture

As mentioned above, one of the benefits of a culture handbook is that it guides new employees on how to reflect the company's values in their own actions. Now, you have to provide opportunities for them to actually put it into practice. And what better place to start than with collaboration - a form of employee engagement that benefits everyone!

Large drops in employee engagement occur with employees who have minimal or no relationship with their coworkers (source). Encouraging, recognizing, and rewarding collaboration across the organization is a great way to counteract this. 

Encourage employees to seek out help.

Working on a difficult project is hard enough, but it’s even more difficult if a teammate doesn’t know who to ask when they inevitably need help. Most companies tend to have known subject matter experts across various teams but, in order to identify those people, encouraging regular relationship-building - related and unrelated to work - is necessary. 

Many people are constantly engaged in discovering and learning new things outside of their stated job. There are many insights and perspectives a team member could provide that would go completely unnoticed if the only thing that was known about them was which team they worked on. We previously mentioned lunch-and-learns as a great way for employees to discuss their personal interests, but they’re also a great opportunity for employees to get to know each other better and start building trust with one another, so that if they need help or to collaborate, they know who to go to.

Recognize collaboration actions - even ones not tied to company KPIs

Even more important than encouraging collaboration between team members is recognizing it. It’s important here to recognize all actions of collaboration, not just the ones that lead to some quantifiable success. 

For example, if two employees are having a conversation about baking in Slack, and one offers some useful tips and resources to the other, find a way to recognize it! It doesn’t have to be an elaborate announcement; a casual, organic acknowledgement in Slack or the Monday morning standup will do just fine.

This collaboration, of course, does nothing to directly advance your company’s goals (unless you’re a baking company!), but it does wonders for increasing trust and communication between your team members. And this will likely lead to much greater sustainable growth than with a team that isn’t as comfortable with one another.

Allow team members to reward each other for their collaborative efforts 

Finally, you’ll want to reward your employees for making the effort to collaborate and engage with one another. The traditional way of approaching rewards can be costly - things like bonuses, corporate retreats, pizza parties, etc. Of course, all of these things are great, but we’d argue that creativity speaks louder than cost.

If your company is on Slack, consider creating custom emojis for those engaged in collaboration. To continue with the baking example from above, take some time to outfit the Party Parrot emoji with a baker’s hat! Or simply make an emoji out of an image of the employee’s successfully baked cremè brûlée - these are silly, yes, but it speaks volumes to your team members that you would take time out of your day to show appreciation for even the smallest of actions.

While creativity trumps cost, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer some sort of cost-based solution. We’ve found Bonusly to be a great option for teams looking to build a strong culture, because it’s a service focused on value-based recognition. With Bonusly’s Company Value Hashtag feature, employees can send each other small amounts of points when they notice or are the recipient of a good deed. Attached to these small monetary rewards are a kind message and at least one hashtag denoting the company value(s) that deed reflects.

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