Almost overnight, colleagues who saw each other every day became members of completely remote workforces. As we all settle into this indefinite period of social distancing, remote employee engagement activities are more important than ever — but many people remain skeptical about how effectively culture and community at work can be translated virtually.
This article is for the skeptics (if you’re already convinced that remote employee engagement activities work, skip to the last section for resources on specific virtual team building activities and best practices we recommend leaders keep in mind). In this article, we’ll make the argument for why remote employee engagement activities are, in fact, engaging by first sharing drivers of employee engagement and then considering how they manifest when a company goes remote.
What drives employee engagement?
To understand why remote employee engagement activities work, we need to understand exactly what employee engagement is and what drives it. When we talk about employee engagement, we’re referring to the quality of an employee’s relationship to their work, their colleagues, and their company. Engaged employees are invested in their roles. Beyond that, engaged employees are genuinely enthusiastic to be in them.
Organizational leaders have been researching and discussing employee engagement for going on three decades, and according to SHRM, two major categories have emerged as key drivers: organizational factors, and managerial factors.
Organizational factors are the way a company operates at a high-level, and the decisions and leadership style of senior executives. Managerial factors, on the other hand, are more related to the nature of the relationship between an employee and their direct manager.
Here’s what SHRM identifies as the primary drivers within each category. Keep these in mind while you read, as they are key to understanding why remote employee engagement activities work.
Organizational Drivers of Employee Engagement
- The leaders of their organization are committed to making it a great place to workTrust in the leaders of the organization to set the right course
- Belief that the organization will be successful in the future.
- Understanding how one fits into the organization’s future plans.
- The leaders of the organization value people as their most important resource.
- The organization makes investments to make employees more successful.
Managerial Drivers of Employee Engagement
- Employees enjoy a good relationship with their supervisor.
- Employees have the necessary equipment to do the job well.
- Employees have authority necessary to accomplish their job well.
- Employees have freedom to make work decisions.
- SHRM also cites the Gallup Q12 as key known drivers of employee engagement. Twelve core elements make up the Gallup Q12; they are broadly related to the level of give and take between the employee and their company, perceived potential for professional growth, and organizational fit.
Speaking generally, all of these points converge around three major themes: personal impact, trust in leadership, and quality interpersonal relationships. The reason that remote employee engagement activities actually work is because all three of these things can be supported relatively well in the virtual sphere. We’ll explain further in the following section.
Why Remote Employee Engagement Activities Work
Knowing that personal impact, trust in leadership, and quality interpersonal relationships are the most influential factors in determining the level of employee engagement within a workplace (virtual or not), we can better see how remote employee engagement activities support the things that matter most. Let’s explore.
Several drivers of employee engagement are related to perceived personal impact, including those that mention doing one’s job well and understanding how an employee fits into the organization’s future plans. When it comes to emphasizing personal impact, leaders should aim to first enable it, then acknowledge it through remote employee engagement activities.
Enabling personal impact means making sure employees have the equipment, knowledge, and autonomy they require to do their jobs well. In the current situation, that might look like a stipend to support comfortable home offices, or educational resources about how to do certain parts of the job remotely on short notice.
When your employees are adequately enabled to shine in their roles, they will, and when they do, it’s important that you acknowledge them for outstanding performance. The best way to show remote employees that their contributions matter is through a public company recognition feed. This makes it easy for colleagues to send each other notes of appreciation and redeemable points to celebrate a job well done. When employees are recognized regularly, they internalize the message that they’re doing their jobs well, which naturally breeds higher engagement.
Trust in Leadership
The second major theme extracted from SHRM’s list of drivers of employee engagement is a healthy level of trust in leadership. Employees are highly engaged when they trust the leaders of the organization to set the right course and believe that the organization will be successful in the future.
Remote employee engagement activities that promote company-wide transparency are great for building trust. These aren’t necessarily the things that come to mind when most people think of employee engagement activities, but they’re a critical sub-group within the broader category that should not be overlooked. Examples of remote employee engagement activities that build trust in leadership include recurring company all-hands meetings and regular communication via digital channels about the state of the company and leadership’s plans for what’s ahead.
Make sure that every employee is aware of your company’s most major objectives and has a decent idea of the roadmap planned to get there (as well as the role they play in it). Especially during this turbulent time, employees are starving for any indication of what lies ahead. The more diligent and intentional your leadership team is about communicating, the more engaged your employees will be.
Quality Interpersonal Relationships
Finally, employees who enjoy a good relationship with their supervisor and believe the leaders of the organization value people as their most important resource also show high levels of engagement. This makes it clear that interpersonal relationships play a major role in determining engagement. This is where more light-hearted remote employee engagement activities like virtual game nights or video happy hours have the chance to make their mark.
Fun as they are, these kinds of initiatives make a very serious impact by allowing colleagues to connect with one another over topics that have nothing to do with work. Not only is this refreshing, it’s a chance for peers to form meaningful connections through shared experiences that will translate into stronger working relationships. Especially because feelings of isolation run so high amid our strange new socially distanced world, using remote engagement activities to keep your employees connected is highly recommended for both engagement and morale.
Where to Go From Here
By intentionally designing remote employee engagement activities that support the key drivers of employee engagement, you can ensure that your company’s approach actually delivers results.
Next, it’s time to get serious about implementing a strategy at your own organization. Start with this article for specific team building activity ideas, and don’t skip over this one to learn best practices to make your ideas most effective. By supporting and acknowledging employees’ personal impact, intentionally building trust in leadership, and fostering quality interpersonal relationships, you’ll be able to use remote employee engagement activities to keep your people supported and your culture thriving throughout this difficult time.
Katerina Mery is a Marketing Specialist at Fond with a background in cognitive psychology and a passion for improving the way people live and work. She especially enjoys learning about how to accomplish this through rewards and recognition. In her spare time, you can find Katerina running outside, admiring art, and exploring the latest and greatest local restaurants.