Work-life balance, or flexibility, is a highly desired work option for millennials. So, if you want to extract from this valuable talent pool, offering them telecommuting can be a great recruiting tool.
But what happens after you’ve recruited your ideal candidate and they’ve settled into their new jobs at a remote locations? Unfortunately, for some companies remote becomes “out-of-sight and out-of-mind”. Unless you require frequent on site visits, remote employees can easily become “those guys that work from home”.
A lot has been written aimed at telecommuting workers to help them maintain their visibility when working off site. It is a common concern of remote workers that telecommuting will cause them to be overlooked for promotions or bonuses, or to be excluded from important team decisions. They struggle to find ways to keep themselves in their employers’ minds so that telecommuting doesn’t result in career suicide.
It is important for telecommuters to make efforts to stay connected. But it’s only fair that employers accept some responsibility for helping them stay connected, as well. It can be easy to think that allowing employees to telecommute is gratifying enough for them, and then forget that they have the same needs your on-site employees have (for recognition, for community, etc.) If this is the case, don’t be surprised if you see a decline in morale and loyalty from your remote workers.
Why not ask yourself the following questions:
Do I reward my on-site staff for exceptional performance?
Do I create activities to help my on site employees feeling like they are a team?
Do I make myself readily available to my on site employees when they need me?
Then why would I do any thing less for my virtual or remote employees?
True, managing remote staff does come with unique challenges. Obviously remote workers can’t gather in the lunch room or around the water cooler to exchange ideas and small talk. Further, depending on just how remote in location they are, virtual staff may not even be able to attend a company holiday party. However, there are ways you can ensure that your remote workers stay closely connected and feel they are part of the “we” in a team:
1) What can I do for you?
For starters, ask remote workers what it is they need. Do they need more communication with you? Although one of the requirements for working remotely usually is the ability to work independently, virtual workers still need human instruction and reassurance from time to time. Make it possible for them to get this, either through a special e-mail or online group that they know you will check at a specified time each day or week. Or, perhaps you could give them weekly scheduled phone time or Skype chat.
2) “A” for effort:
Virtual workers are humans who need encouragement and feedback.
Note their progress throughout the process of their work as well as the end results. Welcome updates on projects so that they feel noticed.
You don’t want to make them to feel like you’re scrutinizing them, but let them know that you acknowledge they are working hard even when a project isn’t yet completed.
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3) It’s a special day!
Remember important occasions. A birthday card sent via snail mail is rare these days, even with close friends. Yet this is an inexpensive and very meaningful way to give remote workers a huge boost.
How about a congratulatory e-mail noting the anniversary of their employment with the company? And that holiday party they can’t attend? Then a gift, a bonus, and a voice message will go a long way in helping them feel a part of the celebration.
4) Is anybody out there?
Are your virtual workers able to regularly connect with on-site employees? Investing in video conferencing tools is no longer a luxury, it’s a must. Communicating with their peers solely by e-mail not only lends to crossed signals, but it is inefficient. Make it possible for all your staff to get together at one time, regardless of their locations.
So, you might ask, what do I get out of nurturing my remote employees? Besides remote work being better for your bottom line, you’ll have staff who feel valued and love their jobs. That means you’ll have employees who perform well not only for a paycheck, but because they care about what they do and for whom they do it. You can’t ask for a better team than that.
What initiatives have you taken to help your remote employees feel connected and part of the team?
Author: Pamela La Gioia works for www.teleworkrecruiting.com and has been researching telecommuting and remote work issues since 1993, before the concept was even cool.