Remote workers are the lifeblood of many organizations today.
Scores of startups have embraced a virtual model, building staff rosters entirely of remote and/or freelance workers. There are plenty of great reasons for a business to use remote staff, but keeping those far-flung workers engaged, involved, informed and motivated is not so easy.
This is an issue all businesses must now contend with. According to a 2016 report from Gallup, 43 percent of employees work remotely at least some of the time. The same Gallup report showed higher levels of engagement from employees who work outside of the office 60–80 percent of the time. However, remote workers require much more deliberate communication, direction and feedback from their managers and co-workers.
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Communication can make or break your remote team’s success, so it’s crucial that managers accommodate employees’ work styles and personal preferences for receiving information. Let’s review a few ways to ensure this happens:
How to manage varying work styles
According to research that analyzed remote workers—through the lens of the 16 personality types identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality assessment—there was a fairly even split of preferences. There were some surprises, too.
For example, you might assume that people with a preference for Introversion would be more likely to take a remote position, but CPP Inc., which publishes the MBTI, found that remote workers are more likely to show a preference for Extraversion.
This is a reminder that there’s no cookie-cutter communication strategy that will suit every employee. If you want to keep your best people on board, you must account for every personality type, communication preference and work style.
Luckily, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Once you’ve learned the nuances of an employee’s work style, you just have to tailor your messages accordingly. For example, workers with a preference for Sensing–or focusing on individual facts and details before seeing underlying patterns or whole concepts–appreciate practical, concrete examples to understand how and why a process works.
Remote workers with a preference for Intuition—or focusing first on what facts mean and how they fit together—tend to be big-picture thinkers who don’t want to be bogged down with unnecessary details.
Likewise, employees who prefer Thinking are most influenced by objective data and cause-and-effect relationships. They tend to focus on logic and analysis when evaluating situations. This means that they will likely ask lots of questions to understand the logical reasoning behind a task. Conversely, workers making decisions with a preference for Feeling are most influenced by the effects that information and situations have on the parties involved. They care about connections, and they will often perform better working with others than on their own.
For remote workers, the MBTI finds that Judging and Perceiving preferences are pretty straightforward. A preference for Judging generally indicates that an employee wants a preset agenda, with goals and a plan clearly outlined. Those who prefer Perceiving, meanwhile, like to have some room to improvise as they find new inspiration and details.
Motivating remote workers
Communicating well with your team members is one thing, but motivating them is quite another. To keep your staffers feeling engaged, committed, valued and challenged, it’s important to show as much as you tell. You can say all you want about how much you care, but unless you back up words with meaningful action—whether it’s bonuses or other substantive perks—you risk alienating or losing valuable members of your team.
Every employee is a unique person with different needs, and determining what those needs are during the onboarding process can streamline the entire remote employee experience for everyone involved. If someone’s looking for flexibility in a position, offering company stock might not be the most enticing perk. Likewise, if an employee took the position to be able to spend more time at home with family, a pay raise might not be as meaningful as more days off.
Communication is crucial in any business setting. If your organization relies on remote workers, it’s even more so. Strive to make your communications straightforward, consistent and clear, and do your best to accommodate your workers’ preferences, work styles and temperaments.
Sherrie Haynie is director of U.S. Professional Services for CPP Inc.