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Promoting Engagement Onsite and Remotely

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A basic step often overlooked in measurements of employee engagement is to define what engagement is: what are you measuring?

Some companies define employee engagement as commitment to over-delivering on projects and enthusiastically devoting more time to the job—unfortunately, those same traits may lead to stress and burnout. Others define engagement as job satisfaction, a positive relationship with managers and peers, alignment with the company mission, and willingness to serve as an ambassador for the company. Yet another definition stresses emotional commitment to the organization.

Measuring Engagement

Ways of measuring engagement are as varied as definitions: surveys, one-on-one meetings, stay and exit interviews (reasons for staying; reasons for leaving), Net Promoter Score (likelihood of recommending the organization to others), Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (measuring resilience, dedication, and absorption in work), or any combination.

One study of 7,939 business units in 36 companies, published by the American Psychological Association, found a strong correlation between high engagement and high customer satisfaction, low turnover, improved productivity, and greater profitability, in that order. So it might be possible to measure engagement by its effects: if customers are satisfied, turnover is low, teams are productive, and the company is profitable, then the employees are engaged.

Encouraging Engagement

The key strategies for encouraging employee engagement are:

  • Onboarding and training: Employee engagement begins the moment an employee is hired, with the onboarding and training procedures to make sure that the employee has the information and skills needed to handle the job.
  • Promoting camaraderie: Onboarding should involve integrating the employee into the company culture and the team, as friendships at work increase employee engagement by as much as 40%, according to some studies. Friendships should develop naturally in an open, inclusive, respectful culture.
  • Setting achievable goals: Frustration and stress are the enemies of engagement; the ability to meet regular, achievable goals and recognition for the achievement keep teams energized.
  • Giving employees freedom and opportunity: If employees feel micro-managed, are never allowed to make their own decisions or solve their own problems, and are discouraged by the prospects for advancement, they disengage.
  • Communicating the reasons for and the results of employee efforts: However you measure engagement—by higher productivity, profitability, the achievement of goals—employees need to know that their efforts have a beneficial effect. They need to understand the why and how of the benefit to the company, its customers, and its employees.

How to Engage Remote Employees

Many of the previous suggestions will work with both onsite and remote employees. However, camaraderie is definitely more difficult to establish. The following tips may help:

  • Show you care: Begin one-on-one meetings by inquiring after the employee—life events, hobbies, interesting experiences that have nothing to do with work. If you have several remote employees and a poor memory, keep a file so that you do not repeatedly ask the same information.
  • Provide for fun: Establish two online sites: one where employees focus on work and the other where they share information and create moments that are not related to work. You might want to start an employee-only multi-player game online, available during lunch or breaks or after work.
  • Be flexible: For employees working from home, accept that occasionally children or spouses will interrupt and the atmosphere on screen may not be 100% professional.
  • Communicate often and inclusively: Remote employees are more likely to feel out of the information loop than on-site employees; therefore, clear, consistent, and frequent communication to every employee is even more vital.

Key Takeaways

Employee engagement can be difficult. We offer some examples of how to build, maintain and measure employee engagement.

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