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3 responses for 3 common Employee Engagement challenges

A challenge we come across when designing our engagement solutions, is how often teams focussed on Employee Engagement, People, HR or Talent struggle to pinpoint the exact change they want to make. They’ve run the surveys, got the results, can see there’s room for improvement, but don’t know where or how to begin. This is understandable – the problem can feel intangible, especially as engagement survey responses are mostly fuelled by emotions. Improving the emotional wellbeing, connection, commitment, motivation, and ultimately performance across a business doesn’t happen overnight. You can, however, make meaningful, sustainable change that looks and feels innovative for everyone involved without diverging from company objectives, but that crucially addresses what your employees are telling you.

To help demystify these solutions and show that it can be easily achieved, we thought we’d break down 3 common Engagement Survey trends and their responses.

Social Management & Preventing Detachment

As we find ourselves working more from home, or on the move, it can be very difficult to feel “part” of something. Our sense of belonging and purpose can become diluted. Providing ways for employees to communicate and socialise with each other is essential, something we have spoken about a number of times.

What is the benefit in addressing this? The feeling of isolation that can often result from working remotely can be damaging not just for your sense of belonging within a team, but also for your mental health. From a business perspective, having people not in the same building or room can reduce the opportunities for fast interactions and iterations of ideas, serendipitous conversations in the kitchen and those water cooler moments. They may feel like minor aspects of business-as-usual, but all of these moments can often lead to creative sparks being ignited.

Employers who enforce a high level of social connection (with co-workers and the wider external community, perhaps through nudges etc) benefit from a 64% high engagement rate of employees.

Idea Management & Employee Voice

It is not uncommon for employees to feel voiceless, especially in large organisations, in the face of change, or when their roles focus on day to day operations rather than strategic objectives. This can be incredibly demotivating and if left unaddressed can drive a wedge between employee groups and the organisation. Employees who don’t believe their company will act on their feedback are 7x more likely to be disengaged than those who do. It gets even worse when employees are asked for their opinion, but nothing ever happens with the ideas they provide. Not only does this make them feel they can’t be heard, but that when they are – what they say has little to no value. Having the “What’s the point?” effect.

What is the benefit in addressing this? Companies often preach that their employees are their most important asset. Sometimes they don’t realise just how true this is. Employees are the face of a brand, they manage customer problems, and live and breathe the products or services all day every day. They are often in a good position to resolve common issues or ideate improvements. Encourage knowledge sharing, and inclusivity across ongoing projects. By supporting employees to be collaborators and facilitators, you may well find you’ve created teams of innovators.
Places where “employees have influence” get longer tenures out of their workers. After three years, there’s a 47% chance of an employee sticking with them. At companies seen as less empowering, employees only have a 35% chance of celebrating their three-year work anniversary.

Recognition Management & Boosting Commitment

Another big issue that employees often talk about is not feeling recognised for the contributions they make to the company and for each other. 82% of employees are happier when they’re recognised at work. Especially meaningful at times where people are maybe going above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a project done on time, or even just when you can see a colleague is having a full-on week. This does not just mean offering financial recognition, like a bonus or vouchers. Extrinsic rewards can sometimes have the opposite effect; your work on this project after hours is worth £25 to spend on Amazon. Doesn’t feel great does it?

What is the benefit in addressing this? Feeling recognised fosters a sense of community, that the people around you appreciate you for your skills, your aptitude, and all you do. Celebrating wins, boosting visibility of people’s contributions, providing spaces for people to share and receive praise can go a long way to improving community spirit and how fulfilled people feel in their role. Employees who are confident that their company recognises their individual contribution are more likely to keep contributing and going the extra mile.

When asked what would motivate them to remain with their current employer, respondents cited interesting work (74 percent) and recognition and rewards (69 percent) as the top factors.

Addressing the Problem

Having identified three core areas to work on (employee responses & needs) we can start to design the solutions to improve the employee experience, thus moving the dial on overall employee engagement. Myth buster time: these solutions don’t have to be complex, distracting platforms that sit apart from everyday work! We believe in simply enhancing common processes and approaches to deliver better results. So, let’s give it a go!

