The crucial trick to motivating and engaging your remote teams

A year ago, a great deal of blog space was still being dedicated to pondering and postulating about home working. How will we scale security? Will employees be motivated at home? Will our company culture suffer? Will productivity take a nosedive?

A year later, those questions are going through a global stress test. According to YouGov, 38% of the pre-crisis workforce are now working at home. The interesting part is, they don’t particularly want to go back, either.

A massive majority of workers simply do not want to go back to the office full-time, according to some recent research by Okta. And that’s while the rest of the world slowly takes the shape of normality.

Eggs and flour are regular features on the supermarket shelves again, along with your favourite craft beer and wines. You can even pop out for a pint and see your friends in the park. But the country’s staff aren’t gagging to give up remote working.

What this tells us is that we’re past the point of adjusting to a crisis. The shock has passed, and most of us are pretty happy with this version of “normal,” at least when it comes to our work. That means it’s time to address one of the downsides of a remote workforce – isolation. Our company, Appreciate Group and Appreciate services, have had to address this ourselves and find a way to make sure everyone’s engaged and motivated at home.

Not just the chat and banter, and the office friends. But the sense of camaraderie, company culture, and the feeling that we’re all contributing to something wider than the narrow furrows we plough. The one thing any company can, and should, do to combat the feeling that staff are plugging away in their own little world is communicate.

Communicate to engage a remote team

If it’s not too gauche to blow our own horn, Appreciate, and our parent company Appreciate Group, have done a great job of handling the sudden dispersal of our teams. At group, department, and team levels, we have tactics to keep employees engaged and connected.

Group-level communications

Weekly round ups

Every week, Group and Human Resources put together a round-up of news and views from around the business and push it out to staff. That might include blogs written by people in our company, surveys to get opinions and feedback from staff about their work and their response to Group efforts, news on how the business is responding to COVID-19 developments, and any human resources developments that might affect staff.

Podcasts

Some of the leadership figures around Appreciate have been putting together podcasts talking about what’s happening in their corner of the Appreciate universe. That might be our senior leadership team fielding questions from the staff, our design managers talking about our latest product developments, or even just some stories of kindness to cheer everyone up.

Team/department-level

Meetings are not the word that fills everyone with the sense of thrill and wonder, we know. But we’re not trying to blow anyone’s socks off, we’re trying to keep everyone connected to each other.

Weekly meetings

Weekly meeting are where department-level discussions happen. They’re where we talk about what the individual teams that make up the wider departments are doing, what projects are being delivered, and how we’re performing as a division against our targets. We also run through news, introduce new hires, and talk about what’s happening at Group level and how it might affect our day-to-day work.

Daily meetings

Our daily catch-ups give us a chance to see some friendly, familiar faces, talk about what we’re doing inside and outside of work, gripe about some things, gloat about others. It’s also crucial for making sure everyone is on the same page with their tasks.

Which is useful because one of the of the downsides of working remote is that it’s hard to just turn to someone and ask a question. It’s just that much harder to do that at home.

Having a time every day where you can ask some stupid questions to make sure everything is going in the right direction gives you a bit of psychological runway. That runway pushes back doubt and uncertainty, letting staff get through their work with confidence and satisfaction about their efforts.

Don’t let grumbling put you off

You might be thinking “everyone hates meetings though”. Which might be a fair point, but in our experience everyone’s still on time for them, which wasn’t always the case when they were face to face. And they still contribute.

We’d happily err on the side of having one meeting too many, one podcast too many, one email too many, than risk staff feeling like they’re twisting in the wind or not valued.

And ultimately, that’s what why communication and inclusion produces motivation and engagement. We’re putting every day, every task, every role into a wider context. Showing that other colleagues appreciate and depend on their work, and demonstrating that what they’re doing has value.

Cash-value rewards, recognition software, and incentive systems do work, but only prosper long-term when employees are motivated by more than a transaction. That’s why you need to embrace communication to keep engagement and motivation in good supply in the home office.

