Remote employees all too often are out of sight, out of mind. Use these proven strategies to keep them locked in and aligned with your company’s mission.

By Brandon Poe

Maintaining an engaged workforce can be challenging for any company, including organizations whose employees and managers work side by side, in the trenches, day in, day out. But what about those organizations where some percentage of employees work via remote? The challenges of maintaining engagement can become even greater still.

This challenge has ballooned in recent years and will only continue to grow. A survey conducted by Workforce 2020 found that 83 percent of employers intend to increase the use of consultants and intermittent employees in the coming years.

Forbes magazine recently published an article that compiled tips from managers at various companies on improving the engagement of remote employees. We hand-picked our four favorites, beginning with…

  1. Create Bonding Opportunities for Remote Employees

It takes real, sustained effort to keep remote employees tethered to your company and to each other. Fortunately, technology can help. Videoconferencing personalizes conversations in a way that the phone doesn’t. You don’t need a fancy and expensive system, either. Skype Business, for example, is effective and free. We use it extensively at EmpowerPoints.

If video is better than phone, then in-person is better than video. So schedule periodic trips for your remote employees to come visit the office. In a matter of several days to a week, employees who have never met can bond and develop collaborative relationships that will persist and be amplified once those remote employees head home. Without such human contact, your virtual employees can remain veritable strangers.

Another great way to bond with employees is to survey them every week using a tool like EmpowerPoints. We can’t recommend this tool highly enough. It’s easy for problems to fester when you don’t see certain employees for long stretches. But if you solicit their input every week, surprises will be fewer and farther between.

  1. Don’t IM Your Remote Employees to Death

Email, text messaging, Slack, FaceTime–companies today use a bewildering array of messaging devices to keep in touch with their employees. Sometimes, though, it can be too much. Remote employees can end up spending so much time chasing messaging across various platforms that it distracts from the work they’re supposed to be doing in the first place.

“Pick one or two methods of communication and stick with that versus the multi-platform IM patterns that we are seeing in corporate telecommuting,” says Sean-Patrick Hillman of HillSTORY Marketing.

  1. Set Goals Around Communication

Let’s face it, when you’re remote, it’s easy to feel disenfranchised, like you’re a hired gun and not actually part of the company. Good luck building dedicated long-term employees under that scenario.

How to change that? “You need to start by effectively communicating your mission, vision and values in a way that resonates outside of just headquarters,” says Preethy Vaidyanathan of Tapad. “In addition, having regular goals for communication makes it easier.” It can as simple as making sure you connect with Employee A x number of times by phone during a quarter.

  1. Ask Your Remote Employees the Right Questions Often

Working together in physical space every day allows you employees to get to know each other. Even during an impromptu conversation in a hallway or elevator, a lot of valuable information is passed between individuals.

With a remote portion of the workforce, none of that incidental information-sharing occurs. As HR professionals or manager, you must actively work to solicit that information from your employees. “To engage people, you need to better understand them,” says Dale Nitschke of Ovative/group. “So practice powerful questions what will deepen your awareness.”

Again, EmpowerPoints can help by asking weekly questions of all employees—including remote ones.