How to improve and sustain employee engagement in a remote/hybrid world

Employers are amidst an intense war for talent that doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.

There are five million more weekly job postings available now than there were a year ago. And according to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index survey, 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer.

While many factors (a lack of career advancement opportunities, pandemic-related struggles, and more) have led us to this inflection point, Josh Vesely, SVP, Randstad, believes most employees don’t leave an organization. They leave a manager.

In this episode of The First 100 Days podcast, Josh sat down with Trinity Nguyen of UserGems to share how managers can improve and sustain employee engagement in the era of the great resignation.

Or, as some have called it, the great reshuffle.

Here’s the link to the full interview if you prefer audio over text. Otherwise, let’s dive in.

Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The workplace as we know it has changed

Organizations are struggling to hold on to the best and brightest talent out there because so many opportunities are being presented to them daily. Probably multiple times a day, depending on what skill and industry they’re in.

“I think there are two main observations I see every day. Organizations that have adapted to that remote working environment faster than others are recognizing how broad the ability for attracting talent can be outside of what they felt was a very geocentric strategy that they wanted to maintain and uphold. That would be my first observation,” Josh says.

“The second one is employee engagement is really hard in this kind of a medium when you and I can't sit in a room together, when we can't go out to dinner after work. When we can't really spend time getting to know one another and we're on these one-hour 30-minute blocks, it is just incredibly difficult to form a connection,” he continues.

This second observation tends to kickstart a vicious cycle.

“When you can't form that bond or that relationship with the leader, it's hard to maintain the same level of stability within that organization and so they're more open for opportunities as they get presented,” Josh explains.

What’s the starting point for employee engagement in a remote/hybrid world?

The starting point is an honest assessment of where you are as an organization.

“If you’re going completely remote from a group that was in the office all the time, recognize that each individual is going to have a different level of value that they put on that type of working environment. And so, mapping that out and understanding at the individual level, what's important to them and trying to accommodate that as best as you possibly can as we navigate through this,” Josh says.

“It might be a hybrid strategy. People might love remote work and might want to go even further remote meaning they want to go into four day, 10-hour shifts or schedules. And try to adapt to a totally different flexibility within their workload. And so, I think it's really allowing individuals to customize the way that they want to work and whatever is the best for them,” he continues.

And as a leader, you have to be the one to open the door for that to happen.

Two tips for building natural rapport remotely

“I'll tell you two things that I learned through failure, which is always the best way to learn. If you can fail fast and just adjust. The first thing is you have to be really self-aware of what your preferences are versus what your employee's preferences are,” Josh starts.

He continues, “I could have an idea at seven o'clock at night and want to talk about it and then shoot a text message or an email or an IM around the team. And then I get responses, and it’s easy for me to think, oh, they must want to talk about it now, too. And then we would get into these back-and-forth messages. 

“And then thankfully, one of my team members really just being open and honest with me sharing, I don't really want to get messages like that, but when I do, I feel like I have to respond, especially when I see other people from the team responding. And so being mindful of like, when people are open and want to communicate and what the different modalities of communication are. That's the first thing. So just don't think that because you're okay with it, everybody else is okay with it,” Josh says.

Someone finally said it!

“The second thing is it’s easy in a remote work world to always look at the gains of productivity because you don't have the hour commute into the office. You don't have the water cooler time. And so, it's easy to just to look at somebody's calendar and be like, oh, I'll block this hour. I'll block that half hour. And then it's just on the back-to-back schedule because you have nothing in between it. So, you don't get those natural interruptions in the day,” Josh explains.

As a leader, you have to be mindful of that.

"Tell people, ‘Hey, you need to go to lunch today.’ Create the natural interruptions in your day to decompress. People aren't wired to be 24-7 365. you need to engineer that for some people because they're not going to do it naturally. And other people are going to want to take advantage of the ability to have an always-on productive employee,” he continues.


For the full interview with Josh Vesely, tune in to The First 100 Days wherever you get your podcasts.



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