You want to do more than manage your remote work team. You want them to thrive.
It’ll be nearly impossible to replicate the on-site work experience. But you can come close by making employees feel cared about, engaged and successful.
For Facebook, which has moved to a mostly remote workforce since the beginning of COVID-19, the critical factors have remained the same: Care, Culture and Community.
“We always go back to that,” says Sameer Chowdhri, Global Head, Workplace for HR at Facebook. “One of the most important things we do is put ‘People at the Center’ of how we operate, because it helps our employees stay connected and engaged during these times.”
Chowdhri and some of his colleagues recently shared the three core principles and six best-practices in our HRMorning Culture & Community Masterclass series.
Factor No. 1: Care
“It’s about the people,” Chowdhri says, “how leaders are leaning in to express care, managers taking extra effort to better understand their individual employee needs and employees supporting each other to help teams navigate through this change.”
Front-line managers and HR leaders need to lead in different ways from anything they’d ever done pre-coronavirus. In many cases, it involves more compassion and empathy – which probably isn’t difficult, considering managers also struggle with the new remote work realities.
At Facebook, that includes an emphasis on:
- Priorities and goals. “We think about the employees’ journey,” Chowdhri says. Managers work together with employees to clarify priorities and set goals.
- Manager check-ins. They do this at least a few times a week to gauge engagement.
- Work/life balance. Managers ask employees how they’re handling it. Then they offer resources to get the balance right if employees need help.
- Team engagement. Managers create ways for employees to effectively interact, collaborate and reach team goals.
- Inclusion and diversity. “Diversity is who is at the table,” Chowdhri says. “Inclusion speaks to how they experience the room and how we convert the room into a place where they feel a sense of belonging.”
Best practice 1: Get employees involved
Instead of just telling employees about internal changes that affect them, Facebook gets them involved before the changes happen.
“The days of one-way communication flow are over,” says Jo McRell, People Communications Manager at Facebook. “Showing care is really important,”
“It can’t just be a suggestion box anymore,” McRell says. Now it’s real-time surveying and feedback through their Workplace from Facebook app.
Best practice 2: Step back from video
Managers can show they care by giving employees more control of their time. Chowdhri suggests you set up shorter video meetings. Or you might swap them out for phone calls to alleviate video fatigue.
“Challenge yourself and employees by asking, ‘Do we need to meet? Can we do this better in a different way?” Chowdhri says.
Factor No. 2: Culture
“It’s about trust,” says Chowdhri, “Leaders lean in with purpose, strategy and a plan to align on the company mission, prioritize on goals and instill hope with a plan for the future.”
HR leaders and front line managers need to reinforce the Facebook culture whether employees are in facilities together or working singularly at home.
A culture of trust is built on:
- Purpose, strategy and plans. Leaders routinely get feedback on these factors. Then they use employees’ ideas and concerns to move forward.
- Vulnerable and authentic leadership. “A large part of leadership is how you build trust,” Chowdhri says. “You share the good and the bad. It’s how you humanize leadership.”
- Learning experiences. For example, they offer on-demand training.
- Value-based recognition. Everyone – managers and colleagues – have tools within the app to recognize each other because that builds morale.
- Virtual onboarding now includes many of the features from on-site onboarding.
- Sentiment analysis and employee pulse. They regularly gather and respond to feedback through pulse surveys – about three questions on a trending topic – through the app.
Best practice 3: Build virtual onboarding
On-site onboarding included putting together employees from across functions who started around the same time. They did some general training and interacted quite a bit so they could share employee experiences, explains Karen O’Neill, Director of People Growth at Facebook.
Now HR shifted it for new employees, who might not even set foot on a Facebook site. For example, they interact on video conferences, and do the same kind of training and experience-sharing. It’s helped engage new employees. They also make connections across the organization.
Best practice 4: Rethink the experience
At Facebook, they used to think about the office experience and workplace culture within a working space.
Now they focus on designing experiences – from onboarding to team building to training – as “Facebook experiences,” because they’re more focused on the company culture, explains O’Neill.
Everything they build – from policy and practice – needs to pass the “will this work for remote work?” test. So the same goes for established policies and practices. They look at how to adapt those for working from home – or eliminate them.
Factor No. 3: Community
“It’s about connection, a safe space to express yourself and wellbeing'” Chowdhri says. “It’s all about building a strong internal community with people who understand, accept and support you. They help you build resilience, take care of you by extending their support with social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing.”
For community, the emphasis is on:
- COVID stories and discussions. Employees have online communities to share and help each other.
- Inclusion and belonging. Employees often take the lead in creating new communities unique to their interests, backgrounds and lifestyles.
- Resilience and wellbeing. “It’s always about social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing,” Chowdhri says.
- Health and wellness. Facebook offers many outlets for both.
Best practice 5: Create communities that fit the times
Facebook created many Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – and employees created more of their own. They meet regularly (virtually these days), plan events and share information. Some groups include the Latina American Group, Women’s Group and Differently Abled Group.
To bolster the ERGs, they built resource pages on their Workplace from Facebook app where employees interested in the groups can get and share information and tap additional resources.
For instance, they’ve created more unique ERGs – such as a Parents Group, which helps people trying to school kids, and Sad WFH Meals, which includes lots of images of poorly made meals!
Best practice 6: Recognize great work
Facebook expanded how managers recognize employees – and employees recognize each other.
To make it personal and meaningful through the app, they explain:
- Why the person is being recognized
- The impact of the work or accomplishment, and
- The company value exhibited in the work or accomplishment.
They also created an “Achievement Post” within the app where managers and employees can recognize and thank work teams to bolster the community, boost morale and promote good work.