Engaging with your employees in a virtual workplace

Productive home worker

With many workplaces adopting a hybrid working regime split between the office and homeworking, its clear the pandemic has made permanent changes to the way we work.  Here Katy Goodwin, an Engagement Advisor at ResourceBank talks about the importance of engaging your employees and how best to do it.

Well, how the world has changed in the last 18 months…. Who would have thought zoom meetings and MS teams would replace board meetings and client catch ups? That parents would become their children’s educators and that dining out would become the stuff of dreams……

Just when things seem to be getting back to some kind of ‘normal’, new variants or strains mutate which causes us to rethink that return to the office or that long awaited holiday abroad. Who can say what the new ‘normal’ will look like…. Or is THIS the ‘new normal’. Whatever the case, we need to adapt and change to external factors caused by the on-going pandemic.

Our work, as well as many other significant parts of our lives have transformed dramatically at the will of THE VIRUS.

Elbow bump

Before the pandemic, between 12 and 18% of employees in the UK were homebased. That has increased to a staggering 54% during lockdown…. CIPD quotes that the rate is likely to remain at around 37% once the pandemic loosens its hold (sooner rather than later… please). Obviously, some workers have remained unaffected….

Those at the coal face of manufacturing have endured and remained, as have the heroes in the care industry. Conversely for many of those in hospitality, furlough has been the only option. Let’s face it, working life has changed for EVERYONE.

18 months ago, employers who thought their business could not support homeworking have been forced to re-think. And guess what? Many have come to see the positives and realised, under the duress of circumstance, that it does work….and there are some real positives;

  • If your business is based in Manchester but the best candidate for a key role lives in Edinburgh…. You can probably now go ahead and hire them! The world is more virtual than ever.
  • In most cases working from home increases employee’s wellbeing and improves their work/life balance……. That is, as long as they can switch off from the demands of the working day and enjoy quality personal time.
  • There are many reports of increased productivity and motivation of employees since the switch from office to home.
  • Our carbon footprint is massively reduced…. Why get your management team together travelling from 6 far flung locations across the UK when a MS Teams meeting can be effective? Why fly to Australia for a meeting when Zoom can host instead?
  • Our business over heads reduce….. if more of our employees are home based, lets downsize our office!
Two people with masks on social distancing

There are some downsides to the virtual world…. Is team collaboration across screens and airwaves as effective as face to face? You can’t bounce ideas off your colleague who is sitting next to you when you’re working alone at your kitchen table….. and for some, homeworking can prove very isolating and depressing….

As a result of our changed world there will at some point, be a new ‘normal’…….. but ‘normal’ will never look the same again.

The question is, how do we keep in touch with our staff and check their wellbeing and motivation in this virtual world? How do we make sure that all is well throughout the full employment life cycle?

Clearly virtual team meets and 1:1s can go some way to ensure that employees are ‘OK’, but how can it be measured more objectively and accurately across an organisation? How do we gauge the widespread wellbeing and engagement of such a dispersed workforce?

That’s where widespread employee feedback is so vital.

The average cost of hiring a team member in the UK is £3,000. Retaining that talent must be a top priority. At the on-set of the employee journey, effective induction has always been so important. With challenges of remote working, the induction itself must be renewed and adapted, but how do we make sure that our induction is still effective? How do we ensure that new employees feel welcomed, have all the knowledge and equipment they need and feel well assimilated into their new team?

How was your day?

That’s where New Starter and On-boarding interviews come in. A set of objective, tailored questions can provide you with the answers to these business critical questions and help ensure that new employees start off on the right foot and are likely to continue their employment journey with you long term.

In such turbulent times its especially important to keep the finger on the pulse of employee engagement more generally…. How are employees feeling, are they still well-integrated into their team and feeling valued? Is collaboration and cooperation as strong as ever? Is their manager supporting them enough, is communication as frequent and effective as it could be? Is their work still feeling meaningful and are their career aspirations still being met? And all importantly, how do they feel about coming back to the office? An employee engagement survey can address such questions and any others that are pertinent at that time to an organisation. The results are invaluable….. trends across the business both positive and negative are revealed, even pockets of negative or positive feedback will be exposed and can be addressed in on-going people plans. Knowing what your employees are thinking and feeling is key to business success and addressing any issues in a timely way increases employee engagement and retention.

Laptop showing productivity figures
productive man with Thumbs up

There is bound to be staff turnover, its an inevitable part of the employment lifecycle. The reasons why people leave organisations are numerous and far reaching. Its so important to take what positives we can from what on the face of it could be so negative…… no organisation wants to lose it’s best talent….. But what motivated that employee to leave? What do they think was good about working for the organisation? What could have been done better? Would they return in the future and would they recommend a friend to work there? What will that employee say about the organisation they are leaving to friends and acquaintances? Will Glassdoor reviews be thumbs up or thumbs down? Again it is important to gather objective feedback at this stage. Although it may be a case of ‘shutting the gate once the horse has bolted’, positive takeaways can build on future improvements and success.

All of these employee engagement methods offer a valuable objective tool to improve employee experience and overall organisational effectiveness. They can be carried out via different approaches; over the phone, MS teams, SMS or email. Whatever the requirement and whatever the solution, each and every one results in specific and measurable MI, both top level and deep dive, that will massively contribute to people engagement and organisational success.

Contact us to find out more!

Katy Goodwin – Engagement Advisor

Katy is CIPD qualified and has over 20 years experience working in recruitment including 4 years specialising in engagement.

Contact Katy on 01952 281900 or email katy.goodwin@resourcebank.co.uk

Image of Katy Goodwin