Editor’s Note: This article was updated on July 19, 2017 with updated statistics and research
According to a recent Gallup survey on the State of the American Workplace, the number of employees working remotely has increased from 39% to 43% from 2012 to 2016.
Not only is the number of employees working remotely increasing, but also the amount of time these workers spend off-site has also been on the incline. Many workplaces have found that the option to work from anywhere is a major consideration factor when workers are making job decisions. No longer is the typical 9 to 5 workday in an office accepted, and millennials especially are urging companies to reconsider old established practices.
Yet even today, engaging employees (remote or not) can prove to be a challenge. In that same survey, Gallup found that actively disengaged employees are twice as likely as engaged employees to search for a new job. Additionally, with new technology, employees are now demanding to have more control about when and how they work. The majority (57%) of employees say they would change jobs for one with a more flexible schedule, and 37% of people would change jobs for an employer that allowed them the ability to work from where they want at least part of the time.
So what is the right mix of remote work? Gallup found that workers who spend 60% to 80% of their time working off-site have an increase in their optimal engagement levels. However, it is important to note that even in 2017, the employees who work remotely 100% of the time can struggle to feel engaged. According to the Breaking Barriers 2020 study, 86% of workers say face-to-face interaction will always be important. For this reason, engaging remote employees is still a relevant issue, which is why these tips remain important.
How Managers Can Get Cracking with Mobile Employee Engagement, by David Zinger
Guide – Energize - Excite!
Managers must learn to light the Fuze for more robust engagement with their mobile staff. Jack Welch once stated that the role of managers was to guide, energize, and excite. In other words, the manager’s mandate is to give direction for engagement through guidance while fueling employees with the energy and excitement to act upon that guidance to achieve meaningful results.
Distributed teams and remote workers are growing and proliferating in all sectors of our global economy and may include 40% of our global workforce or 1.3 billion employees by 2015. It has always been a challenge to be a good manager but added to the challenge is the necessity of managing people you are not in direct contact with and using unfamiliar practices and technologies. Managers and team leaders need to be comfortable, competent, and confident in staying in touch with others.
I believe the key question for managers of remote workers and distributed teams are to ensure the team and workers feel a part of the organization and work rather than feeling apart from the organization. We want our virtual workers and teams to be a part of something greater while also playing their part in achieving results and being engaged with the various facets of work. Mobile managers must prevent mobile employees becoming detached from their team, distant from their organization, disengaged from their work, and disappointed in their managers.
Half dozen x 2.
Here are 12 ways a manager can instill and sustain robust engagement. The first six will look at the messages around engagement while the last six will look at engaging with the medium of Fuze - an HD video and voice platform that helps managers connect with their team with a variety of mediums including desktop, notebook, tablet, and smartphone.
The Message Half Dozen
- Questions. In today’s workplace, the question is the answer.Managers must cease an anemic reliance on command leading to compliance. They must learn to transform ask into action by using questions to trigger action. Questions engage the brain while “beautiful” questions move the dial on engagement. A simple question I have used in reviewing work with people who report to me is to ask: “What has stood out for you since we last talked about this?” I am always impressed how this simple question offers such a rich and unanticipated review of a project or learning. To delve further into questions I encourage you to read Ed Schein’s slim volume on Humble Inquiry and Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.
- Go bad. According to volumes of research reviewed by psychologist, Roy Baumeister bad is twice as strong as good. We must not shirk away from bad news, setbacks, or bad behavior. It is vital that managers mitigate against the disengagement and demoralization of setbacks. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in The Progress Principle demonstrated that setbacks were the single biggest cause of lack of motivation and engagement for knowledge workers and the most common source of those setbacks were during collaborative work. Progress, the single biggest source of engagement for knowledge workers was most frequently experienced during collaboration. Don’t shy away from working with bad news, setbacks, or bad behavior.