  • Connection: Platforms that mimic social networks can feel familiar and encourage more informal conversations. But presenting another channel for communicating isn’t always as helpful as it may initially seem. When you’re working on your own, away from the office, seeing you have 77 notifications across 8 different work-based applications can cause more chaos than connection as you stress over which conversation to answer first or what channel has genuine work-related information.
    Instead offer a solution that could mimic the workplace while running in the background; where you know which break out zone to head to when you’re in need of some friendly, non-work related chat, or alternatively pop into the ideation area when you’ve hit the wall and you want to bounce some ideas off people. A tutorial that could run for the first few weeks could also help guide people on how to get the most out of the new tool (and avoid awkward misuse or over-sharing moments), and even help identify and source internal champions to help engage and encourage others appropriately.
  • Voice: Speaking of ideas, an effective way to provide all employees with a voice is to implement digital ideation systems, a place where employees can submit ideas they feel will benefit the organisation. The system needs to be available to everyone so that they can submit an idea. Other employees would then be able to see these ideas, comment on them and vote on them. The voting is important to help surface the best ideas. Voting could be in rounds, with gated progress, so that ideas need to pass certain checkpoints to be seen by wider or more senior audiences. Ideas that are chosen to be developed can them be collaboratively worked on and developed further by teams within the system. A system like this can be open all year around for general ideas but could also be used to help solve specific problems set out by the company. This kind of crowd sourced solution development can be incredibly effective and make everyone feel they have a chance to be heard.
  • Recognition: And finally, providing a space within the solution to manage and showcase recognition would round off our three key issues. It would need to include more than top down recognition, although providing prompts like “Who’s really impressed you this week?” could help facilitate better relations between teams and managers. But it’s also about enabling peer to peer, informal, and cross departmental or regional recognition. Having this integrated alongside the social and ideation threads would only do more to bring communities together, knowing you can say ‘thank you’ or ‘great work’ from afar.
    Employees could recognise each other for jobs well done, pitching in when they didn’t need to, displaying company values, and each could be assigned individual gestures or commendations depending on the message being sent. Virtual applause for job well done that could be used more frequently, a high five for great teamwork, specific badges for excellent customer service or innovation, etc. These awards could be displayed on the individual’s profile, as references or reminders of their performance, and subtle encouragement to work towards attaining more. The profiles could even be used as a references within appraisals or internal reviews, adding more meaning to everyday work and wins.

No matter what the job is most workers and employees will need to go through training, learning and development in some form at some point. It will vary drastically between sectors amongst other factors but generally it can be split into three distinct categories: mandatory (for example, health and safety or IT security), career related (project management), and personal development (communication and presentation skills). In the corporate world learning has received more pronounced attention (and subsequently investment in many cases) from executive and people teams in recent years, especially as demand for learning opportunities builds with each new generation entering the workforce, and with more readily available opportunities to demonstrate upskilling across your career. Scan the careers section on LinkedIn and you will spot ‘learning’ playing an integral role in many organisations EVP, or just being an essential compliance piece for effective employees.

However along with demand, expectations are also growing. Organisations are eager to stay relevant and keep their employee experience offering innovative, but so often people keep circling back to LMS platforms with no personalisation or personality. You can only reinvent the same content or processes so many times, and L&D professionals today find themselves in a battle for people’s attention in a world that has had to move so many events and strategies entirely online. Equipped with all the benefits of technology, but perhaps still facing a delay until we can have face-to-face sessions again, how can we reinvigorate and enable L&D to ensure participation, commitment, and engagement?

Video is King?

