16 August 2019

How to engage remote workers: a webinar round-up

We recently teamed up with Communicate to host a webinar, all about how to engage a remote workforce.

Featuring a stellar line-up of speakers, the webinar covered a range of challenges on the subject of engaging workers who might not be desk-based, at a computer or online. 

Our very own Strategist, Jess Roberts, kicked things off with an introduction to the subject. She talked about the need for internal comms teams to understand the challenges that different remote workers might face; from their location and technological barriers, to their working hours, or simply their job role which may require them to be on the road and not in an office. 

According to the 2019 State of the Digital Workplace Report, 70% of remote workers feel ‘left out’ in the workplace, with 57% missing out on key updates from their companies. With evidence suggesting that engaged workers outperform peers by 147%, it’s beneficial to businesses to ensure their hardest-to-reach employees feel as involved and valued in their workplace as their desk-based colleagues.

 

 

It all starts with insight

Jess emphasised the importance of knowing your audience’s needs and wants, speaking of her experience helping one of our clients to communicate effectively with their remote workers. They started with insights, which showed that people didn’t want the latest tech and an app for communications, but preferred good old-fashioned print in the form of posters. Jess’s advice was to ensure tech is never the default. In a highly-connected world, it’s easy to assume that tech is the best solution for your comms, but be mindful of your audience and listen to how they prefer to receive messages. 

 

Creating moments, making messages count

Next up was David Hamilton, Director of Communications and Marketing for The Scouts, talking about his experience with remote workers both in his current role and his previous position at Action For Children. With 150 field-based staff and 160,000 remote volunteers across all parts of the UK, David’s communications team at The Scouts have a big audience to reach.

He started off with a reminder that one size doesn’t fit all and what might work in one company won’t necessarily work in another, so again, it’s important to get to know your people and how they prefer to be communicated with. Research is key to understanding an organisation’s communications fully; what’s working well, different needs of remote workers, barriers to communication and other elements. 

The research showed that people wanted more targeted, simple communications on a less frequent basis, something the team reflected in their strategy. They focused on the idea of ‘creating moments’ to make each message count. Instead of people feeling bombarded with emails and digital comms, these ‘moments’ were created to ensure key messages didn’t get lost and gave an opportunity to celebrate success. Balancing digital and offline communications was key and face-to-face meet ups also helped comms to resonate further. 

 

Practical steps for better communication

Following David was Hannah Moss, Group Communications Manager at Willmott Dixon, sharing a practical example of how to communicate with workers when a vast majority of them are in remote roles. As a construction company, Willmott Dixon’s staff are incredibly dispersed, with regional offices spread out around the UK and on average 75 projects happening at any one time, so they were keen to implement a platform for communication amongst their remote staff. 

Moving away from a fairly old-fashioned intranet that people couldn’t easily access on mobile, the team at Willmott Dixon introduced an upgraded platform known as The Hub, accessible through an app and central to all comms.

As part of the upgrade, they implemented Yammer, an enterprise social media platform which gives people the chance to share stories in a fun, informal way, having an easy and accessible medium for communicating with each other at their fingertips. Hannah and her team are keen to provide ways of people working together effectively without necessarily being physically in the same location. 

While the move towards Yammer and an improved intranet system have been beneficial, Hannah’s team haven’t neglected the more traditional forms of communication, ensuring that those remote workers who don’t like to receive comms online are still involved and feel included in their teams. 

 

4 top tips to engage remote workers

  • Jess on relationships: “In my experience, the currency of communication is relationships, and what that means for HR teams and communications professionals is that you need to invest in those relationships. Spend time investing in them and it will be worth it in the long-run. Feed everything back to business objectives and create shared goals in your organisation.” 
  • Jess on how to engage factory/shopfloor staff: “We can’t make suggestions based on our gut feel or assumptions, take the time to get to know those people, shadow them if you can, find out what’s important to them and what they care about and that’s when you’ll start to understand the reality of their day job, and make decisions based on that information.” 
  • Hannah on engaging construction workers: “Have a flexible approach and use data to measure when and where people are most engaged and then adapt based on what you find.” 
  • David on where to start with engaging a remote workforce: “Research, talking to people, finding out what’s working at the moment and what’s not, testing messages and figuring out what the blockers are. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve from the start; what are you trying to do? Start there and figure out your approach and strategy. And get buy-in from middle managers, the ensure it all cascades from there.” 

 

If you’d like to listen back to the webinar, check out the recording and let us know your thoughts: 

And if you’re looking for help with how best to engage remote workers in your organisation, get in touch with Jess, who is always on hand with advice and suggestions on where to begin. 

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