Communicating with remote employees: 5 tactics to keep them engaged

Hannah Wright
Last updated on 25th June 2020
4 min read

Communicating with employees at your company’s office is simple. You can simply walk over to a team, or host a face-to-face meeting.

Yet, in these unprecedented times of Covid-19 and the introduction of social distancing as a result, we find ourselves without these options.

While remote working is only possible with the help from technology, it can also sometimes become a hinderance when it comes to communicating effectively.  Employees may feel that they’re swamped in emails, calls and live chats, posing the risk that important messages can be easily missed.

So, how can HR and People teams effectively communicate, motivate and engage our colleagues when we can’t speak to them in person?

The importance of good internal communications

Internal communications are the best tool you have for keeping employees aligned to your company strategy – they just need to be engaging enough to cut through the noise.

When employees work remotely, they still want to feel part of the work community, arguably more so than in the office and creating stand-out internal communications is one of the best ways to reflect your company’s ethos. That, in turn, helps employees to feel part of the business’s mission.

However, the benefits aren’t just found in culture. Driving great internal communication strategies is also vital to ensuring employees feel valued and therefore remain motivated while working. In fact, 85% of employees feel more motivated when management provides regular updates.

Strong communications can lead to a host of other benefits, including helping your organization to build trust, creating a sense of community and improving employee retention. Despite all of this, 60% of organizations don’t have an internal communications strategy.

Here are our five top tips to use great internal comms to help drive engagement remotely.

1. Create online groups and make communication two-way

How do you make communication more two-way?

You can use an online platform to post informal news from the company, so as not to clog up employees’ inboxes. There are many ways you can do this, but arguably the best way is through an online collaboration forum such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Giving your staff a place to discuss both work and non-work matters can help them to feel engaged and part of a community, even when they are away from the office.

2. Set up an online recognition board

How often does your organization say thank you?

A great way to make employees feel engaged even while working remotely is to recognize their achievements. In fact, 69% of employees said they’d work harder if they were better appreciated and recognized.

Setting up an online recognition board – perhaps with rewards for employee of the week/month – can offer employees a new incentive.

However, your organization doesn’t have to recognize them with a reward. A simple thank you goes much further than you think.

3. Encourage teams to use video in calls where appropriate  

Do your employees regularly use video on calls?

By seeing colleagues on video, it’s easier to pick up on secondary forms of communication such as facial expressions, body language and tone of voice – things which may be missed on other forms of communication, like email.

It’s no wonder a survey revealed 98% of employees believe video-conferencing improves relationship building within their companies. Also, 87% agreed it’s the best alternative to meeting face-to-face.

Ultimately, the best internal communications are two-way, so video is a great way to facilitate that. However, be mindful of video fatigue. According to the BBC, it takes more of our concentration to sit on a video call than to speak face-to-face, not to mention the added concentration needed when there are delays and connectivity issues.

Additionally, employees may not want to switch on their video, whether that’s because of parenting or caring responsibilities, or living in a shared house. Ultimately, switching on video should be the employee’s choice, even if it is encouraged.   

4. Create or maintain a regular internal newsletter

A weekly internal newsletter is a great resource for employees.

Not only can it help to remind people of what’s going on around the organization, it provides a platform for leaders to remind them of the company mission and values.

If you don’t already have a newsletter, start today and start small. Include sections for key events such as important meetings, top tips about how to remote work effectively and give shout-outs to employees who have recently gone the extra mile for their colleagues and the company.

If you’re struggling to find the time to write your thoughts down, why not do an internal update via video? It could add a more personal approach, while still containing all the details you’d have in a newsletter.

5. Keep your intranet refreshed more than ever

What’s on your intranet?

From top tips on home working, to easy links to paychecks, policies or the last all-hands meeting, there’s so many ways you can use your intranet to make it the central hub for all your communications – but it needs to be regularly updated.

Using cloud technology, whether it’s through an intranet or using an HR and People system means that the information will be accessible on any device, no matter where they are.

Employees will want to see fresh, easy to read, well organized content, otherwise it could just as easily be ignored. 

Communication is valuable – so is feedback

No matter how you choose to communicate, regular and empathetic connection with your workforce is one of the most crucial assets you have – especially at a time like this.

It’s not about simply delivering a message, though. Make sure the message resonates, it’s two-way and that it helps them to feel part of the organization. Be clear about your organization’s mission, goals, and strategy – and how employees contribute to that. Being honest about what the organization and its leader know, and don’t know, is also vital in times of difficulty.

Ask your people on a regular basis what they think and follow through with the feedback so they feel listened to and truly engaged.  Ultimately, the subject of what you communicate should come from their needs; the rest is up to you.

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