While many corporations offer the flexibility of working virtually to employees, it is important to understand how to interact with them in order to keep these virtual workers happy and productive.
A newly released results of a survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Interact, a communications consultancy, highlights the importance of keeping communications strong, consistent and personal with virtual employees.
“Today it is standard practice for corporations to have people scattered across the country and around the globe, but the success of any culture still rests on relationships and human engagement; or what we help corporate leaders to develop, “The Influence Factor™.”
According to the survey, over two-thirds (69 percent) of American employees who ever work virtually agree that management needs to communicate better in order to keep them engaged.
“Unhappy employees who are disconnected from their managers and the company cannot take ownership of the mission, goals or big picture, which is the minimum requirement for the kind of engagement that impacts a company’s bottom line,” said Lou Solomon, CEO and Founder of Interact. “Today it is standard practice for corporations to have people scattered across the country and around the globe, but the success of any culture still rests on relationships and human engagement …”
The survey shows that even in the virtual age, cultivating personal connections and making face to face, in-person communication a priority in the corporate environment are essential.
Sixty-one percent of American employees who ever work virtually think those working in the office feel more engaged with management than they do; 50 percent report feeling disconnected from their colleagues as well.
In fact, 53 percent of American employees who ever work virtually indicate they have to work twice as hard as those in the office workplace to make connections within their organization.
Fifty-five percent of American employees who ever work virtually say their boss communicates with them almost exclusively by email.
In order to keep their team members engaged and ensure productivity and growth, executives must be intentional and strategic about building a sense of connectedness with virtual workers.
Interact has these tips for leaders to stay close to employees of organizations that are spread out geographically with large virtual workforces:
- Get personal and hit the road.
Watch out for getting land-locked at headquarters. If the entire team can’t be brought to headquarters, corporate executives must go to them. Hold in-person town hall meetings, allow people to ask questions, and telecast them to the entire organization. Create a culture of conversation and connection like Wells Fargo Capital Finance CEO Henry Jordan has done for decades by sending a Daily Thought to employees; or post regular video messages to employees on the intranet. Speak with clarity and simplicity and tell personal stories.
- Think small and get together.
Pare down the number of people on project teams to allow for intimacy and trust. What virtual workers often lack is the satisfaction of what it means to be a part of a trusting team of people connected by purpose. Bring a virtual team together twice a year to reconnect face-to-face. Use this time to decide how the team wants to work and communicate with one another.
- Discourage an email-only culture.
Email ups the probability that people will miscommunicate inadvertently. Use Skype and encourage members to pick up the phone for real conversations. People are wasting hours managing email that does nothing to build connections much less trust. Consider “No Email Fridays” and “No Email Weekends” for virtual teams.
- Invest in state-of-the-art equipment.
Invest in great equipment, particularly for companies with a large virtual workforce. It’s important for teams to see each other on video-conference regularly. Understand the various time zones and vary meeting times, and don’t make all meetings convenient to those at “headquarters” and inconvenient for everyone else.
About the Survey
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Interact from October 9-13, 2014 among 2,026 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Interact is a communications consultancy that helps Fortune 500 CEOs, business leaders, managers, entrepreneurs and their teams to develop authenticity, make connections, earn trust and build influence. With Lou Solomon at the helm, Interact specializes in drawing out clients’ authentic style, which is the source of strength and influence in every form of communication—from conversations and presentations and facilitation to coaching and keynote addresses. Interact offers customized-designed curriculums for teams and organizations, such as Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, Lend Lease, Carolinas Health Care System, Bank of America, Pernod Ricard, Farmers Insurance, the LPGA, and others; monthly open-enrollment courses; private sessions for individuals; virtual reinforcement; and is available to conduct off-site meetings and retreats.