In recent years there’s been an explosion in the growth of remote workers in the business world. According to the job site Flexjobs, the use of remote employees has grown more than 40 percent in the past five years, and an astonishing 91 percent over the past 10 years.
Clearly, this is a hiring and human resources trend that’s not going away anytime soon.
But this trend brings its own set of challenges—most notably, how can businesses make these offsite workers (some of whom are located very far away from a company’s headquarters) genuinely feel like part of the team? What steps can management take to incorporate these employees into the culture and engage them on a deeper level?
If your company faces this quandary, here are action steps to consider that will bring remote workers more closely into the fold:
Communicate on a reliable basis.
Not surprisingly, communication is the most important tactic to draw offsite employees closer together. First off, it’s important to regularly share news of internal projects, employee achievements, product upgrades, etc., with these workers as well as your onsite team.
Just as importantly, keep remote workers in the loop with ongoing business initiatives. Using a “work-management platform and automated update requests,” notes CIO, “employees can see progress in real-time team portals, and attach relevant information directly to project sheets.” In this way, teams and individuals can “move forward with easy access to the same information.”
Business2Community suggests holding weekly calls involving remote workers and the departments they serve. Also, the use of chat and messaging platforms enable “employees to be social and feel a sense of community, regardless of where they’re located.”
Offer training and development options across the board.
Your remote employees should benefit from the same training and development programs offered to onsite staff. Opportunities can include online learning programs made available in a wide range of formats, so workers can pick and choose among various options, and determine what works best for them.
Not only will this result in a broader skill set for those who take part, but they can also benefit from interaction with on-site team members enrolled in the same training programs.
Make sure your onboarding process applies to remote workers, too.
Most forward-thinking businesses have some type of new hire/onboarding process in place, in order to save time and maximize resources when it comes to new employees. Don’t let your remote workforce get lost in the shuffle. It’s vitally important they undergo the same orientation process—learning about organizational structure, opportunities for advancement, available tools and resources, and so on.
Ideally, it would be great to bring your new remote employees (and existing ones, too) back to your company HQ in order to undergo orientation in person. If that’s not possible, look into appointing a veteran on-site worker to serve as an “information resource” to those working in far-off locations. Like any new hire, they want to know there is someone they can turn to with questions about the organization that might not be covered as part of the formal orientation process.
Recognize and reward the efforts and milestones of your offsite team.
If you have an employee recognition program in place, make sure it encompasses the work of your remote teams as well. But don’t stop there. At your in-house team meetings, include a public acknowledgement of the efforts of the offsite team—particularly, specific contributions a remote worker has made to the business. This helps keep their work in the minds of both their onsite co-workers and management team.
Also, when an employment milestone occurs, “send the workers an e-card or offer a digital rewards program where they can choose a gift online. These efforts reinforce the sense among your virtual workforce that ‘we’re all in this together."
Off-site workers are just as valuable as the team you surround yourself with on a daily basis. For more helpful tips on managing your remote workforce and enhancing their sense of community, check out “The Future of Work: How to Manage Your Mobile Workforce.”