Video has long been the first step for online learning settings, and it is particularly useful when virtually replicating what otherwise would be happening in a classroom based or face to face environment. Quick videos suit the attention span of today’s learner, and conferencing helps encourage connecting and collaborating across locations. There are plenty of advantages that video content can bring to the professional world. It has the potential to be delivered at any time often on any device, it can be made bite sized, it can be made collaborative, autonomous, virtual, the possibilities only grow with technological advancements. But in the same breath, so does video exhaustion. Zoom has seen a growth from 10 million meeting participants per day to over 300 million per day since the start of January 2020. It has been used for everything from virtual coffee mornings to delivering webinars. Whilst the online move was vital for the events space and has shown great lengths of creativity behind L&D, even by the second month of lockdown many were feeling saturated, facing webinar overload, and most concerningly worrying about the potential impact on career progression and stagnation over time.

Video undoubtedly does enable more dynamic content production, but it doesn’t always allow for inter-personal or spontaneous moments that develop naturally in person and this has been noticed profoundly since lockdown. Conferencing and video both have a tendency to fall flat when it comes to personal and professional development. Individuals are lacking the communication and collaboration required to thrive, develop, and pick up those soft skills from being immersed in a physical environment with others. It can feel hard for people to feel like they’re progressing, learning, or on track with their development when it’s just them and their screen all day every day, they’re having to prove their skills and aptitude purely online. This is where a balance between technology and human interaction becomes important. There are plenty of digital solutions to connect A to B or carry messaging. To support people’s innate drive for relatedness, autonomy, mastery and purpose any implemented technology needs to facilitate experiences that address and interpret the core needs of the people involved.

People need more of a hook with compelling content in order to build engagement and commitment to the learning path.

Not Just Playing Games

A 2019 survey found that 83% of the respondents receiving gamified training felt motivated, versus only 28% for those undertaking non-gamified training. When gamified elements were added to training, boredom dropped to 10%. And although integrating gamification into training or L&D isn’t new: right now, there is a great opportunity to delve further into its possibilities.

Think about traditionally content heavy training: we have all been faced with reading through pages upon pages of health and safety, corporate rules and regulation training that is often difficult to absorb. Translating this content into a virtual gamified experience has been show to be a particularly effective approach for helping to deliver consistent experiences in a way that employees can ‘digest’ easily, interpret

That said, hesitations around gamifying experiences is understandable, particularly when trying to deliver essential or meaningful training, such as how to improve communication or diversity awareness. But gamification doesn’t always just make something fun. It can be a stimulating element for ensuring learning transfer, through more meaningful recognition techniques, visualising progress, or simply by integrating levels or tutorials to help people find their feet on a new course. In the absence of face to face training, simulation and scenario-based training can be a great substitute, especially with the advent of more affordable technologies such as Virtual Reality. Applicable for more practical roles when you’re not yet able to put skills to the test in reality, like practising beauty treatments or developing trade related skills safely. This kind of immersive approach can be used for this by putting people in realistic, but safe situations – just like you would in a role play in face to face training, but without the nervous laughs and self-consciousness. When considering VR, research shows that the added movement associated with being able to move your head and even arms can increase a participant’s feeling of empathy during the experience, which can make a huge difference for people in customer facing positions. Or as part of recreating or simulating everyday experiences within a virtual environment, participants can create avatars to explore content, courses and locations, in a much more direct way.

Once you lift the experience from the classroom, the opportunities and approaches are endless. So whether it’s recreating a training event on a group video call, developing and providing a gamified experience or a virtual world: the common denominator in what will make each approach successful is the focus on making it an engaging experience, made accessible to potentially all employees irrespective of location. It might not be a full replacement for everyone being in a room together, but it’s certainly one step closer, and a way that training, L&D can be provided more naturally. Still providing something insightful, engaging and valuable yet is capable of evolving with changing circumstances and requirements. And not forgetting, providing an element of fun along the way!

The last few months have opened the public’s eyes to vulnerabilities in the care system more than ever before. Groups and communities have been isolated, while those trying to protect them have had increased pressure and responsibility, with little or no enhanced approaches to help. There is a real need to rebuild care and connection, utilising the tools and innovation we often apply to other sectors of society.

What should the next generation of care look like? Where could we go from here for cross-collaboration between communities and areas of expertise? Can similar approaches and an understanding of users be applied in a preventative way? And how can we innovatively introduce technology in everyday interactions to improve quality of life?

