During the pandemic, companies and businesses were faced with the dilemma of adapting and adjusting or simply shipping out. As a result, many had to pivot to new ways of working to survive the negative impact of lockdowns and physical distancing requirements on both productivity and profitability. One such change dramatically enabled businesses to not just survive but also thrive. We’re talking about the distributed work model.
A distributed workforce is empowered to work anywhere convenient and productive for them to do so. Away from the enclosures of the traditional workplace, 77% of remote workers say they are more effective. About 74% of employees say that working at home will make them want to stay in their present jobs.
While remote working provides many benefits, there can also be some challenges, such as the evident difficulty of securing the engagement necessary for effective collaboration. Here are some ways to keep the communication flowing and keep the dialogue interesting and relevant to your dispersed team.
How to Engage Your Dispersed Workforce
Tip#1: Build relationships
While this may seem like a no-brainer, this is something most often overlooked by managers and executives. And yet, without any real relationship, you will not be able to exert the necessary influence to get your employees on board.
Suppose your staff knows that you genuinely care about them and are not just concerned with the figures that they can produce. In that case, they will feel more motivated to make your agenda their agenda. But, ultimately, they know that you are interested enough to also look out for their own needs and aspirations.
The question is, how do you do this online? Making a simple phone call (even without any video!) checking in on how they are is something they are sure to appreciate. Make an effort to make it light and not include business topics in your conversation as much as possible. You will be amazed at the ease of how your staff will open up once they are comfortable with you. With restrictions being lifted and vaccination rates rising, pretty soon, you may feel confident enough to invite your team to have a casual coffee conversation.
Tip#2: Remember to be S.M.A.R.T.
The difficulty of online communication is that you cannot accurately gauge if someone in your team did not get the message right. This is why it is of the utmost importance to be precise. In fact, over clarity should be the standard for online communication so that nothing is misunderstood. Just imagine the repercussions of a wrongly interpreted message. The consequence can be simply annoying, like a routine and generic report submitted late. Or there can also be graver ones, such as someone crafting a confidential executive review that ends up in the wrong channel.
S.M.A.R.T., a mnemonic for “Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely,” is not just for setting ideal goals; it can also help ensure that expectations are clear and better managed. When there is less confusion at work, there is less probability of frustrated feelings and overwhelmed emotions. The clarity in communication can reduce conflicts and help create a favorable atmosphere for your employees at work.
Tip#3: Speak in ways they understand
When communicating with your employees online, speak to them, like really talk to them and not over their heads. Online platforms are cold platforms. You have to do all you can to ensure that your staff knows that you are conversing with them and not just with their monitors.
How do you do that then? First, try injecting humor into your discussions. Whether your joke is funny or corny, it will almost always elicit a smile from your team, and they will be highly appreciative of your effort to make them feel at ease.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. There may be times when a team member makes a minor mistake. Let it slide. You need not be in constant audit mode all the time. Choose the worthiest battles. Your being gracious will not go unnoticed by your employees, and they will respect you all the more for it.
Tip#4: Be quick to listen
Before any meeting, ensure that you have the protocols to maintain security in internal communication. You never know who might be listening in on the conversation and stealing valuable company information from discussions within your internal teams. Knowing you have protective safeguards in place will give your employees the confidence to talk openly, even on sensitive issues.
Once that essential requirement is done, encourage your employees to speak up. Ask open-ended questions to allow them to expound their thoughts. And once they speak up, don’t be hasty in sharing your own thoughts and opinions. Allow them to express themselves without fear of being judged or criticized. You might just be pleasantly surprised by the insights that you may hear.
At the start of your meeting, establish a courteous tone so the rest of your team will be able to pick it up and follow suit. To avoid dialogue overlapping and unnecessary disruptions, encourage your team to say or give a clear signal that they are done talking. Because time lags can happen during virtual meetings, allow a pause for about five seconds between speakers.
Engaging your dispersed workforce may be challenging but not impossible. Put in the extra work and time to get into their world, be clear with your communication, speak in a language they understand, and be ready to have a listening ear. The payoffs in enhanced relationships and increased productivity will be well worth it.
Written By, Regi Publico, Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org