Uh, where did everyone go?
As a manager, you can’t help but notice an uptick in the number of remote employees on your team over the past few years. With the rise of improved telecommunications tools (like Slack and Zoom), and increasing knowledge worker roles where employees just need a laptop and connection to the cloud, flexible/remote work is at an all-time high. According to Gallup’s latest poll: 43 percent of employees were spending the majority of their time working remotely in 2016, which is up 4 percentage points from 2012.
And looking more specifically at millennials, now our largest generational segment in the workplace, new data from Maintel reports just 48 percent of employee respondents under 35 feeling like they’re most productive when they’re in the office. Meaning 1 in 2 millennial employees would rather be at home - and will be way more productive in doing so. This is great news for Recruiting and People Leaders, since hiring without location constraints allows you to draw on a deeper talent pool, and save on operational overhead.
Along with the pros, there are also challenges that come with managing remote workers. Without those everyday, face-to-face interactions, what’s the best way to convey appreciation for remote employees, and to recognize their efforts? In this post, we’re going to focus specifically on remote employee rewards. Here are three creative ways to celebrate and reward your high-performing employees, regardless of their location:
Inclusion is an important part of managing employees. However, this becomes tricky when an employee’s “office” is in a different place from yours. Rewards and small tokens of appreciation are a great opportunity to bridge this gap. Ask yourself: what can you do to make your remote employee’s space - whether it’s their home or a coworking location - feel more connected to yours?
For example: let’s say your company is headquartered in San Francisco and filled with local coffee lovers. Chances are, that’s an important part of the office culture and might be a difficult topic for your employee in Nashville to relate to. So the next time your remote employee successfully wraps up a big project, celebrate by sending them a sampling of the most popular coffee beans from the Bay Area. Not only is it a thoughtful gesture, but it also creates an opportunity for your remote employee to be included in lively debates on whether Blue Bottle or Sightglass is the superior brand. It’s less about the gift and more about the act of inclusion!
Good work should be recognized as a team, not in silos. Fortunately, technology makes this easy. Whether it’s via a dedicated team Slack channel, over a Skype meeting or through the office email alias, find ways to give shout-outs to your remote employees on a regular basis. Frequency and relevance are particularly important, as employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year.
Or, if your employee is shy about being acknowledged in front of the whole office, encourage immediate team members to share kudos during 1:1 conversations over the phone or video conference. This way, the recognition is more private but equally valuable. Either way, praise of remote employees should always come from the entire team, in an authentic way that supports your company culture.
As much as your remote employees love their jobs - thanks to your great management and operational direction - they’ll still need a break from the “office” once in awhile. Consider the opportunity to give experiential rewards or team events as a way to get employees out of their comfort zones, to reconnect with a hobby, or to discover something totally new. Experiences not only build memories and help employees bond socially, but they also make a lasting impact on employee engagement.
Our customer Chloe + Isabel is a woman’s lifestyle brand whose sales force is powered by 100% remote Merchandisers - a diverse, supportive community of c+i small business owners. In the past, Merchandisers who achieved aggressive sales targets were rewarded with monetary bonuses, but the HR team found that cash was too quiet - the rewards weren’t building engagement or well-aligned with the culture they’d built for their Merchandiser community. Beginning Holiday 2015, c+i rolled out Blueboard experiential rewards, and have continued partnering with us ever since.
Not only have customized experiential sales incentives like luxury spa days, romantic date nights, or horseback riding adventures proven to be a reward worth hustling for, they’ve enabled the c+i Merchandiser community to bond digitally as they share photos of their experiences across social media and internal community boards - supporting each other’s success as they drive business impact.
“My Blueboard reward for the Tuscany wine tasting tour was one of the best days on the trip of a lifetime! I am 100% motivated to kill it at work every single time a Blueboard reward is offered. EVERY SINGLE TIME!” - Jessica, Chloe + Isabel
Bonus tip: if you know your remote employee enjoys traveling, get them an experience in the city where your office is located so they can spend face time with the whole team after an afternoon of aerobatic flight lessons or a relaxing kayaking trip. Or, if it’s tough for your remote employee to travel, bring a local experience to them. We offer services nationwide so there are tons of options to choose from regardless of the employee’s home office. Experiential employee recognition becomes, unique, personalized and scalable.
While it may be tempting to occasionally mail a Starbucks gift card to a remote employee and call it a day, that’s a gesture unlikely to make a lasting or genuine impact. A pinch of creativity and thoughtfulness applied to the ideas shared above is all it takes for a remote employee to feel included, appreciated and happy to be part of the team.
If you’re looking to make a real impact on your remote workforce, consider experiential employee rewards from Blueboard. Simply request a demo via the orange button above ^^, or chat with us via the blue icon bottom right >>.