Company culture and employee engagement used to be viewed as quite ‘fluffy’ concepts that were just buzzwords for beer fridges and pool tables. Many companies dismissed them outright, whereas others tried to fix any issues with dress-down Fridays and an office Christmas party. Companies have readily focused to improve company culture among their employees.

Over the past few years, creating a positive company culture and engaged workforce has been a priority for many companies. Research has shown a whole host of benefits for both companies and their employees. 

It’s not easy either, to improve company culture can take a long time and is an ongoing endeavour. 

So, creating a harmonious workplace where everyone is fulfilled, treated with respect and works productively is the holy grail of employee engagement. But what if your employees don’t work in the same office, or even the same country? 

The Dispersed Workforce

The traditional office is starting to become a thing of the past in some industries. Remote working means that employees could be spread across a country or even the world. Additionally, there are other industries where the majority of workers are based on-site, such as engineers who provide setting out services or different branches of a larger organisation. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to employee engagement and these organisations can find it particularly tricky. 

Why Is Employee Engagement So Important? 

You may have seen many articles which claim employee engagement is the answer to everything. While it isn’t the answer to everything, it can have an amazing impact on an organisation. 

There are immediate benefits for employees, with those who would describe themselves as engaged have improved:

Health and wellbeing – engaged employees tend to be at companies that allow for a better work-life balance and help them manage stress. This leads to a healthier lifestyle and fewer issues with obesity and mental health. 

Levels of happiness – a 2018 Labour Force survey found that 15.4 million workdays were lost due to anxiety, stress and depression stemming from the workplace. Happier employees have lower levels of work-related stress. 

It’s not just employees that benefit from this. Good company culture and employee engagement form a virtuous circle, what benefits one, benefits the other. Organisational benefits include: 

  • Higher recruitment and retention rates 
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved health and safety levels 
  • Increase in productivity
  • Improved customers service levels 
  • Increased turnover

Improve company culture in a dispersed workforce

As with any truly successful policy, commitment to company culture has to come from the top and embed itself in all levels of an organisation. Don’t think of it as an HR or internal comms initiative. Employees can sense when something doesn’t have the backing of the leadership and are less likely to commit to it. 

Acknowledge differences

If your teams are spread across the world, or client sites, you need to acknowledge this when communicating. Having employees constantly having to be online at 2 am for the weekly sales meeting is unfair, and they will come to resent it. Adjust your meetings and communications schedules to take this into account. 

A team to drive change and collaboration

As mentioned previously, commitment to company culture starts at the top, but there have to be people on the ground, driving it. Depending on the size of your organisation, this could be a dedicated team of volunteers who represent a cross-section of your workforce. 

This team can drive change and report feedback or issues to leadership.

Have improved lines of communication

How and when you communicate with employees is so important. Open streams of communication improve collaboration and prevent silos and cliques appearing throughout the organisation. 

There are many collaborative technologies available now to connect employees. Zoom, Slack, Yammer and Teams are just a few. You may need to experiment with a few different strategies before you find the one that works well for you. 

Create opportunities for socialisation 

In a traditional office, it’s easy to head on out for a team lunch with colleagues, or a drink after work. But when employees are dispersed, there are fewer chances for this type of socialisation. Some employees may feel left out.  

Socialisation can take a few forms, from taking the time to connect with people and ask them how they are and what’s going on in their lives. 

Having a company get together a few times a year is a great way for remote workers to physically interact. You can couple this with an important work conference or training so that your budget goes further.

Communicate successes 

Employer recognition is one of the most powerful drivers of employee engagement. All good news should be communicated across the company so that everyone can share in the success and have a common purpose. 

Why improve company culture

There are several benefits that prompt companies to improve company culture are clear, it’s no longer an undefined concept aimed at startups. The impact of an engaged workforce can’t be underestimated. Engaged employees can make a difference in every aspect of your business and improve your profitability too. 

But having employees working from remote locations, or in the field can make the process much more complicated than it is for those organisations based in traditional offices or locations. The task isn’t insurmountable, and there are many tools that you can use to measure and improve engagement. 

One of the most important factors in improving your company culture strategy is to gain the support of the leadership of the company. If leaders don’t see the benefit and support the initiative, then it will be a huge, uphill struggle that will most often result in failure. 

Though there are many instances of best practice you can look to, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You may well have a few false starts but the don’t let that dishearten you. Trying and having to tweak your strategy is better than not trying at all. 

Even incremental improvements in employee engagement can have a positive, knock-on effects for an organisation and should inspire you to keep going. This is why companies today are focusing a lot to improve company culture across boundaries.

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