In our virtual lecture with Newcastle University Open Lab, the team walk through a solution focussed on streamlining and reimagining working processes with compassion. We examine the development journey, through the lens of a real care shift, as an example of how technology, UX design, and empathy can come together to create insightful tools that empower users and promote quality care.

The first step of many towards addressing the structural, resourcing, societal and emotive challenges at the heart of an aging population. 

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The Future of Work has been a hot topic for a number of years. Emerging technologies, emerging generations of employees, changing values and routines have all influenced futurist’s predictions for how the world of work will look come 2025, 2030, or 2050. Then, the circumstances of the last few months have brought a whole new set of possibilities and implications. All sectors face challenges as they respond and recover from the consequences of COVID-19. The future, let alone the future of work or the workplace, is now perhaps feeling a little undefined. It is not the first time, however, that an unforeseen force has shifted the course of economic development. The very essence of looking to the future is that it will always feel somewhat unknown, unpredictable. A leap into new challenges, hurdles, and opportunities.

In some ways, Employee Engagement is an equally undefined topic for many. It means different things, to different people, but we define it as the resulting outcome from an emotional or psychological attachment between employees, their work and their organisation. Crucially to the definition, this relationship is genuinely reciprocal – employees commit and contribute, organisations support and enable their employees. There are various ideas that suggest how Employee Engagement will be nurtured in the future. Often, they focus on an organisation’s offering or benefits; flexible working policies, limitless holidays, personal coaching, wellness, the list could go on.
All are valid and worth consideration, but we would argue that Engagement of the future will need to be:

  • Technology Driven: technology today can provide limitless possibilities for reaching and engaging broad, varied audiences
  • Employee-centric: empowering employees to want to perform to the best of their abilities as it makes them feel good, and fuels business success
  • Meaningful: new software alone won’t cut it in an age of constant change, distraction, innovation and for a workforce with evolving needs and expectations. Real engagement comes from personalised, relevant and science-based approaches.

In the present, businesses are revaluating strategies, priorities and objectives in the face of an immediate uncertainty. One remedy to navigate these times and prepare for the future are solutions and approaches that encourage people to go the extra mile, achieve greater productivity, develops brand ambassadors, and deliver even better customer experiences. And that requires genuine, sustainable engagement to bring out the best in your people and business.

Technology: Friend or Foe?

Before COVID-19 there were concerns around the rise of automation, echoing every significant jump in technology’s capabilities since the Industrial Revolution. And we may arguably always have that love-hate relationship with technology. The same addiction to our mobile devices, is what has helped us stay in touch with our loved ones during lockdown. The flexibility and immediacy of our digital tools and software is what has meant collaboration and communication haven’t suffered too much while remote working was enforced. For many it hasn’t been that simple of course, but the point is that technology is an enabler, it helps empower our individual creativity, curiosity and contribution.

But it is just that – a vehicle, a channel, a platform, for us to work upon and improve. If we look back on the last 100 years, what we have learnt is that behind every new technology or engineering break through are the humans driving that change. We may have been ‘afraid’ of automation or AI (or maybe better said, the change they would bring to jobs and markets) and how they would come to replace people, but we must remember that these developments are for us to adopt and apply in a way that enhances the world around us. We will still need the innovators, the operators, the fixers and creatives to support, maintain, understand, and optimise whatever the latest trend is. Technology isn’t the sole solution nor is it the end of the journey. It is what we can utilise to address everyday problems – and to create solutions to human problems, you cannot remove the human element.

Understand People, Unleash Potential

Future of Work predictions often talk about how people will be doing their work (e.g. conference calls via VR headset) or where (from the beach), but we would argue that why they will work is equally important.

Gallup report (State of the Global Workforce, 2017)

According to the Gallup report (State of the Global Workforce, 2017), two thirds of the global workforces (67%) are not engaged at work, which means they are putting in time but little discretionary effort. Why does this matter? That lack of engagement (employee has turned up but is tuned out) results in a significant productivity gap that is estimated to be worth billions of pounds.

