When it comes to the modern workplace, there is no one "right" way to do things. Thanks to the rise of remote work and the always-on culture, more and more businesses are embracing a hybrid model that combines the best of both worlds.
But with this new way of working comes new challenges—like how to keep employees engaged when they're not all in the same office.
Employee engagement ideas usually flow in one direction, by asking how we can increase employee engagement with remote workers.
But that’s only half of the challenge. The other challenge is: how can we remove barriers to employee engagement—especially when some people are working on site and others are working remote?
Identify Potential Barriers Along the Employee Engagement Continuum
Some people have fully equipped, private home offices, while others have to split the dining room table and wireless bandwidth with their spouse and kids.
Some people have deep roots and long-standing relationships of trust with colleagues, while others are new and have never even met their boss in person.
In our new hybrid reality, differences in each individual’s life stage or home situation have been elevated into potential sources of suppression in our lives of work and school. Leaders are not necessarily responsible for their employees’ home lives. But the more proactive we are in trying to understand what might be holding people back, the more we’ll be able to remove obstacles and unleash their individuality.
How can you unleash people in the context of hybrid working or learning environments?
Employee Engagement Idea 1: Consider How People Gain Access to Support Services
Many people probably didn’t even notice how much they rely on tools, resources and people on a daily basis—whether they need someone to troubleshoot a tech problem, answer a question about company reimbursement policy, help building certain functional or leadership skills, or advice on how to begin a task or project.
Every one of us needs these at some point. When we’re on site, it’s easier to know these supports exist and how to gain access to them. We might even stumble upon them accidentally.
When we’re off site, we have to be more deliberate about seeking them out. For some people, that might feel like it draws too much attention. There are many people who won’t feel comfortable proactively asking what’s available and then requesting that access. This is especially true for those who already feel marginalized and don’t want to feel exposed, or those who have seen negative reactions when others have asked for help in the past, and they’d rather not take that chance.
- Find ways to make information about (and access to) resources easy to find and easy to request.
- Normalize asking for help. One way is to end each meeting by asking everyone present: Are there any resources that would help you accomplish what we just discussed? Ask the person who was assigned a task, and also ask the group if they know of resources this person would benefit from.
- When possible: proactively offer these resources so people receive them without having to ask for them.
Employee Engagement Idea 2: Consider How People Gain Access to Cross-Functional Expertise
A good measure of whether your organization is empowering people or not: how easy (or hard) you make it for people to break out of the constraints of their individual or team roles. Those constraints are what keep our organizations from truly allowing people to contribute their best.
When information doesn’t flow, people can become stuck not just in their attempts to accomplish a task, but also in their assigned roles and in the ways they’re allowed to contribute to the mission as a whole.
Consider these questions:
- If a new employee is assigned a project: how easy is it for that person to piece together the expertise needed from various parts of the organization?
- How easy is it to contribute your own expertise to a project being managed by a different team? And, vice versa: how open are you to having someone outside of your team contribute ideas or expertise to your projects?
- Do your leaders have tools and resources for helping employees bridge silos and functions, to get cross-functional support to make better decisions and improve outcomes across the enterprise?
Conclusion: Empowering People Requires a Thoughtful Employee Engagement Strategy
It’s amazing what people are capable of when set free to do their work without these unnecessary obstacles. Leaders: you have the power to remove those obstacles and unleash individuality.
That’s a great way to start empowering people.
If you want help assessing your employee engagement strategy, creating a new employee engagement framework, or empowering people within your hybrid work environment, our keynote speakers and employee engagement consultants are experts in helping organizations inspire and build a stronger team culture.