How to Build a Strong Culture of Engagement with Remote Employees

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Schedule flexibility and the ability to work somewhere other than the office remain two of the most important work benefits. Gallup's most recent report found that 53% of employees consider work-life balance to be very important when considering a job opportunity, 51% of employees would take an identical job in a company that offered more flexible hours, and 37% would take the same job somewhere else, for the same pay, if they could work wherever they want at least some of the time.

Fortunately, today's technologies and evolving leadership styles make it easy for companies to create a culture of high engagement with its remote workforce. Here are 6 ways companies can extend their cultures to remote employees, and ensure everyone knows they are a valued contributor regardless of where they are working.

Invest in tools that encourage and simplify online collaboration and communication. 

The right tools are the glue to keep employees and teams online and engaged. Here are some of the best tools to accomplish this:
Slack: Slack is a virtual water cooler. It's an online office. It's where people can collaborate, exchange ideas, and create dedicated slack rooms based on projects or topics.
Google Hangout: A great video option for one-on-one meetings.
Zoom: A video-based conference service that can accommodate many participants, allows for screen-sharing, and can be recorded. The free version accommodates calls of up to 45 minutes.
Skype: Another free video-based conference option. There are no call length limitations.
Yammer: An internal Twitter. A quick, easy way to share ideas and information with colleagues.
Go-To Meeting: One of the best platforms for reviewing projects with remote teammates.
Pair Buddies:  This tool randomly pairs employees together to get to know co-workers they may not otherwise know.

Include remote employees in frequent discussions and decisions.
A strategy we implement with many of our CEO clients to ensure strong employee engagement is frequent online surveys to get their input. We give employees the opportunity to weigh in on topics for all all-hands meetings, we survey every quarter about the culture, and we ask for their feedback on prospective new hires. We create many opportunities for employees to own their employment experiences.

Make attendance mandatory for all all-hands meetings, schedule them frequently, and use video.
A remote workforce requires hands-on leadership to drive high engagement. It won't happen naturally. Frequent all-hands meetings requires all employees to set aside time to focus on the entire organization, rather than what's only going on in their part of the world. If possible, use video-conferencing to see as many people as possible, with the audio-conferencing used as a backup.

Schedule in-person events, and fly people in if necessary.
No matter how engaged a remote workforce may be, nothing replaces in-person connections. Even if it's only twice a year, create events that allow employees to spend quality time together.

Invest in consistent, high-touch communications.
Leaders must be intentional in connecting with their remote employees. Ideas include a monthly newsletter, a monthly video message, or hand-written notes to remote employees through the year.

Let remote employees know you are accessible.
Remote employees must never believe you follow the-out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy. Remind them that an open-door policy applies to all employees, regardless of where they work.

Remote workforces will continue to grow as companies continue to move away from brick-and-mortar, hire more people who demand better work-life integration and greater flexibility, and implement technologies that can connect people anywhere and anytime.

Cultures must adapt to these shifts to continue attracting top talent.