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Engaging a Dispersed Workforce: 3 Tips for Managers

Managing people comes with a special—but for me, worthwhile—set of challenges. And managing remote employees adds another layer of complexity. But through my experience leading staff spread across different locations, I’ve learned a few tips for keeping people engaged and connected that I wanted to share with you. […]

Managing people comes with a special—but for me, worthwhile—set of challenges. And managing remote employees adds another layer of complexity. But through my experience leading staff spread across different locations, I’ve learned a few tips for keeping people engaged and connected that I wanted to share with you.

SumTotal Managing a Dispersed Workforce

1. Make it about more than the job.

We know employees (especially top performers) are engaged and driven by work that gives them a sense of accomplishment and lets them feel like they’re contributing to the goals of the organization in a meaningful way.  As an effective manager, you should be able to check the box for every member of your team on this one.

 

But what about the other stuff – the work that is not a ‘perfect fit’ for their current skills or job descriptions? It takes a conscious effort to create continuous development opportunities for any employee, but with remote workers, this becomes a crucial way to keep them engaged. Make an effort to offer your staff stretch projects that grow some of their less-advanced skills and help them connect across the organization through collaboration with colleagues they don’t typically work with. But, you won’t know which projects interest them unless you…

 

2. Pick up the phone (or turn on the webcam).

This one seems like a no-brainer, but in today’s digital world people aren’t doing it! I once had a job where a welcome email announcing me went out to the team, I emailed with my new boss about projects and introductions, but she never set aside time for a real conversation until the end of my second week on the job – I went 10 days on the job without ever speaking to my new manager. In today’s hyper-connected world of emails, texts and instant messaging we’re actually interpersonally disconnected.

 

As a manager, you can’t keep a current pulse on your employee’s development interests unless you’re having regular real-life conversations – don’t rely on last year’s performance process to be your only guidepost for keeping them engaged. Quick check-ins might work in an office environment where you’ll connect with a team member in person when you’re filling up coffee or in an afternoon meeting.  As remote workers, we might think we’re staying connected with daily messaging chats but it just isn’t the same as personal conversation. With a dispersed team, you need to make an effort to create virtual ‘water cooler moments’ to keep your team engaged – whether this means picking up the phone, or turning on video during your next team meeting.

 

3. As the manager, step aside (sometimes).

With a dispersed team, I find opportunities to remove myself from a project and explicitly ask my team members to collaborate and serve as a sounding board for each other on projects where they wouldn’t naturally connect in that way. In the right instances, removing the hierarchical component can really boost a contributor’s ownership and engagement with the project.

 

With a lack of physical workspace boundaries, high-performing remote employees can be easily susceptible to ‘brownout’: putting their heads down and plowing through work at all hours of the day because work is accessible. Silently, their level of dissatisfaction climbs and engagement plummets despite their work product staying on track. Creating informal project networks within your dispersed team is a terrific way to keep them engaged, and the teamwork often spills over into other projects or discussions.

 

Get tips for managing and motivating remote employees from other HR leaders in this Peer Insight.

 

The Fear of Paid Time Off (FOPTO)

Is the fear of missing out (FOMO) becoming a workplace epidemic? If the newest research from the U.S. Travel Association is any indication, it just might be. According to the survey, 41% of American workers do not plan to use all their paid time off (PTO) in 2014, despite it being part of their compensation plan. […]

Is the fear of missing out (FOMO) becoming a workplace epidemic? If the newest research from the U.S. Travel Association is any indication, it just might be. According to the survey, 41% of American workers do not plan to use all their paid time off (PTO) in 2014, despite it being part of their compensation plan. Yet, the bulk of people surveyed (96%) recognize the importance of using PTO.

So, where’s the rub? Why are we opting out of leisurely paid time off with families and friends?

Doggy Vacation

Why do we have FOPTO?

As mentioned above, I think a lot of it comes down to our fear of missing out. Here are a few examples from the study that back my argument.

  • Too much work, not enough time.
    According to the study, 40% of American workers say the heavy workload awaiting them upon return to the office is a top challenge in taking paid time off. I understand. The pre-and post-vacation frenzy is not something to look forward to. In the past, I have found myself scrambling to get everything done in order to take a few days off. The stress of a big workload should not prevent us from taking the time off we deserve. Don’t just plan for a vacation, plan for your absence at work. Get up to speed on deliverables at activities a few weeks before you head out of town, not the day before. Constantly remind your colleagues and managers that you’re taking time off so you don’t have to worry about the last minute requests.
  • No one else can do it.
    An astonishing 35% of employees will not use their time off because they believe “nobody else can do the work while I’m away.” To me, this either comes down to one of two things: 1. poor planning and communication, or 2. knowledge and information hoarding. The “no one else can do it” excuse is easily avoidable. Managers and other team members should be able to step in and cover during times of need. Proactive planning, supported by good learning and training programs, will help fill the void and lift the burden off the people feeling bad about taking PTO.
  • Fear of being replaced.
    More one-fifth of the respondents said they didn’t want others to see them as “replaceable.” One could argue that the “fear of being replaced” is what started off the vicious cycle of not being able to take vacation. Out of sight, out of mind, isn’t necessarily a good thing. Good leadership and communication can help people overcome the anxiety of being replaceable.

Why you should take PTO:
It’s time to put our fears aside, PTO is vital to our overall well-being. Time away from the office gives you the chance to reflect, relax and recharge. People who take time off have increased focus, productivity, energy and happiness. It allows you to experience new things, gain new perspectives and reconnect with friends and family.

Plus, studies have shown that people who miss one year’s vacation have higher risk of heart disease.

It’s time we reclaim the work-life balance.

What do you think?

 

#HRHangout: Our Worst Jobs

We all remember (and often talk about) the worst jobs we’ve ever had. We’re all guilty of swapping stories about bad bosses and bizarre workplace experiences.

This week was no exception.

I sat down with the funny and insightful folks over at Fistful of Talent to discuss some of the worst jobs they have had both inside and outside of HR. […]

We all remember (and often talk about) the worst jobs we’ve ever had. We’re all guilty of swapping stories about bad bosses and bizarre workplace experiences.

This week was no exception.

I sat down with the funny and insightful folks over at Fistful of Talent to discuss some of the worst jobs they have had both inside and outside of HR. Joking and complaining about our shared experiences is always fun, but learning from the past is what keeps us moving forward.

Kris Dunn, Kelly Dingee and R.J. Morris dive right into stories about their worst jobs and what they learned from them during this week’s HR Hangout.

Have something else to add? Tweet your experiences and advice to @SumTotalSystems using the hashtag #HRHangout to join the conversation! And, check out the past #HRHangout videos and conversations on our HR Hangout Storify!

Also, don’t forget to join us for our next #HRHangout: HARDBALL – Lessons in HR Intimidation, on Wednesday, September 24 at 2:00 pm ET.

 

Summer: Not a Vacation for Workforce Scheduling

Let’s face it. When summer rolls around, most folks are looking to cash in on their PTO banks and take some well-earned time off. And good organizations know that giving their employees vacation time pays off.

A CCH Human Resources Management study demonstrated that more than 50% of employees feel more “rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life” and that nearly 40% of workers “feel more productive and better about their job” when returning from vacation. […]

Let’s face it. When summer rolls around, most folks are looking to cash in on their PTO banks and take some well-earned time off. And good organizations know that giving their employees vacation time pays off.

A CCH Human Resources Management study demonstrated that more than 50% of employees feel more “rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life” and that nearly 40% of workers “feel more productive and better about their job” when returning from vacation.Beach (more…)

Millennials are Clocking In – Here’s How to Keep Them Around

The global workforce is about to experience a large scale changing of the guard. We have been forecasting the impact of Baby Boomers’ retirement for years, but it seems the younger generation has snuck up on us in a much bigger way than we anticipated. […]

The global workforce is about to experience a large scale changing of the guard. We have been forecasting the impact of Baby Boomers’ retirement for years, but it seems the younger generation has snuck up on us in a much bigger way than we anticipated.

If you pan through the news in Forbes, Bloomberg Business, HR Magazine and all publications in between, you’ll see Millennials littering the headlines. Reports claim that upwards of 90% of this generation will spend less than five years with one employer. Initial speculation might suggest that Millennials have short attention spans or are disloyal. Others color these “punk kids” as just being “whippersnappers.” Some employers say that these new workers just don’t have the skills that businesses need. (more…)

Knowledge Hoarders vs. Knowledge Sharers

There is nothing better than a little satirical office humor to get you through the workday – especially if it pokes fun at mismanaged offices and hard-to-work-with employees.

The other day I stumbled upon a classic Dilbert comic that made me laugh and think, “the more things change the more they stay the same.” It has been nearly a decade since Scott Adams released this comedic nugget; unfortunately for us, not much has changed. […]

There is nothing better than a little satirical office humor to get you through the workday – especially if it pokes fun at mismanaged offices and hard-to-work-with employees.

The other day I stumbled upon a classic Dilbert comic that made me laugh and think, “the more things change the more they stay the same.” It has been nearly a decade since Scott Adams released this comedic nugget; unfortunately for us, not much has changed.

DilbertComic_Knowledge-Power

(more…)