By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The world is bracing itself against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. Many organizations are scraping big-ticket events − Facebook’s F8 2020 Developer’s Conference and the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020 already stand canceled. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and the like are taking deliberate steps to support their staff with remote working opportunities to keep the workforce productive, without compromising on health.

Twitter, for example, has made it mandatory for all its 5,000 employees located in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan to work from home. Facebook is conducting interviews via video−conferencing instead of in−person. Amazon has asked its Seattle workers to work from home as well for the time being.

While Coronavirus risk is pushing organizations to support remote work, the fact is that, for many companies remote working has already become the new normal.

−A report by PWC shows that 64% of millennials would like to work from home.

− Another study by Buffer on the state of remote work in 2019 showed that ‘99% of the interviewees reported that they would like, at least once in their career, to be able to work off−site’.

− A Zapier report showed that approximately 74% of the workforce would quit a job for one that offers remote working options. The report further elaborated that 57% of the workforce consider remote working options their ‘most preferred employment perk’.

A Upwork study revealed 63% of companies now have remote workers.

Companies such as WordPress have augmented the case for remote working as well. WordPress, for example, runs on a 100% distributed team and runs at a successful net worth of $1.16 billion.

It is hardly a surprise that remote working is growing at a phenomenal pace. As we waltz into the age of hyper−mobility, remote working is emerging as a valuable tool for organizations − to gain access to a skilled workforce, irrespective of location, and to improve competitiveness.

With remote working becoming a grounding reality, organizations have an important question to consider − how can they engage a remote workforce? While it might seem that enabling remote working should be enough to guarantee high productivity, the isolation element of remote working can impact the engagement levels of employees.

Not being physically present with other team members and colleagues can have residual effects on team performance, individual productivity, and communication. Consequently, it impacts employee engagement as well.

So what can organizations do to keep their remote teams from falling into the chasm of disengagement?

Identify high−potential remote employees

In the midst of acute skills shortage, organizations are increasingly compelled to look within their workforce and identify high−potential employees who can fuel their leadership pipeline. Lack of interaction and contact between employees owing to physical distance can lead to discontent and flagging motivation levels. All of these contribute to lower productivity and end up impacting the bottom line negatively.

Just like the in−house workforce, organizations have to give equal opportunities to their remote workforce to thrive in their careers. It is essential to have clear, open, and transparent communication along with a proactive feedback process to enable employees at work. The absence of face time and day−to−day interactions should not be an impediment to identify hard−working employees and help them navigate their careers to success.

Provide opportunities for skill development

Not all are created equal in the work environment. However, the tables often turn unfavorably on remote workers as organizations do not focus on the skill development of this remote workforce as their other counterparts.

However, while it can be easy to identify the technical skill development needs of this workforce, finding out where they need help to hone their power skills can be a challenge. Power skills such as problem-solving, communication, decision making, collaboration, and such are important tools that help navigate the workplace challenges and also increase employee engagement levels. Along with this, power skills also help in creating a more mature and well−rounded leadership pipeline − one where power skills complement technical skills.

Enable self-development

The art of self−development is a critical art to master in remote working environments. However, the boon often becomes a curse in the absence of direction when it comes to chart one’s career path.

It can be hard for remote workers to know how they can improve, and which development aspects they should focus on, especially in the absence of everyday interactions. This can lead to dejection and flagging engagement, especially if employees feel they are not rewarded at the end of the year. The reality of today’s work environment is that people have to be self−motivated. And organizations have to enable this self−motivation and self−development.

Helping employees understand the areas of improvement and development, especially in a remote environment, can be a challenge. However, organizations can leverage assessments such as 16 Personality Factor (16PF) Assessments to help their workforce identify their potential and development needs quantitatively.

Armed with this information, organizations can leverage coaching as a tool to help their remote workforce navigate the skills chasm (especially soft/power skills) and drive business results by becoming more engaged.

Say goodbye to generic engagement programs

Engaging a remote workforce means saying goodbye to archaic, one−size−fits−all engagement programs. Given the rising number of millennials in the workforce, their proficiency and ease with technology, and their predisposition towards personalization, engagement programs need to be tailored to meet each enterprise function and the audience specifically.

Employee engagement initiatives can be broken down into smaller programs that will resonate with the remote workforce. This could include aspects such as core values and skill development, innovation engineering, new hire skill development, inside sales coaching, sales management coaching, and many more. Taking a tailored approach that accounts for the unique development needs of the remote workforce helps in driving up engagement levels, even in remote teams.

Along with all this, to boost employee engagement levels of the remote workforce, organizations should foster shared values, ensuring that employees, irrespective of their location, are bound by common work principles and attitudes. Shared values have to be a part of the everyday existence of the employees and hence have to be communicated clearly, and repeatedly. It can be an incredible tool to boost engagement with remote teams.

NumlyEngage is an innovative platform that enables the development of soft skills through personalized coaching, in a structured and consistent manner, and enhanced by Machine Learning and AI. Talk to us to know how you can leverage the power of NumlyEngage to deliver measurably greater employee engagement for your remote workforce.