- Recognize each employee. Use your time on mobile management to recognize and connect with employees. People work every day and they should be recognized every day. Fuze offers a high definition platform that facilitates a better visual image of people online. Just as we don’t want fuzzy images and voice during online meetings we don’t want fuzzy recognition. Take time as you start a meeting to recognize employees for both who they are and what they do. Be specific and don’t be creepy about this. Especially take time to recognize progress as it is such a powerful variable in enhancing employee engagement.
- Hold a 5 minute session with each staff member. Take 5 minutes each day to go online with just one staff member. Think of this as a kind of virtual walking around with your staff. Leave the 5 minutes open-ended to learn and connect with employees who report to you. My friend, Rosa Say, developed a detailed plan for the daily 5 minutes. Here is a short snippet from her blog post about this, “It is a simple habit: Each day, without fail, managers are to give five minutes of no-agenda time to at least one of their employees. They’d log the event in a simple checklist of names to ensure they didn’t miss anyone, and they’d speak to each employee in turn on a regular basis.” If you want more guidance or insight on how to use five minutes I encourage you to read her blog post that outlines this in specific detail. It also offers you some Hawaiian terms to give your day a nice tropical feel.
- Don’t find meaning, make meaning. Be involved with meaningful work is a robust source of engagement. Do you ensure that your reports find their work meaningful? We don’t give people meaning and they don’t find meaning --- rather we co-create meaning in work through connection and conversation with utmost respect for individual differences. To rephrase Victor Frankl, when a person has a why to work they can bear almost any how. I encourage you to hold short WIDWID and WWDWWD conversations. WIDWID stands for “why I do what I do” while WWDWWD stands for “why we do what we do.” Don’t leave meaning to chance.
- Build a foundation of strengths. Gallup and others have demonstrated the engagement that comes when we work from strength-based perspectives. Be strong and strengthen your staff for more engagement. Know your strengths, use your strengths daily, and do that in the service of the people you manage and you will increase your own engagement. There are many pathways to learn and develop strengths and I encourage you to examine them and put strengths to work. Some leading authors on the topic include Tom Rath, Martin Seligman, and Marcus Buckingham.
The Medium Half Dozen
- Add spice. The Spice Girls had an annoying song with the refrain, “so tell me what you want, what you really, really want…” Although the line can create an earworm, a tune that won’t leave your brain, it is very valuable to know the results you want every time you use Fuze. You want to share the desired result with participants and also find out what they want from the time online. Ensure your meetings contribute to results by beginning with a bit of “spice.” Remember well begun is half done and having clarity of results is a great way to begin.
- Test 1, 2, 3, 4. It takes time to get comfortable and competent with a new tool. Build your skills and time online to work with Fuze. Start getting into the habit of using Fuze in lieu of a few phone calls each day. You don’t want to fumble with the technology when you want to foster engagement.
- Record and review. Record your early meetings and take time to review them (Make sure participants know the meeting is being recorded). We need to review our work to determine our strengths and also determine what we can strengthen. By the way, most people don’t like how they sound or look when they begin to listen and watch themselves perform, but watching your own performance can be an excellent accelerant to performance and growth.
- Hold office hours. One of the best practices from universities is to expect educators to hold office hours for students to come by and talk about a course or assignment. Why not take this practice and hold virtual office hours with employees who report to you once a week for an hour. Offer employees a set hour a week when you will be on Fuze and give them the url or access code to join the meeting. If no one logs in you can have the window open and work on other things.
- Light up the room. Fuze offers an excellent HD virtual voice and visual platform. Ensure you are doing what you can from your end to create the best possible output. It will pay big dividends to ensure you have good quality lighting and a good quality microphone.
- Look’em in the eye. Eye contact is a powerful way to connect with others. The problem online is that if you look at the screen image of another person in your meeting they will not experience you looking at them. To look people in the eye you need to look into the lens of your camera. Get in the habit of looking at your camera lens and try to avoid long or sustained focus off camera.
This article offered you a dozen tips to improve mobile employee engagement and engagement with mobile technology. So what are you waiting for? We encourage you to get cracking at work with more robust engagement.
Want more tips on getting more done at work? Read: