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In the wake of the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses worldwide were compelled to rapidly adapt to new work landscapes. Now, some of the changes sparked by the outbreak of the health crisis are here to stay.

A recent survey conducted by the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, the University of Chicago and Stanford shows that, despite many organizations pushing to return to the office, executives expect both fully remote and hybrid work to grow. This scenario has left many enterprise organizations grappling with the task of enhancing employee engagement in the now hybrid work environment.

With a rich history of remote work, Avature stands at the forefront of this change. Drawing on our extensive experience, we have compiled a set of strategies to maintain productivity and foster employee engagement in the era of remote work. Let’s dive into the best practices.

1. Fine-tune Your Virtual Onboarding

Remote work is not going anywhere. Moreover, it has led to the single most crucial shift in work culture in recent years: fully digital work, at least for many office workers. In this new scenario, organizations need to rethink many steps of their recruiting and hiring processes.

Onboarding is one of them. Whereas traditional onboarding typically manifests as a series of face-to-face meetings involving HR, team members and managers, onboarding in this new reality of hybrid and geographically dispersed teams will inevitably shift to an exercise in talent management heavily dependent on technology.

Accordingly, the first and most important order of business for enterprise organizations should be to rely on technology to transition the onboarding experience from purely administrative to social.

In this new virtual working environment, the challenge lies in developing an onboarding plan to incorporate the social element without actually being in person. New hires are still excited to be joining the team, even though they’re doing so remotely. To keep that enthusiasm up, companies could set up virtual coffee breaks, team-building activities, or even have an impromptu Q&A session with the CEO or other business leaders.

Maintaining the social elements of onboarding can help companies promote employee engagement early on, which can have a long-term impact on retention, as well as reduce time to productivity as new hires find their feet faster, supported by their peers.

Feedback: The Key To Employee Engagement in 2024 and Beyond

Understanding that every person who makes up the company is different and that there’s no one-size-fits-all plan is critical for an onboarding strategy to work. In this sense, collecting employee feedback is a priority. By learning firsthand from the people who are experiencing the onboarding process, organizations can maximize their employee engagement efforts.

The most impactful feedback is generated through ongoing check-ins, maintaining a connection with the employees on a regular basis, boosting engagement and not just letting them fend for themselves once the official onboarding process is completed.

2. Keep Employee Engagement Social

Beyond onboarding, companies should look to implement social employee engagement strategies to thrive in this new hybrid work landscape. For most managers and direct reports, the experience of working almost exclusively from home presents unique challenges as offices are no longer the preferred space where employees and managers converge.

Employees who find themselves working from home are likely to be urgently asking the following questions: How will my company gauge productivity? How will I communicate with my team members? What about relationship building? Team building? Feedback? What if I need help or technical support?

As such, the HCM solution market has many tools available to help organizations efficiently collaborate, communicate and build meaningful relationships in entirely virtual environments. Here, at the intersection of technology, productivity and interpersonal relationships, we find a solution uniquely capable of navigating the pitfalls of remote work: the employee hub.

An employee hub is a mechanism for bringing company culture to life. It is a centralized engagement resource that puts virtual employees on the same page, and it will become increasingly important as organizations look to combat loneliness, promote networking and improve the WFH experience.

As a platform dedicated to engineering meaningful experiences and real-time communication, employee hubs – in our case, Avature DNA – combine the best elements of talent management and internal portals to create a critical one-stop shop for dynamic virtual team engagement and employee HR management.

As an organization, we utilize Avature DNA to not only keep our teams connected, engaged and informed but also as a central hub for social interactions of all types. Employees can post comments, add pictures and follow company-wide/trending topics. They can plan projects, provide their peers with feedback, upload essential documents and even share their favorite Spotify playlists. In short, employees can digitally share anything.

3. Boost Employee Engagement Through Internal Mobility

Beyond creating an authentic social context that promotes engagement, hiring from within is another strategy that can significantly impact employee engagement. Internal mobility – the practice of moving talent within an organization to develop new skills and meet positional needs – has taken on heightened importance in the past years as companies look to assess and reassess the availability of qualified talent.

As competition for skilled talent continues to increase, internal mobility helps organizations get more from their existing workforce by identifying and leveraging skills that already exist within the organization. This also enhances retention across companies, making employees aware of different available opportunities that may help them develop, both professionally and personally.

