Increasing engagement of remote teams is particularly important for employers in the current climate of social disruption and economic upheaval due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With remote work quickly becoming the new normal, employers want to:
- Ensure their remote team members remain focused on the most critical work that needs to be accomplished now;
- Trade feelings of isolation for feelings of connectedness to their colleagues and employer; and
- Quickly adapt to the demands of a rapidly changing world.
According to Amy Leschke-Kahle, Vice President of Performance Acceleration at The Marcus Buckingham Company, it all starts with employee engagement. She provided some valuable insights regarding the keys to greater engagement of remote teams during the American Payroll Association’s Congress XStream Concourse Session Unlocking the Secrets to Greater Engagement in Any Team, on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
Leschke-Kahle referred to employee engagement as “the emotional precursor” that is necessary for “individuals to do extraordinary work and have extraordinary outcomes … in these extraordinary times.” She highlighted three key actions in particular:
1. Daily Assessment
First, Leschke-Kahle said that staying connected starts with each individual employee. She has found that employee engagement is enhanced if individuals take five minutes at the end of each work day to jot down whether, during that day, they:
- Did what they love to do;
- Added outstanding value; and
- Made progress on their priorities.
She believes that all workers, whether team leader or team member, can enhance their engagement level by paying attention to these productivity indicators.
2. Standout Engagement Pulse Statements
Leschke-Kahle also revealed eight “Standout Engagement Pulse” statements that employers can use to assess the level of employee engagement. In particular, employees are most engaged in regard to their purpose, excellence, support and future, when they:
- Are enthusiastic about their employer’s mission;
- Clearly understand what is expected of them at work;
- Share the values of their teammates and employer;
- Get to use their unique strengths at work every day;
- Feel supported by their fellow teammates;
- Know they will be recognized for excellent work;
- Have great confidence in the future of their employer; and
- Are challenged to grow in their work.
3. One-on-One Check-In Sessions
While regular full team meetings are important, according to Leschke-Kahle, perhaps the most critical way team leaders can create greater engagement of remote teams is to have frequent check-in sessions conducted one-on-one with each team member at least once a week, even if it’s only for five minutes. These sessions can be by phone, email, video chat or other electronic means. The focus of these sessions should be on current, “near-term” work rather than long-term or future goals, as frequent near-term check-ins will further long-term goals.
In addition, Leschke-Kahle said that the focus should not be critical, or on what team members may be doing wrong, and team leaders may not even necessarily provide feedback. Instead, these sessions should be collaborative, two-way conversations based on each team member’s strengths, and team leaders should provide coaching, tips and tools on how they can do their unique best work.
During these one-on-one sessions, Leschke-Kahle advises team leaders to provide “light-touch attention” by asking three questions that she has found encourage people to open up about what is on their mind, especially in a virtual environment:
- What are your priorities?
- How can I help?
- How are you feeling?
Leschke-Kahle concluded by saying that these methods will help team leaders build greater trust with team members as well as increase team members’ steady connection to the overall goals of the organization. These qualities are especially valuable in times of major social disruption and upheaval in business and the outside world in general.