By Philip Turner, freelance writer.
How do you engage with employees who rarely come into the office? How do you maintain the company culture of communication you worked so hard to establish?
Remote working is here to stay, so we all need to adapt and adopt new engagement strategies.
Video conferencing is one of the best ways to maintain relationships between employees and their managers. It’s far from perfect, but infinitely better than email or phone calls because you get facial expressions, and body language in addition to the spoken words.
Zoom meetings improve teamwork, reduce employee isolation and provide improved communication channels between senior managers and employees.
One of the biggest issues is having to look at the camera instead of the person you are talking with, but the fix for this is simple – Your webcam is at the top of your screen, so move the image of the person you are meeting up to the top of your screen near your webcam.
Live chat is traditionally seen as a sales or customer service tool. However, it can serve as an HR or team tool.
If your HR department uses Live Chat, employees no longer have frustrating waits to speak to someone. Your workplace is quieter, and it is easier for HR personnel to handle queries if they are working from home because household sounds from crying babies to toilets flushing are not heard. You also have an automatic record of any conversation.
There are many live chat systems to choose from and which to choose depends on what you need. Features to consider include the number of agents a system supports, the platforms you need it to integrate with, and costs.
Some Live chat software includes automation features like chat-bots, these will not be something you need because you are looking to improve engagement, not encourage people to talk with robots.
Forums are not as passé as you might think. Facebook groups are fine for social interactions, but a more formal platform is better for engagement between managers and employees in your business.
You can set up a forum without paying a cent using phpBB, or there are multiple other free and paid forum applications to choose from. The premium options have more attractive interfaces and more options regarding fonts and font sizes.
You can install a forum script on a subdomain of your main site, e.g. www.employeeforum.yourcompany.com in less than 60 seconds. Setting security, permissions, and privacy options will take a bit longer.
Once you have set up your employees on the forum, it’s just a case of assigning someone to have overall responsibility for updates. Discussion threads are usually visible to all employees, but you can limit the people who can see and contribute to them for sensitive issues.
Employee Engagement Is a 2-Way Street
Managers need systems to communicate effectively with remote employees, but it works both ways. Employees also need channels to discuss problems with managers. If communications break down, employees will vote with their feet and will find other jobs,
When you listen to employees, their motivation and productivity increase, your employee retention rate improves, and your recruitment costs are reduced.
Yes, engaging with employees requires managers to spend time on this rather than other tasks that may be more obviously productive, but, if you want an engaged and happy workforce, every manager needs to listen. Listening means taking note of what employees say and acting on those issues rather than just pretending they are going to do something.