January 25, 2021 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Remote work is no longer a privilege or a highly sought-after flexible option. Instead, it’s become the backbone of many businesses and organizations, required to keep things on track and moving forward. As you’ve probably realized already, having a well-run virtual meeting is one thing, but developing an engaged, remote staff is its own kind of superpower. So whether you’re hiring remotely for a few key positions or you have moved your entire operation online, these are the keys that will take your staff from distracted and scrolling to engaged and winning.
Your team is made up of individuals who have different likes, interests and experiences. Their perspectives are diverse, and what means one thing to one person could mean something drastically different to another. That’s why it’s vital to recognize and celebrate your team members in a way that they can receive it instead of simply having one standard process in place that might leave some of your team members feeling unsupported.
During your employee onboarding process, make sure to ask and document how your new hires prefer to be recognized for their achievements. You can also do this in quarterly reviews, where you can update any preferences existing employees have so your leadership team can make sure they’re boosting team morale across the board.
Systems and processes
Whenever you have more than one person working on a project, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. The systems put in place to make collaboration more streamlined are what keeps your team on track and helps you align your company’s mission and values. The systems and processes that are implemented should reflect the needs of your team.
For example, if your team is made up of a mix of auditory learners, visual learners and experiential learners, the system through which they can deliver their projects should be accessible to their favored mode of learning. This will help your team be more productive and deliver things faster than trying to work with systems that aren’t built to support their natural processes.
Expectations and standards
Setting expectations for your team and how they interact with one another is a great way to head off issues before they become problems. It’s through this process that you set the standards for how your team operates.
For example, if you set the expectation that when a team member runs into a problem they’ve struggled to solve for a certain period of time, they should reach out to their supervisor or another colleague for help, then you create a safe space for collaboration to flourish.
Expectations and standards let your team know how they should show up in the business, even when they aren’t sure what to do next. It mitigates the gray areas so they can keep the momentum going easier.
Communicating with your team is one of the ways to make them feel included and show them that they matter to your organization. You may not be able to communicate all of the time, but when you do, your team should have your attention. Likewise, when leadership or management is communicating with your team, it’s helpful to have a standard operating procedure that fosters inclusivity.
Other ways to build quality communication are to make sure you’re celebrating your team’s wins, as well as addressing their struggles, and to communicate in ways that your individual team members can receive. With more organizations going online, there’s more email and chat-based communication in business. It’s important to remember that it’s easy for tone and intention to get lost in text-based communications, especially in quick conversations. So when you prioritize quality communication with your team, you create a space for engagement to flourish.
In an online environment, it can be easy for team members to fall into lone wolf behavior. It’s crucial that your team communicates with one another regularly and that they lean on each other for support. This can keep everyone rowing in the same direction and help to keep your team on task.
Camaraderie is essential for a team that works well together. Gallup uncovered that employees who had close friendships at work were more than twice as likely to be engaged than their counterparts who did not have close relationships at work. Not only do close friendships at work create more engagement, but they’re also more likely to inspire employees to make decisions for the good of the team and the business that they otherwise would not make.
So how do you build camaraderie with a virtual team? Pretend you’re in person.
Before 2020, it was much easier to get team members together for a day in the park or to take part in a community service activity together. Today, these activities need to transition into a virtual environment. Here are a few things you can do to build that camaraderie:
Virtual bucket filling sessions: If you’ve ever been to camp, you’ll know compliments and saying kind or appreciative things to one another can create a bond quickly. This can especially be helpful for team members who are more isolated and don’t receive regular interaction with other people.
Virtual happy hour: Instead of grabbing a drink with employees when the workday is finished, set up an evening virtual call where everyone can bring their favorite drink and dessert. Creating a relaxed atmosphere where your team can simply be people connecting with one another is a powerful way to build trust and connection within these relationships.
Watch party: Now you can stream movies and TV shows with other people, no matter where you are in the world. This gives your team the opportunity to laugh with each other and share in an experience together that has no bearing on work or productivity. They just get to relax and enjoy one another’s company.
Community service projects: If your team is moved by altruistic work and values, it could be a powerful opportunity to work on community service projects together that are online instead of in person. A couple of examples would be to strategize and run an online fundraiser together for your team’s favorite charity or to do individual charity projects culminating in a team debrief. However your team chooses to serve, it gives them the opportunity to develop their connections with one another beyond work.
What your employees need
In order to be fully engaged at work, your employees need to feel like they matter to the company, that their efforts make a difference, that they belong to the culture, and that their work is more than just a job. If you utilize these techniques for engaging your employees, you’ll facilitate the kind of environment where your team’s needs are met on a consistent basis. When your employees’ needs are met, you’re more likely to draw out the best in them.