Additionally, it also helps satisfy the expectations of the newer generations to enter the workforce. Gen Z is drawn to jobs that offer flexibility and autonomy, and the best mobility programs offer employees a range of internal opportunities, including short-term projects or gigs.

So, how can organizations bring an effective mobility strategy to life and increase retention? On the one hand, they need the right technology to thrive in this new landscape. Nowadays, this means much more than just offering an internal careers site.

Organizations can benefit from adopting the activities and strategies usually deployed to cultivate relationships with external talent for nurturing employees (i.e., building candidate profiles, filtering talent pools, reaching out with targeted messaging and providing a personalized candidate experience). This can all be achieved with a market-leading internal mobility solution.

There are more issues to consider in this new and complex work scenario. Faced with mobility planning and the need to deliver personalized experiences at scale to the entire workforce, organizations should think about other important functionalities like the workflows that will power the approval mechanisms, growth behaviors, succession mapping and opportunities available for offer.

Like onboarding, deploying an internal mobility plan requires a conversation between everyone involved. Managers should be aware of an employee’s desire to move to a different area, and everything should be set in place to allow for that and for said employee’s return if it doesn’t work out.

Companies can build their internal mobility strategies with the right workforce, liquidity and policy. This can also include corporate alumni that they may want back. In order for companies to discover who these former employees are and why they want them back, the first step is to have a good performance management plan in place. This way, HR teams know where everyone stands in the organization.

4. Focus on the Principles of Continuous Performance Management

Another best practice for encouraging employee engagement in hybrid work models is to focus on implementing the principles of continuous performance management. Why continuous? Just think about the challenges that most employees are likely to face:

  • Scarcity of information
  • A lack of face time with management/direct supervisors
  • Social isolation and loneliness
  • Ambiguity in objectives
  • A general concern over career/skill development

Traditional performance management models focus almost exclusively on employee compensation and rankings. They were developed in an era where remote teams and telecommuting were bold predictions for a distant future. Continuous performance management, however, is a model that evolved specifically to address the challenges of the digital, work-from-home age. It is founded on the principle that evaluations should occur on an ongoing basis.

Rather than looking almost entirely at past actions, the continuous model encourages a more comprehensive, engaging and forward-looking evaluation scope – all essential success elements in these uncommon times where employees are likely to feel unsure of their objectives and purpose.

Organizations must endeavor to develop the culture and tools necessary to provide their employees with the engagement they need to progress and grow in a remote environment. The continuous model is uniquely positioned to provide meaningful engagement by replacing the once-a-year appraisals of yesteryear with ongoing, highly visible and ever-evolving discussions.

These engagement “touchpoints” typically manifest as biweekly check-ins, quarterly performance conversations and crowdsourced/peer feedback. All exponentially increase employee engagement (particularly the biweekly check-ins), and all can be successfully implemented in a virtual environment with a modern performance management solution.

5. Understanding the Skills Gap

It is increasingly important for companies to focus on their skills strategy to thrive in this agile scenario. And in this context, artificial intelligence can help take this endeavor to the next level. AI is exceptional at making connections and identifying relationships between vast amounts of data, which allows for insightful predictions. Applying it to a skills matching strategy will enable companies to better understand their skills gap and where to concentrate their efforts efficiently.

Skills are not about quantity but rather the specific set that every organization needs. Technology, in this sense, is paramount to be able to find them. Driven by a company’s momentum, direction and the right technology, skills profiles can then shift in the way a company needs so they can remain competitive.

6. Avature is Here to Help

Employee engagement is arguably the biggest concern for HR leaders today. In a recent survey of 121 executives worldwide, the Boston Consulting Group found that “figuring out how to attract and retain talent is higher on executives’ agendas right now than improving productivity, keeping up with competitors and increasing cost-effectiveness.”

In this sense, many initiatives can help enhance employee engagement. These include improving communication to boost connection across remote teams, rethinking value propositions to drive retention, integrating upskilling and reskilling in everyday tasks and adopting a continuous performance management strategy to keep employees committed to their objectives.

However, it’s really about identifying your organization’s needs and creating a bespoke strategy. Technology should be a strategic enabler in this context, and that is where Avature can deliver flexible solutions that can truly adapt to your business without limiting you.

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