How often do organisations claim that their people are their biggest asset? Businesses must learn to understand, empathise and respond to employee needs and drives if they want to close that costly productivity gap. Companies with high empathy scores generate 50% more earnings, and over 70% of employees would consider leaving their current company if it displayed less empathy. Each generation that reaches the workforce (and simultaneously the marketplace as consumers) arrives with its own expectations and values, formed by its experiences and the experiences of the previous generation. New generations and needs do not translate as people wanting it all, and not wanting to work. When revaluating priorities, people are looking to organise their life in a way that enables them to work to their best abilities, enjoy time with their family and friends to the best of their abilities, stay healthy to the best of their abilities and so on. Organisations need to understand what employees need from work, identify and explain what they as a business need to achieve for success, and make the subsequent experiences manageable, efficient and memorable to encourage commitment, participation, productivity for more profitability. Here, businesses have a prime opportunity to provide solutions that enable the fulfilment of their people, and that tap into and support their needs and motivations, to unlock that engagement gap.

Empathise, Enable, Engage

So what does the road to the Future of Work, Future of Engagement actually look like? How do we get there? As we’ve discussed, it won’t necessarily lead to everyone working from home, or everyone’s job being replaced by AI, but technology can have a powerful role to play in providing a platform for change.

Engaging Experiences: A lot of the time organisations know they want to enhance Employee Engagement in their workplace, but don’t know how or where to begin. Often the bigger picture can be improved by identifying themes or smaller areas to impact through change. Tools that help break down tasks and reward for each goal achieved seem simple but actually go a long way towards building up self-esteem and highlighting the value of an employee’s role. Applications that identify daily goals, recognise achievements, energise participants throughout, can show how on an individual scale and as part of a team they contribute towards driving the organisation towards its goals.

For example, immersive, ongoing experiences that require teamwork or reinforce and embed corporate values can help bring intangible aspirations to life for all to relate to and work towards representing. Employees can learn to identify desired behaviours and identify how they can embody them in their daily tasks or interactions.

RAMP: Intrinsic motivation (a drive from within, rather than external rewards) is where genuine, sustainable engagement comes from. Businesses need to better understand what motivates their people, and respond accordingly, with processes and approaches that apply this insight. The RAMP model is based on Self Determination Theory, and is what we often follow to look at challenges through different lenses, and to empathise with different user groups. RAMP and stands for Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Relatedness taps into our innate desire to be connected to others, Autonomy, the need to have choice and freedom. Mastery is a need to improve, feel progress and achievement. Purpose can be described as the “reason” we do things. The changes and enhancements you make to processes, practices and culture, flow and contribute towards boosting employee motivation across these areas, as seen in the diagram above.

For example, consider the challenges around “returning to the office” post Covid-19. Ideation platforms can help employees voice solutions themselves and help them feel their concerns are considered. Onboarding systems with virtual tours of updated office or workspace that employees can interact with can begin re-introducing employees remotely, removing the element of “surprise” or confusion ahead of arriving, meaning people will feel equipped and ready for what they’ll be walking into. Both can be practices for the future, not just COVID-19.

Where do we go now?

Looking back again at the recent effects of COVID-19, the number one thing people have missed during different stages of isolation and lockdown is human interaction. This alone suggests we won’t be moving to a tech bubble. Remote employees have commented on how they’ve missed the spontaneous collaborative moments that come from being in the office, or the socialisation aspects that are hard to replicate purely on Zoom or Teams. Even though many have proven how remote working works, the workplace of the future will still include social and in person elements.

The one thing that will be consistent is that people will still be a major part of it, regardless of the economic landscape or advances in technology. The Future of Work may still be unwritten, but one certainty is that people will still be at the heart of it. People are not replaceable, and AI alone cannot power a business. The motivation, collaboration and creativity of people will. If people are organisations biggest asset, we need to ensure that they are made to feel like that if companies want to emerge from these uncertain times in a much stronger position.

