Come together

A fragmented workforce can make team motivation a challenge – but the right strategies can engage and unify employees


The way we work is changing. More people are working remotely, whether they’re at home, on the road meeting customers or distributed across a global office network. Distance and difference – between cultures and generations – can cause teams to feel fragmented, presenting managers with a unique set of challenges that are critical to business success.

“Only 37% of employees understand their organisation’s mission and objectives,” says Eric Allen, managing director, EMEA at Achievers. “Differing time zones and communication platforms and methods can lead to gaps in communication, making transparency a challenge. Different cultures require different engagement and recognition strategies to keep employees motivated, happy and productive. Techniques that resonate with teams in one region won’t necessarily resonate with teams in another.”

Creating, and communicating, a strong company culture is key to unifying the workforce, says Allen. “The best way to engage and unify a distributed workforce is to create a strong, positive company culture that’s unique, yet equally shared across multiple – especially global – locations. This starts with hiring the right people that align to your company’s mission and values, no matter where they’re located. Once they’re on board, create ways for employees to bond over shared interests, helping create deeper levels of trust, camaraderie and friendship among staff – even if they’ll never meet face to face.”

Powerful portals
Praise, reward and recognition can work wonders in bringing a fragmented workforce together as long as the right platform is in place to include all employees instantly, on an equal footing.

“The power of a ‘thank you’ transcends borders,” says Allen. “It’s important to create an engaging, social-based recognition strategy that’s for everyone – not just for the people in the home office. With the right tools, a recognition strategy amplifies positive behaviours that drive results, and helps align employees to core values and business objectives, whether it’s from a few floors up, or a few time zones away.”

Achievers provides a platform targeted to meet those goals. “Achievers Employee Success Platform helps companies engage, align and recognise their employees, driving higher employee engagement, retention and improved business results,” says Allen. “Our social recognition platform reaches employees in over 110 countries. It serves as a cultural portal, unifying workforces to drive greater productivity, higher engagement levels, and greater commitment to company success. Leaders can use the platform to positively influence workforce behaviours regardless of where employees sit, the roles they have or the devices they use.”

It’s an approach that many organisations are taking to heart. Tracy Finn, head of corporate service at Harrods, says: “Many of our domestic and international clients rely on loyalty programmes to reward their employees across multiple departments and offices throughout the world. Clients tend to use single portal systems and award points to employees to be redeemed for gifts of their choice online. The Harrods gift card along with some of our luxury product selection are used frequently as part of these portal systems, which serve as great tools for companies to unite staff members and reward outstanding performances. This allows staff to have the satisfaction of being rewarded with a gift of their choice tailored to their personal preferences and lifestyle while ultimately creating a more positive and unified work force.”

Emily Baum, senior account manager at PrePay Solutions, says that providing rewards that contribute to employees’ recreation activities is an effective way to help unify teams. “Several companies we work with have online reward portals which enable employees to buy gift cards, and we’ve seen people have great success with a single reward card that gives employees a discount at national retail brands and organisations that can contribute to the recreational part of their life, like bowling, gym membership, cinema and restaurants,” she says. “We’re also seeing great interest in our digital products, which enable those rewards to be delivered instantly by email or text, regardless of the recipient’s location.”

Talking tech
David Walker is the managing director of Let’s Connect, which provides a salary sacrifice scheme that puts the latest communication technologies in the hands of staff. He says that this simple strategy can help to unify and engage staff on several levels.

“Technology is transforming the ease with which companies can embrace changes in their workforces,” he says. “Remote workers miss fireside chats; they miss the water cooler. One way to replicate those is to create the informal fireside chat remotely, using tools like FaceTime so you can see each other and use non-verbal communications – I’ve done that with my remote team and it has increased the quality of the interactions and engagement. Providing the latest technologies, which some employees might otherwise be unable to access, also appeals to GenY and Millennials.”

The benefits extend beyond the gadget in the employee’s hand. “Putting these technologies into the hands of a fragmented workforce creates an environment for other strategies, such as peer-to-peer recognition to be more effective,” says Walker. “You can tweet your team, you can beam back to them from a trade show, or you can have a three-way conference call using video. The virtual network that this provides in terms of connecting the office and the field shouldn’t be underestimated.”

Ultimately, any strategy aimed at motivating a fragmented workforce depends on constant commitment for success. “You have to make sure you aren’t just paying lip service,” says Walker. “Managers need to be aware of the time it takes to manage remote workers and the need to make time for things like fireside chats, whether in the office or on the screen. Equipping employees with the best, most up-to-date technologies is a huge win with staff across generations, cultures and locations – but if you say you’re going to give them the latest technologies, you need to deliver them.”

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