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People Management

10 Employee Engagement Strategies Leading Remote Companies Live By

March 30, 2022
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6 mins

Employee engagement needs to be intentional, especially in a remote environment. Here are employee engagement programs you can use to benefit your employees and business.

Lawrence Barker
Employee engagement needs to be intentional, especially in a remote environment. Here are employee engagement programs you can use to benefit your employees and business.

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Employee engagement can feel like a puzzle when you’re part of a remote company. You may know it’s super important, but how are you supposed to keep people engaged when you’re physically distant? 

Thoughtful employee engagement programs are the key to solving this dilemma.

Whether your team is engaged or not has a dramatic impact on your business. Gallup found that engaged employees:

  • Were more likely to stay with their employers.
  • Had a 17% increase in productivity.
  • Raised customer ratings by 10%.
  • Increased sales by 20%.
  • Helped their employer increase profitability by 21%.

Engaged employees are better for your business across the board. 

Employee engagement strategies that people-first teams live by

Employee engagement needs to be intentional, especially in a remote environment. And we’re here to help with that. Here are 10 employee engagement programs you can implement to benefit your employees and your business.

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1. Dive into personal and company values

Company values can be beneficial for your business, but only if you’re actively embodying them and if they align with your employees’ personal values. If your value doesn’t align with your team’s personal values then they won’t be meaningful, and if they aren’t meaningful, it will be near impossible to embody them.

Corine Tan, a co-founder at Kona, shared how we do this at Kona, “We hold sessions where each employee defines two of their personal core values from Brene Brown’s Living Into Our Values worksheet and discuss them as a team.”

Discussing personal values as a team can increase engagement by facilitating better work relationships and collaboration. From there, you can define and adjust your company values to showcase how they relate to personal values. 

2. Develop a strong shadow program

Shadow programs are a great way to increase employee engagement in a number of ways. Having a strong shadow program will:

  • Increase rapport and collaboration between teams. Shadowing another team builds respect for one another and increases teamwork across your company.
  • Help employees learn other parts of the business. Employees who shadow learn to see the big picture and how their role fits into the business. 
  • Allow employees to explore where they want to go next. This aids in career development, helps the employee see opportunities available, and increases retention.
  • Develop great business relationships. Shadows are a great way to network and can lead to career mentorships. 

GitLab, a fully remote company, has an impressive CEO shadow program where an employee spends time with the CEO, completes short-term tasks for the company, and goes to all meetings involving the CEO. 

You can start to develop a strong shadow program by asking your employees what they would like to learn about and facilitating those learning opportunities. 

3. Create a clear career roadmap

One of the best ways to engage your employees—especially in a remote environment—is by creating a clear career roadmap for them.

Dropbox provides a career framework for its engineers that includes expectations for each role, key behaviors to develop for those roles, and how each role contributes to the company.

You can take this a step further by providing links to courses, articles, and other resources so your employees know how to develop the skills they need as well.

The best career roadmaps will provide employees with:

  • A clear path from where they are to where they want to go.
  • Resources like stretch assignments, training, and books, to help them develop for their future roles.
  • Mentorship opportunities available for each position.
  • Lateral movement opportunities—up isn’t the only way to move forward.
  • An easy-to-navigate place to house the roadmap.

4. Hold quarterly or bi-annual offsites

Despite working remotely, it’s still important to get everyone together every once in a while. “Offsites” or in-person meetups for your team are a great addition to your employee engagement programs.

Bringing your team together can build morale and break up the day-to-day. It helps your team and company get to know each other on a more direct level. 

Doist holds mini-retreats as well as full company offsites (and they swear by them). 

At Kona, we hold quarterly off sites to brainstorm and bond. Our last one was in San Francisco. Next up: San Diego! 

A company retreat can help foster collaboration and creativity. And, maybe most importantly, it shows your team that you are invested in and care for them.

5. Create personal READ MEs

A personal READ ME is a document created by an individual to easily allow others to get to know the most important parts of them. This can be especially helpful in a remote workplace where you can’t naturally get to know someone by spending time with them in person.

