Some professionals are returning to the office, some continue to work remotely and some take a hybrid approach. But one constant among nearly every firm is a concern for employee engagement.
“How do we maintain the culture we’ve worked so hard to build and continue to improve employee engagement when team members don’t meet in person regularly?”
That concern is well-founded. After all, according to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 41% of the workforce is considering leaving their current employer within the next year, and engagement is part of an effective overall strategy for holding on to talent.
The good news is, engagement can and does happen virtually. In fact, according to ADP’s Global Workplace Study 2020, during the height of the pandemic, 20% of virtual employees reported being fully engaged in their jobs, compared to just 11% of office-based workers.
Those numbers could still use some improvement, so let’s discuss how we can use technology to build engagement in a virtual or hybrid firm.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment that employees have to the firm and its goals.
Simply put, engaged employees care about their work and the company. They don’t work just to collect a paycheck or even just get ahead in their career but care about helping the organization meet its goals.
Improving employee engagement should be a priority for every firm right now. Not only does engagement affect retention, productivity and loyalty, but it also affects client satisfaction and company reputation.
Using technology to improve employee engagement
In March 2020, firms quickly shifted their technology plan from supporting a few remote workers to supporting 100% of their staff working from home virtually overnight. IT teams did a tremendous job with a project that might have been considered impossible just months earlier. But as we look at our long-term plans for supporting remote and hybrid employees, it’s crucial to ensure our technology includes some core features.
1. Screen sharing
Screen sharing, or being able to share your computer desktop or a single application with one or more people, generally serves one of three purposes:
- Quick collaboration and meetings between coworkers
- Client communications, such as sharing a presentation or other application
- Technical support for IT staffers (or any tech-savvy individuals) looking to solve a remote worker’s computer issue
Some popular options include Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex, Google Hangouts, Team Viewer, and AnyDesk.
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2. Water cooler conversations
When employees work in the same physical location, during breaks or while they’re between projects, they gather around the company’s water cooler (or coffee maker, refrigerator, candy shelf or somewhere in or near the break room) to talk about work, books, movies, weekend plans, or socialize and take a breather.
These might seem like time wasters to some people, but they’re a great way to bring people together and help them connect in an otherwise formal work environment. When people are working remotely, water cooler conversations don’t happen organically. You need to make them happen to keep employees engaged and feeling connected to the firm and each other on a human level.
Some popular options include Microsoft Teams, Workplace by Facebook, and Slack.
3. Video conferencing
Video conferencing tools provide quantifiable benefits, including increased productivity and reduced travel expenses. They also improve communication and promote better relationships between the firm and its clients, greater meeting efficiency and enhanced employee satisfaction.
Popular options include Microsoft Teams, Zoom, BlueJeans, and Google Hangouts.
Presence refers to the ability to ascertain the status of your team members at a given time. You can tell immediately whether someone you want to speak to is available and when they might return.
This is especially important with remote workers who may have stepped away for a moment to deal with an issue or may be gone longer and are flexing hours to get their work accomplished.
Popular options include Microsoft Teams, AnyConnect, Jabber, and Skype.
5. Knowledge sharing
A knowledge-sharing platform is a software system that contains a knowledge base and modern features that encourage users to exchange information in real-time. Like traditional knowledge bases, knowledge-sharing platforms can either be internal or external-facing.
Some popular options include Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, and Intranets.
6. Project management
Project management solutions provide transparency and communication in a remote or hybrid team. Most firms have a workflow solution for tracking client engagements but also need a system for tracking internal projects.
Popular solutions include Asana, Monday, MS Planner, and SmartSheets.
The need to keep employees engaged won’t change when the pandemic ends. The “next normal” won’t look like 2019 because people aren’t interested in reinstating pre-pandemic work models and processes. If you value your people and want to hold on to them, now is the time to start thinking about your technology support employee engagement in a remote or hybrid world.