Bill Catlette – Memphis, TN – September 21, 2023
2 minute read
In his 8/24/23 piece “Are Remote Workers and Their Organizations Drifting Apart?” in “Workplace” Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s Chief Workplace Scientist affirms that:
- Overall employee engagement scores (including the U.S.) are on the way up, (that’s a good thing)
- The ratio of “Actively DISengaged” workers is down, (a VERY good thing)
- Onsite workers are less engaged than their distributed peers, (Hmm!) and
- Employees who work remotely have “an eroding connection to the mission/purpose of the organization.” (Ouch!)
Though clearly outgunned by Gallup’s numerical data, I’ve a gut that has been in the engagement business since well before Richard Hadden and I co-authored the first business case-based analysis of the power of a focused, fired up, capably led workforce (“Contented Cows Give Better Milk”) in 1998. I’m in furious agreement with Dr. Harter. It’s that last point I’d like to expound on a bit, a wee bit:
It’s natural, I think to expect that people who work away from the “head shed” encounter far less of the visual and verbal branding messages that underscore why ACME Widgets is in business and where it is headed. To think that someone who has unplugged (literally) from the main line can somehow maintain that perspective is, well, uh nuts.
Clearly, those of us who lead remotely based talent must do more to bridge the emotional connectivity gap. Simply demanding that they will drag their happy selves into the office for x # of days per week is not the answer. It’s not even “an” answer. Don’t get me wrong – some belly-to-belly facetime (analog version) is good and necessary. Don’t apologize for it. There are better ways to cement affinity for the organization’s purpose, however. Consider:
- Having remotely based employees do tours of customer facilities to see what they do being used by real, living, breathing, paying customers.
- Doing occasional work-alongs with front of house employees. Now that the statute of limitations is off, I can admit that, on many occasions when the noise + nonsense level got too high at FedEx HQ, I arranged (sometimes on the spur of the moment) to go ride with a FedEx courier and deliver/pick up packages for a day, make sales calls alongside a seasoned rep, or, to take calls in a call center.
- Sponsor career-day presentations in schools neighboring your employee populations and ask remotely based workers (ostensibly parents) to handle the presentations. Trust me, if you can meaningfully explain what ADP, or Pfizer, or FedEx (name your employer) does to a 3rd-grader, you get it, good.
- As already noted, sometimes it is both reasonable and necessary to bring people in from the hinterlands. Don’t hesitate or apologize when there is good reason for doing so. In other cases, though, bear in mind that there’s nothing to prevent you, as their leader (Mohammed) from going to visit them (the Mountain.) Go grab an early breakfast with them, have coffee In a coffee shop, take in a daytime baseball game…) You can do this!
The object is to, from time to time, take measures to tighten the connection, share some of the inside baseball poop, and rekindle the interpersonal bonds. It’s vital, but it’s not hard. You can do this. Let’s get started!
Additional Resources for managing a remote workforcebook richard or bill to speak for your meeting