Since the pandemic began in 2020, many companies have moved toward hybrid and remote working arrangements. Yet even seasoned leaders find it challenging to recognize and appreciate their virtual employees fully. Is it any wonder that Gallup research shows worker engagement levels keep shrinking? It’s a problem, especially in a tight labor market where finding and retaining talent takes a lot of work and resources.
Though there are various ways to improve employee engagement across remote teams, employee recognition programs can help. Case in point: When asked by Pew Research why they recently left jobs, 57% of respondents cited “disrespect“ as a minor or primary reason. It is easy to imagine that some unhappy individuals might have been persuaded to stay had they been acknowledged for their contributions by the leadership.
Of course, it can take a lot of work to understand how to show appreciation for workers who go above and beyond, particularly if they are scattered geographically. You need to design and nurture employee recognition programs that are impactful in online settings. Below are three proven strategies engineered to ensure remote staffers feel like the essential contributors they are.
1. Recognize virtually: Start meetings with sincere praise
Instead of launching right into business during your weekly Zoom team check-ins, begin by highlighting the excellent work you have seen or heard about. For example, share a customer’s review about a team member. Or, you could publicly thank someone for picking up extra tasks for a colleague who took a few days of unplanned PTO.
Initially, this might seem unusual. The practice will become part of your team’s culture with time and consistency. Open the floor to peer-to-peer praise during your meetings. Keep the kudos to approximately five minutes, but always launch into your conversation with some positivity.
2. Monthly recognition: “Employee of the Month” swag for remote staff
In a conventional office setting, you might name an “employee of the month.” Why not carry on the tradition remotely? Rather than handing the employee a gift or allowing the employee to park in a great spot, send out some merchandise.
You do not have to spend a fortune but do put some thought and effort into identifying what your employee will enjoy. A coffee lover might like a basket filled with unique coffee blends from around the world. A foodie may appreciate a box of gourmet treats. The point is to make the employee of the month feel valued as both a coworker and an individual.
3. Surprise appreciation: Granting remote staff extra time off
Has your remote team been working diligently on a long project? Have you all been burning the candle at both ends for weeks? Surprise your direct reports by offering some unexpected time off.
This doesn’t mean you have to give them a week or even a day to kick back. (That would be great if it’s workable, but understandable if it is not.) Even a few hours off on a Friday afternoon can give them the time they deserve to recharge. Tell them that they have earned this reward, and be very specific about how they are integral to your organization. This will allow them to connect the dots between the efforts they put forth and the recognition they are receiving.
If you are tired of wondering whether you are engaging your remote teams effectively, take heart. Recognition programs can have a significant impact on the motivation and productivity of remote teams. Often, it can be a relatively quick and reliable way to get everyone on the same page and keep operations moving forward. By incorporating these three proven strategies, you can ensure your remote staff feels valued, appreciated, and motivated to contribute their best work to your business.
Contributed to EO by Mike Szczesny, the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products such as crystal awards, branded merchandise, and athletic awards. Szczesny takes pride in EDCO’s ability to help companies go the extra mile in expressing gratitude and appreciation to their employees.