Building Tools, Tasks, Teams and Trust

For many of us, recent events have challenged our concept of collaboration, connectivity and life in general. Remote teams have been forced to juggle integrating work and personal needs, while organisations have had to respond to a chain of complicated business conditions and challenges. The future seems to offer no clarity. A key question on the minds of employers now is how can they continue to keep a workforce engaged in times of such uncertainty. Any organisation’s greatest asset, engaged employees feel empowered and inspired to perform to the best of their abilities, deliver excellent customer experiences and achieve organisational goals.

At a time when many organisations are having to quickly re-evaluate strategies, resources and culture as well as develop new policies and approaches; there is an opportunity to creatively enable employee engagement.

Our latest webinar explores how we can build participation, motivation and commitment in a workforce with evolving perspectives, needs and values. The team look at how elements of game thinking and motivational theory can be used to maintain and increase engagement, and how this can then be embedded in HR best practices in order to make a real difference in the workplace when people may feel disconnected, disrupted, unfulfilled, and uncertain of the future.

 

Balancing Business Needs & Employee Priorities

What lies ahead? Businesses are having to quickly re-evaluate strategies, objectives, resources and culture as well as develop new policies and approaches. However, what people have recently experienced will also have affected their own values, needs, beliefs and priorities. As a result, there will be a new round of challenges to face in supporting and sustaining an engaged, committed, and productive workforce in what will undoubtedly be difficult business conditions. Check out our session where we discuss how these very human challenges call for empathetic solutions.

In this webinar our team walk through a practical framework for addressing common issues and build a structure to help your business evolve – however and whatever that may look like. What lies ahead is an opportunity to make a real difference by reassessing and improving approaches in the workplace, focussing on people to achieve business success against an uncertain backdrop.

 

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Events of late created a “forced trial” of remote working for many companies, shifting the way we all think about collaboration and teamwork. In this webinar we look at how motivational theory can be used to maintain and increase engagement across businesses during such unprecedented times, where people feel disconnected, disrupted, unfulfilled, and uncertain of the future.

Tech solutions are not enough, especially in isolation. They need to have people’s needs at their core. In the session below we explored how understanding this can improve communication, productivity and overall engagement across teams and businesses.

For more background reading on the subject, check out our post on remote work and RAMP

 

 

The demand for remote working keeps growing, with technology enabling employees to balance personal life with their commitment to work. How can companies be preparing to meet expectations and adapt to a more remote workforce?
Check out the stats below or download your own copy of the infographic.

You’ve no doubt already seen a plethora of blogs out there about the most effective ways to successfully work from home. Good lighting. Clear workspace. Stretch out every so often. But even once we set up our respective workstations, make to-do lists, and take frequent breaks throughout the day – there may still be elements missing when remote.
Just because working from home isn’t a new concept, it doesn’t mean it won’t be new to a lot of people. Whether they’re new to the working world or their previous jobs never required or allowed it, we reached out to six people in various roles and occupations who are new to working from home. Despite everyone’s circumstances being unique, they shared some common challenges that may speak to you as well.

Human Connection, Communication & Collaboration

We have hundreds of digital communication tools at our fingertips to keep everyone connected. Facebook, Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet – the list is endless. Some companies even have several implemented for employees. So why are communication and collaboration persistently top issues for remote workers? It’s because of how we use them. This was something reflected in our interviews as five out of the six respondents stated that despite still feeling somewhat connected to their teams, it was hard to sustain throughout the day. It was specifically noted that it becomes much harder to gauge someone’s mood or tone, which impacted how the individuals felt able to contact their colleagues.

“I feel less connected to my team because of the lack of human interaction”

The issue of improving ease of communication and collaboration can be addressed by companies establishing best practices with their communication tools of choice. Where should employees chit chat? Where can they feel comfortable sharing a meme, a video or a funny anecdote? What is the best medium for feedback or high-level discussions? Very few tools can do it all unless they are specifically designed with remote teams or asynchronous communication in mind.