It’s not always fancy, but it is effective

The importance of talking and communicating with your staff can’t be understated. These are simple tactics, but sticking with them is how you’ll be able to communicate culture, talk about your values and make sure everyone feels connected.

Like we said in another blog recently, you can’t put this genie back in its bottle. We all know now that we could have done this before. It just won’t be possible to tell a workforce in the future that home working isn’t realistic. At least not with a straight face.

Baking these habits into your company now is how you’re going to keep, and strengthen, company culture and staff morale as you navigate the world during, and after, COVID-19.

As always, if you want to talk about motivating and engaging your staff, get in touch. We’re always happy to chat.

Case study – Digital rewards make sure healthcare heroes are recognised

Summary

A large UK healthcare provider, whose portfolio includes numerous care homes, found themselves unable to safely reward their staff with plastic gift cards following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK.

 

The challenge

For more than three years previously, the client had been enjoying our Love2shop Gift Cards. While we always discuss our digital reward options with clients, in this case, our client was understandably reluctant to change a winning formula – their reward scheme was producing good levels of engagement and positive feedback with using plastic gift cards.

While the client was happy with their status quo, the COVID-19 outbreak forced a change. Not only was there a sharp increase in the demands placed on the workdays of their employees, meriting more recognition and reward, but there was no safe way to distribute physical gift cards to their employees. A solution had to be found, and fast.

“Crucially, we’ve been able to keep engagement high, and keep rewarding our amazing staff, through a difficult time.”

Appreciate’ solution

After a conversation with their account manager,  Jackie Reynolds, about these difficulties, we recommended they switch to our  digital reward codes.

Our codes are an end-to-end digital product, meaning  there’s no physical interaction between our clients and their staff  when  buying or delivering them. Clients order them through our Self-Serve portal, and they’re delivered digitally. The codes themselves come to employees as emails or text messages, and those employees redeem them online. Perfect for sending rewards when physical contact is dangerous.

As it was unthinkable that our client’s incredible staff would go without rewards for their work during this difficult period, these digital rewards were a natural fit. Jackie helped them through an initial transition, and made sure the client got right back to thanking their employees with exciting rewards as soon as possible.

“The codes are so simple to use that our staff have had no trouble making the switch.”

The outcome

Most importantly, our client was able to lift morale among their staff in a trying time. For Appreciate, part of Appreciate Group plc, this is one of the aspects of our work we’re most proud of. Employees doing great things deserve to be recognised and celebrated. It’s a privilege to help deliver that for our clients.

However, the rewards have also been a success in other ways. For instance, our client’s staff have enjoyed their digital rewards so much, they are considering continuing to use digital rewards even when contact is safe in their workplace again.

The digital ordering and delivery process for our reward codes also deliver significant advantages in fulfilment and ordering. Especially when centrally managing a nationwide scheme. Our client would previously order their gift cards, and have them delivered to their central office. From there, the client would separate the rewards and send them to individual facilities, creating a time-consuming administrative task on top of postage fees.

Our simple ordering process, and digitally fulfilled rewards, massively simplified that process, removing the need for physical fulfilment. The combined effect is less time, and less money, being spent to deliver better rewards.

Jackie Reynolds, the Love2Shop Engagement Consultant who managed the project, added: “What’s good to see is how easily their staff have adapted to their new rewards. Many clients have concerns about changing their staff rewards, especially if it involves technology, but our experience is usually that employees adapt quickly to the switch. It’s heartening to see that’s also the case for this challenge, given how important these rewards are to the client.”

Our contact inside the company said: “All our worries about switching from plastic to digital evaporated straight away. The codes are so simple to use that our staff have had no trouble making the switch. Crucially, we’ve also been able to keep engagement high, and keep rewarding our amazing staff through a difficult time.

“Appreciate, and our account manager Jackie, have done a great job helping us quickly make the change, and making sure that our incredible staff get the thanks and rewards they deserve so much during this difficult period.”

 

 

*At the request of our client, this case study has been anonymised.