In today’s work environment, measuring remote employee engagement could be the HR practice with the most impact.
When you try to learn about employees’ new challenges, triumphs and feelings – and act on what you understand – you can help the remote workforce thrive.
HR pros and front-line managers want to keep a close eye on morale, mental well-being and engagement more in the COVID-19 era.
And here’s why. In The Principal Well-Being Index study, employers said:
- 57% of their employees are stressed or overwhelmed with additional caregiving responsibilities
- 47% of their employees are overwhelmed with more work, and
- 44% of their employees have lower morale because they feel isolated.
On top of that, 50% of employers said more employees than ever used mental health benefits and asked questions about mental health resources since COVID-19 hit.
To stay ahead of – or help employees rebound – from morale and engagement issues, HR pros want to monitor and respond to remote employee engagement.
“The management truism, ‘You can’t control what you don’t measure’ certainly applies to HR initiatives and operations within any organization, especially when you’re working with a remote team,” says Max Muller, Principal at Max Muller & Associates.
Here are five best practices to measure remote employee engagement, regardless of the tool you use.
HR leaders and front-line managers want to use a tool – or two – that allow you to do several kinds of surveys. It might be something electronic, such as an app like Workplace from Facebook, or as grassroots as an anonymous email survey.
“Make your toolset as flexible as possible,” said Jo McRell, People Communications Manager at Facebook. That way you do different types of surveys and compare results.
Try an annual, larger-scale questionnaire survey. It can set a baseline on employee sentiment and engagement toward working conditions, compensation and benefits, challenges, rewards, communication, etc. You can also delve into areas such as feelings toward direct managers, company leadership, goals and colleague relationships.
Then do regular, short form “pulse surveys.” Ideally ask three rating questions (on a scale of 1-10 or 1-5). Ask one question for a short written response that reflects the issues in your large-scale survey. Send similar surveys when new topics come up – such as the sudden switch to remote work and its challenges.
To bolster results and get even more candid feedback, do one-on-one interviews. Those can be in a casual setting, but you’ll still want to stay focused on specific topics. It might be a good idea to get an HR rep to do the interviews. Do this in case employees become uncomfortable giving any negative feedback to their bosses. Ask questions, and give employees time and space to reply. Include an open-ended question to give employees a chance to bring up any other issues.
You can gauge remote employee engagement with Daily Scrums or stand-ups. Many front-line managers use them as an extension of group huddles that existed on site.
Daily Scrums on video can help managers literally see how employees are doing – a visual survey of their demeanor and morale. Employees and managers can share updates, request resources, set goals and/or collaborate.
HR might want to try weekly focus groups, too, when they can go over a set of engagement questions with a diverse group of employees. It’ll help HR get a better view of how employees are adapting to remote work, regardless of their roles. You can also use the forums to offer resources where you find it necessary and help employees across functions collaborate and interact.
Don’t just send surveys to employees and say, “Respond to this by Wednesday EOD.” Tell employees why you want to hear from them – and how you hope to use their feedback to improve engagement, especially while they’re remote.
“Showing care is really important,” McRell said in the recent webinar HRMorning Execution Considerations as Part of a Post-COVID Plan. “The lines between personal and professional have blurred and there’s a real need for empathy.”
That’s why employees need to know their bosses and the company care about their professional, physical and mental well-being.
Most employees say they can give their employers feedback. But 70% of employees say no one does anything with their insight, according to Workplace from Facebook experts. If you ask for feedback, and don’t follow up, employees will become disengaged from the surveys – and their work.
When you want to measure engagement, communicate:
- what you want to achieve by getting feedback
- how you’ll act on the results
- both positive and negative results
- explanations of what you’ll do and won’t do as a result of what you heard, and
- updates on what you’re doing to improve engagement.
Ask awesome questions
Regardless of how, when and where you measure employee engagement, you want to ask great questions.
You can adapt these into rating questions (on a scale of 1-10 or 1-5) or use one or two for short written responses. The questions come from LeeAnn Renninger, PhD, Co-CEO at Life Labs Learning:
- What challenges do you experience in comparison to when you worked in the office? (Alternative: On a scale of 1-5, 1=quite less difficult and 5=much more difficult, How are your work challenges now in comparison to when you worked on site?)
- Can you tell us what you like best and least about working remotely?
- What are the high and low points in a typical day?
- Do you know of equipment or process improvements that would make things 10% better? (Alternative: On a scale of 1-5, 1=quite less difficult and 5=much more difficult, How do you find remote work equipment and technology in comparison to when you worked on site?)
- What technology issues have you encountered?
- Moving forward, what would your ideal workstation be?
- What do you do to take breaks/recharge? (Alternative: On a scale of 1-5, 1=quite less difficult and 5=much more difficult, How would you rate your ability to take breaks and recharge while working from home?)
- Are you able to fully disconnect when on vacation or at the end of the day? (Alternative: On a scale of 1-5, 1=quite less difficult and 5=much more difficult, How would you rate your ability to fully disconnect at the end of the day or during time off?)
- Have challenges from your previous setup evolved, vanished or increased?
- What have you learned moving to remote work?
- Are there ways to make things easier?
- What benefits/advantages does remote work have compared to those in the office? (Alternative: On a scale of 1-5, 1=none at all and 5=much better, How would you rate the benefits/advantages of working from home in comparison to when you worked on site?)