Employee engagement for a virtual office owner

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Even today, building relationships and maintaining harmony among team members and co-workers in physical environments is a challenge. We are yet to figure out the perfect formula to achieve this end. This issue continues to baffle HR managers and team leaders as they strive to unify the divergent and erratic sentiments of their workforce.
In such a scenario, is it difficult to run a virtual office? How can virtual teams be successfully managed?
The first step is to figure out, in your office, if employee engagement translates to productivity of the workforce or is it simply a measure of how happy your employees are. However, do remember that neither of these factors, on its own, is enough to guarantee good employee engagement.
So, the question remains—how can a virtual office owner ensure employee engagement?
1. Don’t copy the end result. See what works for your company.
It is tempting to copy the approaches taken by well-known companies to bring about employee engagement. But, this could be a huge waste of time, money, and effort because not all companies are the same. Thus, one approach may not work successfully across all companies.
Google’s Laszlo Bock has garnered much praise for his excellent work on understanding what the employees of Google need and designing engagement programs to keep them productive and excited. However, it is not a good idea to simply copy Bock’s engagement programs because they are tailored to Google and may or may not work for other firms. In Bock’s own words, “I don’t think it would make sense for just about any other company to try and replicate what Google does, because so much of how you manage people is [Google]-specific…”
Before rolling out their engagement programs, Google went through a multi-step process to study their employees.
They set up a “people analytics team” to study what makes their employees happy today and compare it to what will make them happy tomorrow. Therefore, it is a study that is continually being conducted.
The answer to what makes people happy at a particular point in time is dependent on several factors, such as the economy, the business environment, and the kind of employees present in the firm.
Thus, to truly engage your employees, your efforts should constitute an ongoing program instead of a one-time event. This is all the more true for virtual teams. Talent analytics technology is available for firms to use and profile their workforce before deciding on what sort of engagement programs to establish.
2. Endeavor to develop a virtual culture.
To successfully build a virtual office, factors such as strong leadership, effective team work, and the latest technology are important. There is a steep learning curve involved as well. Virtual workplaces have many advantages over physical ones. They boost productivity by as much as 40%, consequently raising profits. The firm saves money in the form of rents and leases, as applicable. Since virtual workplaces are not bound to a geographical location, they have a global reach. They also enable better customer service because employees save time communicating with clients and can focus on delivering services faster.
Virtual workplaces are quite different from physical ones, so the engagement programs for such offices should be well-customized.
3. Boost collaboration within your team.
Merely paying lip service to collaboration is not enough to further employee engagement. A good virtual team should be led by experienced and insightful leadership, who should be successful in engendering trust among the team members. Opportunities for learning, together with recognition for innovation can do wonders to boost employee engagement within a team.
Hence, here is your way forward to engage your employees and especially virtual teams, analyze what your team needs and what really excites them. Align the leadership team’s needs with the rest of the team. Encourage collaborative work style and all lines between people hazes out.