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Engaging Remote Teams: Top Ten Tips to Make Great Connections

Employee engagement is the hot buzz word in leadership circles -- and it's not a great surprise. Engaged employees stick around longer, produce more, and in many cases work for less money than mercenaries with no emotional ties to their employers. This is particularly true for remote teams, where lack of physical interaction can result in less engagement than usual.

One of the people leading the charge to help leaders learn to engage their teams is David Zinger. Besides his own consulting practice, he heads up the Employee Engagement Network group, which is one of the world's largest collections of people interested in the area of employee engagement.
Recently, the group published an e-book containing a list of 10 tips for engaging employees (free download). Some of the people contributing are among my favorite writers in the field: Wally Bock, Michael Lee Stallard, Terry Seamon and Raven Young (humility prevents me mentioning my own contribution).
I asked David what he learned during this project:

Dave, what are the challenges for engaging employees in the dispersed workplace?
The most obvious challenge is to stay connected. Engagement equals connection. There are many connections in engagement and interpersonal connection around results is very important. Gallup once stated that if a manager ignores a report's performance there is a 40% chance that person is disengaged. We need to find the time, gumption, and method to stay connected around performance. I think performance conversations are so much more potent than performance management systems.

What are a couple of practical tips or best practices you see people using?
I think when we meet in a web conference or connect over the phone, we should take a few minutes to check in with everyone. How are you doing? What's going on? Where have you just come from? We need to help people make transitions and transitions begin with endings so this kind of chit-chat is a great way to let go of what has just been going on to focus on what is now going on.
We must make our communication engaging. Too many webinars have me checking my email within 10 minutes and teleconferences can have people rolling their eyes at times. Take some time to connect, be deliberate in inviting conversation, but also make it snappy.

How are companies dealing with the challenge (besides not much at all, which has been my experience) and what should they be thinking about?
It is my belief that as we proceed in this decade that community will trump organization and organizations to be viable must become communities. Lots of organizations are adopting Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business Software but they must realize this is only a tool and they need to think through there use of this tool. The best weave hi tech and hi touch into a blend that contributes to results.

Check out the free ebook, and ask yourself two important questions: 1) What are you and your organization doing to engage employees on a daily basis? 2) Are there specific, purposeful steps you're taking to take the new dynamic of remote working into account?

photo by flickr user ShieldConnectors CC 2.0