Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Out of sight, out of mind: Helping remote employees connect with colleagues

It’s easy to forget about all those people out there in home offices. For those whose major interaction with colleagues in the corporate office is email and the occasional conference call, engagement may not be as high we’d like. By not being physically present, they miss out on a lot of relationship building that happens as a matter of course when people show up in the same place every day for work.

Here are three tips for helping this employee populations build their visibility:

  1. Put a face to a name: In the absence of in-person interaction, mere visibility can help. Just being able to visualize a face makes people feel more connected and familiar. Encourage profile pictures on the intranet, try an occasional video call, or even use FaceTime. (Millennial employees might be more comfortable with FT than those of us in their Boomer years.)
  2. Picture their environment: To help connect team members in a department that includes remote employees, or to introduce a new work-at-home employee, have people share a photo of their office or desk. Include everyone on the team, not just the remote folks. It’s always nice to be able to picture where someone is while you’re on the phone or emailing.
  3. Look for opportunities to meet face-to-face: In Tribe research with employees nationwide on cultivating collaboration, respondents told us that even meeting someone in person one time can help them feel more comfortable sharing ideas and working together. There may not be budget to have remote employees travel to corporate on a regular basis, but try to find a reason for them to do so once in awhile, and make sure they meet everyone they can on those visits.

Interested in engaging your remote employees? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Including everyone: Scale employee events for smaller offices and remote employees

Employee events are a fantastic way to build engagement. At Tribe, we often recommend events at the launch of a new enterprise strategy, leadership vision or rebranding. They provide an experience for employees that is unlike anything we can do through print or digital or even video channels.

But it’s tempting to focus the event just on those working 9-5 at the corporate headquarters. Those in other geographic locations, or in call centers, or working night shifts are often deemed just to difficult to include for a wide range of reasons. Home-based employees are usually excluded as well. After all, how can you create an event for one person?

At Tribe, we’ve found ways to include all those employee populations in events in meaningful ways. Here are three tips to expanding your reach when planning an employee event:

  1. Scale the event materials by office: Although it may not be practical to stage an event of the same magnitude in every global outpost, you can scale back the materials and activities to suit. We recently worked with a client on a rebranding event. The corporate headquarters was the epicenter of the happenings, but we threw similar events simultaneously in another US office and in a few smaller European offices. Working with a representative from each location, we determined the appropriate number of elements and the right agenda for each.
  2. Find ways to accommodate employees who can’t attend when everybody else does: When we worked on a vision event with a large healthcare system on the west coast, we had to consider that all the doctors and nurses couldn’t come strolling over to the event at the same time. Likewise, those working the graveyard shifts would miss the whole thing. So instead of what otherwise have been a two-hour window for the event, we stretched the time period so that people could come whenever they had a break in the action. This approach is also helpful with call centers or other locations where somebody’s got to be manning the fort at all times. For the night shifts, we held a separate event and instead of serving lunch, we served midnight hotdogs and barbecue. You wouldn’t believe how much it meant to those people that we staged an event in the middle of the night, just to make sure they weren’t left out.
  3. Send remote employees a mini-event: Often we’ll ship individual events-in-a-box to home-based employees. It might include a letter from the CEO on the cultural or business milestone the event is meant to mark, the same branded swag available at the event — from t-shirts to travel coffee mugs — and even refreshments, such as a branded cookie or box of mints. Recently, we included a confetti cannon to add a festive note to the at-home celebrations. We’ve also included online scavenger hunts when launching a new intranet and themed photo contests. Home-based employees can participate in those activities the same way those in the corporate office do.

Interested in learning how to engage more people in your employee events? Tribe can  help.