Regardless of age, when you first start a job, interaction can really influence how happy and settled you feel. Traditionally offices organise new joiner drinks, Friday breakfasts or similar opportunities for team bonding. This is the first thing lost when working from home. All of our respondents mentioned that they missed some social aspect since moving to remote working, be it being able to talk through an issue or question or even just missing the jokes. If you’re starting in a remote job it can be hard to find ways to bond or understand the team you need to collaborate and connect with. Perhaps more relevant to what people are facing in today’s world, how can you prevent team connections and bonds falling apart once everyone’s had to move to remote working? Especially at a time when businesses need their people to be pushing on more so than ever.

“I’m missing the jokes and the random spurs of out loud thoughts that lead to spouts of creativity in a collaborative environment”

We all need a nudge. When building our solutions, we firstly work to understand the user profiles who will be adopting the solution and then establish what nudges or prompts they might need to get the necessary work done, boosting motivation and productivity. It is here we use game design to implement the most effective mechanics to create these nudges. Activity loops which provide a prompt or call to action followed by some form of feedback are a simple way to keep people engaged. For example, the call to action could be a reminder to call someone that they have not spoken to in a while. The feedback would come in the form of the conversation that is then had. Or, the call to action could be a new goal set in a task that they must complete. In this instance, feedback could come in the form of progress markers or recognition within the team.

Staying on Track

Most businesses are well equipped with the previously mentioned communication tools for meetings, catch ups and follow ups, but what about project management tools? People new to working from home can quickly feel detached from the usual buzz of the office or feel that their day has been unproductive even when filled with calls. Helping people feel like they’re achieving something is vital for sustaining motivation and consequently, productivity. While many of us see flexibility as the main benefit of remote working, the flip side is if everyone is being flexible how do you ensure everyone’s flexible schedules and needs overlap? Feeling like you’re all on the same page can be hard when you lose sight of what everyone is doing. Something a few of our respondents picked up on was the lack of project management and collaborative working tools to ease the situation and improve motivation and the drive for teamwork.

Thinking outside the box and utilising tools that encourage feedback, recognition and help track progress can help ease the difficulties that exist around collaborative projects. This can look like collaborative to-do lists, virtual timelines, progress bars or notification prompts to managers. Platforms and solutions can be designed to help everyone to stay in the loop with each other and on track with what needs to be done, as well as supporting the social need for interaction. When combined with a more conscious effort to update each other, even with non-work specific things, has positive effects as it will help to immerse the natural flow of activity that occurs in the office, into the online environment.

“Isolation is an issue because the office acts as a social space so being remoted from this has consequences”

We have the benefit of technology to help us tackle these challenges, but it’s vital to remember the humans at the heart of it. Users who will feel lonely even with 101 digital tools available to them, users who will feel untethered from their usual productivity and routine. Work communication needs to be functional to sustain overall productivity and performance, but communication is more than just ‘pinging’ each other work updates. We can all get better at making an effort to be there for each other. More meaningful and productive communication, finding more areas for collaboration, aiding in employee development and motivation. However, there is also an argument that companies could be investing in the structures and digital tools that will empower and enable their employees to be their best selves – wherever they’re logging in from. Current circumstances aside, if remote working is here to stay, practices and approaches need to be put into place to help employees work remotely, not alone.

As we face new challenges in the workplace and the world in general, it seems that working from home and remote workforces will become an increasingly common practice. Employees and employers alike will be feeling the strain to balance priorities and maintain ‘business as usual’ structures. Communication tools and software are imperative for ensuring connectivity. If implemented alone, without strategy and an understanding of how your team engage in their work, they can feel like tools to monitor and observe employees.

Here we will look at how even just a basic understanding of motivation can help you to ensure your employees or your team, whatever their profile or drives, stay engaged and motivated whilst working from home – now and in the future.

The RAMP model is based on Self Determination Theory and stands for Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Relatedness taps into our innate desire to be connected to others, Autonomy, the need to have choice and freedom. Mastery is a need to improve, feel progress and achievement. Finally, Purpose can be described as the “reason” we do things.

All of these can hold the key to make working from home feel as productive or satisfying as working in an office.

Relatedness

This is one of the most important aspects that can be lost when working from home. In the office you always have people around to talk to, bounce ideas off and even just share a lunch break with. Working from home can be calming for some, isolating for others – and in times of uncertainty it is important to find ways to stay connected, not micromanaged.