Here’s an example of a READ ME from Jessica Reeder, Senior Campaign Manager, All-Remote at GitLab. She touches on who she is, what she does, her accomplishments, and what it’s like to work with her.

A personal READ ME is an excellent place for your team to keep track of and reflect on their working style. While it’s not difficult to do this internally within a wiki, dedicated tools for creating READ MEs can make it even easier.

6. Implement fireside chats with your executive team

Don’t fall into the trap of letting your executives simply be talking heads during company-wide Zoom meetings. Even if you’re at a big company, your employees want to feel heard and appreciated. They want to know what your senior leadership team is thinking about. 

Virtual fireside chats give your team members some meaningful interaction with members of the executive team. Encourage employees to ask questions and bring ideas. This is your forum to create connections between your senior leadership and every level of your organization.

Fireside chats are also a great channel for showing appreciation, which is a vital ingredient to keeping employees engaged. 

7. Give meaningful employee recognition

Speaking of appreciation, recognizing your employees for a job well done is a hallmark of any good employee engagement program. 

But it has to be meaningful, so don’t make assumptions.

Instead, ask your employees how they prefer to be recognized. What kind of rewards do they appreciate? Some people will prefer monetary rewards, some like public recognition, and others might want time with senior leadership or a paid trip abroad. Whatever the preferences, prioritize implementing your teams’ feedback into your employee engagement program. 

8. Have fun together

Having fun together—not just working—builds employee camaraderie and engagement. Here are some traditional in-person activities you can easily adapt for a remote team:

  • Instead of going down to the bar together after work, have a Zoom happy hour where you can bring your own drinks.
  • Have trivia during the day in a Slack channel instead of going to trivia night after work.
  • Use an app like Kahoot to create fun and engaging ways to learn virtually.
  • For Taco Tuesday, invite everyone to have their own taco lunch on Zoom together (bonus points if you reimburse them for their tacos).

Markus Albert, Managing Director at Eat First, says, “I've decided to hold bi-weekly virtual beer meetings on Friday before the end of the workday to better simulate what might happen on a Friday afternoon in the office. During these meetings, we talk, drink together, play fun company quizzes, and so on.”

Your employees will thank you for making space for fun and being themselves. 

9. Provide and encourage Employee Resource Groups

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are employee-led networking groups of people with shared interests and life experiences.

ERGs are an amazing way to foster diversity and inclusion, which can drive up engagement (and the data proves it). ERGs bring like-minded people together, helping them connect with the company as a whole and providing a safe space for conversations.

You can help facilitate employee resource groups for women in leadership, people of color, working parents, the LGBTQ+ community, young professionals, or any other group that would benefit from being around similar people.

10. Introduce “lunch and learns” for employees to share their passions

Your employees want to feel like they’re more than just a cog in the wheel. 

Show your interest in them on a personal level by inviting them to teach something they care about during a lunch and learn. Potential topics are as diverse as your employee base and could range from budgeting to networking, to cooking, or mixology, or organization.  

Their colleagues will get to see a side of them they may not know, and they’ll be engaged with the company that is allowing them to talk about a passion they have. 

Dalia Katan, founder and CEO of Presently, has seen the impact of events like this firsthand:

“Virtual events are a great way to bring the team together…in the past, we've done a virtual cooking class, and in addition to learning something new, we get a bunch of great laughs and get to enjoy a meal together (virtually!) after all the hard work.”

We’ve only covered ten, but there are dozens of ways you can get started with employee engagement programs that will help you retain employees and make your business more successful. All it takes is a little intentionality and creativity!

Remember, you don’t need to have everything figured out at the outset. Get started by choosing one of these ideas and implementing it this month. Once you’ve launched, solicit feedback from your team, make adjustments, and keep improving over time. 

And if you’d like to read more about how to build a great remote company, check out these articles:

Meet the Author

Lawrence Barker

Lawrence uses his decade of customer experience leadership to create content for B2B SaaS companies that love their customers. He writes on a broad range of topics, all with the aim of helping human-centered companies attract the right customers and empower them to be successful.

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