Why and how to regularly check the engagement levels of remote teams

Managing remote teams poses its challenges. Not seeing people in person regularly means Managers struggle to know what’s going on with their people at all times - whether it’s good or bad. In this scenario, Managers don’t have a grasp on what direct reports might be struggling with, how they’re feeling, or what they may need to do their best work. Enter disengagement and a whole bunch of other problems.

A solid understanding of how a team as a whole is performing is one thing. How individual members of a team feel is a completely different story. This requires a bit of digging. A team could be performing well, yet people might be miserable for one reason or another - you won’t know until you know.

When you look at the situation through a remote lens, you quickly realize that it becomes so much harder to know how people really feel about their role, their work, and their position in a team when working remotely. HBR research has found that remote employees are more likely to report feeling that colleagues mistreat them and leave them out.

The reality is that by not actively trying to learn about the state of employees, dissatisfaction and disengagement can slowly creep in. Unnoticed and unannounced. As a Manager, one should prepare themselves to face this challenge on a regular basis when working with remote teams. This unclarity can be costly for everyone on a team and the overall team performance.

Not to worry, though. There is a way for Managers to closely monitor the pulse of a team consistently so they can recognize smoke signals before they turn into blazing fires. Taking action to not only understand how one’s remote team is doing but to also work on improving the overall team satisfaction is vital.

Welcome to the world of remote employee engagement. We’ve dedicated this article to go over why it’s so important to regularly check the engagement of remote teams and how to begin improving employee engagement.

In this article, we will focus on the following (jump ahead):

- Why Managers should regularly check the engagement levels of remote employees

- How can Managers begin to understand how their people feel

- What is an “Engagement Practice” and how to use it?

- Engagement Practice Template

Why Managers should regularly check the engagement levels of remote employees

With a focus on execution and lack of enough in-person communication, it is not easy to understand how individuals are doing and how that affects the overall happiness and success of a remote team.

That already signals a vulnerable system - how is a Manager supposed to know about all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the final result if they’re not there to see it themselves? When there’s no recognition of people’s work, remote employee engagement can suffer rather quickly.

While blasting through the busy day-to-day schedules and waiting for results that might take ages to roll in, great work might go unnoticed, people might go unappreciated and people’s feelings might go unacknowledged. The sense of belonging, common purpose and shared identity that inspires all of us to do our best work gets lost.

This danger zone is where problems start. Employees can become unhappy and the team’s performance will be very much at risk - even a well established successful structure might crumble at any point if red flags go unnoticed and are not dealt with.

For successful team performance, Managers need to look into 4 main areas that represent a meaningful and fulfilling experience for the employees. Those are

1) Basic needs - do they have the necessary equipment to do their job and are they clear on the expectations others have for their role
2) Team support - do they feel supported, seen, and heard by their Manager and their teammates
3) Team dynamics - do they feel connected to and recognized by their teammates, do they have the same attitude towards their teammates
4) Personal development - do they feel like they have an opportunity to grow in the company and develop their skills

How Managers can begin to understand how their people feel

There is a need to regularly check the pulse of the team in all 4 areas. Why?

Because looking out for the overall happiness of remote teams in these 4 core aspects will provide Managers with a reliable source as to what is already going well, what can be looked into, and most importantly, what needs urgent attention. If Managers get overall team satisfaction to a high level in all these four areas, that can confidently signify team health. It also shows that the Manager is doing something right.

However, in order to create and support high performing teams, Managers need to first understand the needs of their team, so that they can provide everybody with the environment to grow and do their best work.

The way to regularly investigate the overall remote team feeling is by asking targeted questions that properly reflect what the above mentioned four areas stand for. That can be done with a lightweight check-in with team members. Or in other words: an “Engagement Practice”.

McKinsey research shows that winning performance cultures emerge from carefully selecting the right combinations of practices (such as an Engagement Practice) that, when applied together, create a superior organizational performance.

What is an Engagement Practice and how to use it?

An Engagement Practice is a lightweight, anonymous check-in with team members. It consists of 13 questions that reflect the 4 areas we covered above in this article: Basic needs, Team support, Team dynamics, Personal development.

Some of the direct benefits of the Engagement Practice for Managers are that it:

An Engagement Practice aims to help Managers to improve employee engagement and the overall team health. The practice should be set to a regular cadence to be able to see progress over time.

This can be whatever makes the most sense for the teams’ workflows. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that doing an Engagement Practice once in a blue moon kind of defeats the purpose of doing an Engagement Practice in the first place. So make sure to stay consistent.

Engagement Practice Template

The questions below make up the template that you can directly use for your next Engagement Practice. There are 13 employee engagement survey questions. Team members can fill in their answers and the responses should be anonymous.

The goal is to get employees to answer questions as honestly as possible as this would help Managers to truly understand what the team might be struggling with. All 13 questions are to be answered by team members using a Likert scale. To automate the process of creating, sending, and collecting the answers you can use a tool like Impraise or Typeform.

The score that you get as a result will show the overall state of your team and to what extent do they feel satisfied.

Template

1. I am happy working in my team.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

2. I know what I need to do to be successful in my role.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

3. I have conditions and access to the things I need to do my job well.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

4. I have the opportunity to use my strengths and skills every day at work.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

5. I have received recognition or praise in the last 2 weeks.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

6. I feel like someone cares about me as a person.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

7. I feel encouraged to work on my development.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

8. I feel like my ideas and opinions are heard.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

9. My role makes me feel important because I contribute to the company mission.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

10. I am proud of the work my team produces.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

11. I can count on my colleagues.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

12. In the past 4 weeks, I've discussed my performance with someone.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

13. I have the opportunity to grow in my role.
Strongly agree - Agree - Neutral - Disagree - Strongly Disagree

What the results mean

If you got mostly “strongly agree” and “agree”

You’re doing a good job! The higher the score, the more it means that your team is feeling engaged, motivated, and connected. Of course, there’s always room for improvement so think of ways you can improve engagement, make people feel connected with one another and recognized.

If you got mostly “neutral” and “agree” or a lot of mixed answers


You should identify and examine more carefully the questions which you got a “lower score” on in all four areas: Basic needs, Team support, Team dynamics, Personal development. You’re probably doing well in some areas yet your people might require some support in other areas. Start thinking about ways you can strengthen the potentially problematic areas first.

If you got mostly “disagree and strongly disagree”


Something is not going quite right. Your people might be frustrated, disengaged, unmotivated or might be feeling left out for some reason. Are there any concerns you might be already having?

You should start by tackling the biggest issues first. Look at the responses for each question. Make sure to follow up with actions after sending out the questions and analyzing the results so your people know that you take their feelings and feedback seriously.

Wondering what to do next based on your results?

Impraise can fully support you with the Engagement Practice - the perfect way to test the pulse of a team regularly with lightweight check-ins. Our software automates the process. It also gives you a detailed rundown of how you scored for each question (regardless of the score) together with materials to read and suggestions for actions you can take immediately to improve.

Take action today to start understanding how remote teams interact, collaborate, and feel on a daily basis. Make sure to do your best to support your people so they can make happy, healthy, and satisfied teams that truly do their best work.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about how Impraise can help you track and improve the health of your team.

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