  • Tools
    When working from home, it can be very isolating if no effort is made to engage with others. Most companies have tools that will enable this one way or another, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack and so on. Don’t bombard each other, but find reasons to send a positive message or email, and make sure there are meetings held on conference call, video call or even the good old-fashioned phone. Give your people a voice, literally!
  • Conversation & Collaboration
    When working from home for extended periods, make sure your employees are using those tools in a way similar to how they would talk to people in the office. Just because it is text based, doesn’t mean it can’t be just as valuable. If they are not using the tools, why not ask questions, send thoughts, share an anectdote. It is all part of keeping motivated and reminding you that there are others out there with you.

Autonomy

With remote work, it is important to accept that employees will naturally have more freedom and inevitably less structure than they may have in the office. If they are working from home to balance family life or health needs or extenuating circumstances with work commitments, flexibility is important. Flexibility doesn’t mean employees going MIA – which is a message for both employees and their managers. Don’t tie your employees to their desktops and phones out of fear. Connect with them and empower them to continue contributing and they will feel all the better (and perform more) for it.

  • Trust
    There may be a temptation to check in with employees more often than you might normally. This reduces their feeling of agency and autonomy. In turn, this makes them feel less trusted.
  • Accountability
    Whilst autonomy is great, employees need to be disciplined and take accountability for the work that has been set, or for finding work to be done.
  • Job Done vs Time Done
    Accept that employees will use their time working remotely differently to when they are in the office, breaking the concept of 9-5. Focus on rewarding and celebrating people getting work done, rather than whether they were online at 09:01. It can be hard, especially with current stresses, for people to be mentally present and motivated during strict time frames. Maintain ambitious project ideas, stick to deadlines, and celebrate when the job is done.

Mastery

This may be a little less obvious at first. If you are suddenly now part of a remote team, you might be feeling like your career progression has gone on hold, or maybe you’re struggling to keep up with your company’s e-learning system with other things on your mind. How can people develop their skills or experience when there is no one there to see them do it? Particularly if you’re from a more traditional working environment, working from home can end up feeling like you’re just sitting around. Mastery is about more than ticking boxes. Mastery is about achievement, and there are many ways for you to feel you are continuing to accomplish things professionally in a less conventional setting.

  • Goals
    Make sure that everyone has clear goals and that progress towards them can be tracked (for the employee’s benefit more than yours). It is essential that goals are achievable, and progress is recognised. If this is proving complicated in the beginning, break them down into smaller goals to build momentum.
  • Feedback
    Provide constructive feedback as regularly as makes sense for each employee. Whilst working remotely, it can be very hard to feel that you are succeeding or achieving anything, or to know what other people are doing around you.
  • Self-Guided Learning
    Help your team feel able to use their time to expand their skills with online and virtual learning/training courses. This will go towards them feeling trusted to manage their time, as well as providing some structure and even some inspiration for their day to day work.

Purpose

There are two versions of purpose that are important here. Firstly, finding some sort of value and meaning to the work you are doing – a reason why you are doing it. Organisations and employers play a huge role in this by helping to remind employees why the work they do is important, and emphasising that they are all part of a collective, collaborative group rather than remote satellites. The other aspect is philanthropic purpose, helping others. As mentioned before remote working, especially if somewhat involuntary, can be isolating for your team members. It is vital for team morale and motivation to keep up the human aspect of work rather than only pinging people for a favour or work related question.

  • Purpose and Value
    The more disconnected you are from an organisation, the easier it is to forget the importance of what you’re doing. It is essential that you keep up communications with your team so that you all don’t lose sight of your common goals and purpose. Also companies should be encouraged to continue sharing communications and updates to remove the sense of people working for or towards something invisible.
  • Helping Others
    The other type of purpose, that of helping others. Just because you can’t do a coffee round as you would in the office, doesn’t mean you can’t still help others in some way remotely. Make yourself available and remember that everyone is in the same boat!