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What Employee Engagement Really Means

Welcome to our Virtual Teams Tip of the Month series, where we tackle the challenges of working in the virtual team environment. This month, we discuss the topic of employee engagement, and what it truly means for your virtual team’s performance.

Employee engagement is a phrase often thrown around with regard to improving work performance, but what does it truly mean, and what does this engagement issue really look like?

An engaged workforce is one whose members are focused, productive, and contributing team members. They display a willingness to spend discretionary effort in order to accomplish objectives. They leverage their available tools and supply the energy needed to sustain positive performance. Today, more than ever, an organization’s workforce is likely to include employees and contract workers from a variety of locations, ages, genders, national cultures, and lifestyles.

Organizations with engaged employees perform better than average. They accomplish higher productivity, improve work processes, and have more positive team member relationships. Yet, engagement is a massively missed opportunity for about three quarters of the workforce. Research by Gallup shows that only about 25 percent of in-office workers are considered to be engaged. However, Gallup also found that “employees who work remotely 60% to less than 80% of the time have higher engagement that those who don’t ever work remotely.”

In a global marketplace where the majority of employees are not fully engaged, opportunities exist for organizations and teams that invest in ways to increase engagement. That investment should start with an organizational strategy for creating a culture of inclusion, collaboration, and involvement in mission-critical goals. Providing development for leaders and team members is also essential, especially those who work virtually. Leading and being a member of a virtual team is different from being onsite full-time. Without focused development, the differences in time, distance, culture and technology in addition to the diminished frequency of face-to-face communication can cause virtual team members to feel isolated, unsupported, and less engaged. Poorly executed virtual meetings are a particular challenge.

Here’s a Tip:

Does your virtual workforce show signs of low engagement? Here are some techniques you can use to develop more engagement and collaboration.

  • Regularly share your team’s mission and vision and how they align with the overall organization’s.
    When team members feel included and understand how their work contributes to the goals of the organization, they tend to align themselves and their activities in support of them.
  • Make your virtual meetings more interactive and engaging.
    Leverage your communications and collaboration technologies to include polls, group chats, and screen sharing to reduce multi-tasking and encourage involvement. Ask team members to share roles for facilitating, taking meeting notes, and leading discussions.
  • Be clear about how team decisions will be made and who will make them.
    Are you asking for team members’ input, to make a decision, gain consensus? Be explicit about issues and the decision-making process that will be used.
  • Use video conferencing.
    A study by Harvard Business Review found that “87 percent of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing.” While you may encounter some resistance initially, once team members become accustomed to using the technology, engagement will go up.

Challenge of the Month:

Select one of the tips above and commit to trying it for one month. See what a difference it makes for your team. Let us know how it worked for you and we’ll share it in an upcoming issue of our Tip of the Month.

Let us help you boost the performance of your virtual workforce. We help organizations and teams to close the gaps between current and ideal performance. We are experts in developing virtual teams to perform better than when everyone is in the room. Share your results by contacting us once you complete the challenge – we would love to hear your results!


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