The COVID-19 pandemic workplace has changed the way we work – perhaps permanently. Take remote work. About half (48%) of 275 HR professionals say a sizeable majority of employees work remote according to a new report Understanding and Adapting to Today’s Massive Transformation of Work published by the HR Research Institute and SkillSurvey. That’s a dramatic change from the mere 8% who had a majority of remote workers before the crisis. Only 8% of respondents say they don’t have any remote workers – versus more than a quarter (28%) who said this was true before the pandemic.
Looking forward, companies will continue to employ remote workers even after the pandemic subsides, say experts. A huge majority, 90%, said they intended to permit remote employees to continue working at home – at least some of the time according to a Gartner poll conducted at the end of 2020.
Remote work impacts employee communications, and well-being
Yet, for many, it’s more challenging to work remotely. For some employers and employees it is a new experience and many are still finding their way. Many workers feel isolated due to a lack of communication and support from their employers. Other factors like economic uncertainty, health concerns, difficulty balancing work and home life, personal stress and more can contribute to less engagement.
Roughly half of the HR professionals surveyed (46%) said employee engagement declined a little or a lot as a result of COVID-19. A similar proportion, (45%), agreed or strongly agreed that internal communications is more challenging as a result of remote work arrangements.
Declining engagement leads to:
- Higher stress levels
- Diminishing internal communications
- Reduced teamwork
Best Practice: engage with remote workers frequently and collect regular feedback
However, the report also found some common strategies among companies with high engagement. You can combat the disconnect among remote workers by stepping up your virtual engagement strategies. One major tactic: get frequent and consistent feedback from new and existing employees – as well as their managers. (Getting feedback from managers makes great sense because they may have inside knowledge if employees are exhibiting low morale or are disengaged. Conversely, you can see if there’s a disconnect between managers’ and employees’ perceptions.)
However, only 39% of HR leaders agreed or strongly agreed that their organization has good employee survey tools. Even fewer, 33%, felt the same about employee assessment tools. What’s more, fewer than half gather metrics or feedback on key areas such as:
- job satisfaction and fit (47%),
- the onboarding experience (41%),
- and perceptions of managers (36%).
And the report says few organizations gather feedback and metrics in order to prevent turnover:
- Most rely on exit interviews, which are “after the fact” actions.
- Only 30% conduct annual climate/engagement surveys.
- Just 21% conduct pulse surveys.
Here’s what good engagement for remote workers looks like
The research reveals that organizations with more engaged employees go beyond the basics of surveying and looking at the resulting metrics. They do more than just keep tabs on employees’ well-being. They also gather metrics on job satisfaction and attitudes toward managers. Organizations with good levels of engagement:
- Have detailed and up-to-date understanding of employee well-being
- Gather feedback from employees on job satisfaction and fit as well as perceptions from their managers
- Onboard new hires and provide extra support during orientation
- Offer robust training programs to help employees develop new skills needed during the pandemic
- Gather detailed and up-to-date knowledge about employees’ soft skill sets, such as getting along well with others and taking initiative to complete projects.
To better engage this new breed of remote workers, many companies today are turning to software to stay on track and continually communicate with employees. SkillSurvey’s pre-hire and post-hire solutions can help. SkillSurvey automates the gathering of employee and supervisor feedback before, during and beyond the first 30/60/90+ days. The software uses scientifically designed questions customized for each phase of the employment lifecycle (everything from the recruiting process, hiring and onboarding to exit interviews). The pre-hire and post-hire data points help you make smarter hiring decisions and make sure you are providing the right environment to keep them. From the data, you can create a predictive model to determine who is the right fit for your organization, what motivates them, what keeps them engaged and what you can do to better retain them.
The remote work world is here to stay – at least for the immediate future. And it requires vigilant engagement strategies to ensure motivate your employees and keep them happy, motivated and productive.