Increasing employee engagement in a remote work environment

How to maintain employee motivation and productivity in a remote environment.

Remote Working

In a remote work environment, many may have concerns that telecommuting and other "faceless environments" could weaken the bonds between employees and reduce job satisfaction. However, it doesn’t have to be this case. In this article, we cover ways and measures our Japan team took to maintain employee motivation and productivity, as well as to further increase their sense of belonging and employee engagement.

Our employee engagement: What do our employees think of us as a place to work?

In mid-September last year, we conducted a company wide employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) survey to ask our employees about their level of job satisfaction within their workplace. Results have shown that employees in our Tokyo office have been enjoying a fulfilling corporate life. In December 2021, Great Place to Work(R) Institute Japan, which conducts surveys of more than 7,000 companies in 60 countries around the world, recognised SThree Japan as a "Great Place to Work" for the third time in its history.

What is employee engagement and why is it important to create a sense of belonging?

A sense of belonging in a company is a term used to describe a strong sense of camaraderie, a desire to belong to this company rather than another. Employee engagement, often confused with belonging, refers to the sense of contribution employees make to the organisation; in other words, a greater sense of belonging leads to greater employee engagement.

What are the benefits of increasing a sense of belonging and employee engagement?

In a workplace with low sense of belonging and engagement is where employees are simply doing the work they are required to do, with little attempt or awareness of the need to contribute or produce more.

On the other hand, a company with a high sense of belonging and employee engagement is characterised by the following:

  • Employees feel a sense of pride and satisfaction in their work and have a strong commitment to their goals.
  • Employees feel that they are part of the organisation and part of a community that is committed to achieving the company's mission and vision.
  • The psychological distance between employees and management is close, making it easy for employees to make suggestions for improvement and to express their wishes for their working environment.
  • The management team readily asks subordinates to take on challenging tasks and discuss new business opportunities together.

In addition, because of these factors, it leads to:

  • Increased profitability and productivity
  • Lower turnover and higher retention rates
  • Improved quality of service and customer satisfaction
  • Improved relationships and growth in the business

How did we improve the sense of belonging and employee engagement?

There are five recommendations to improve employees’ engagement and a sense of belonging:

  • Internal branding – make a conscious effort to communicate the mission and vision of the company internally, the value of the business and the positive feedback from satisfied customers about the value of the business.
  • Ask employees to share about their job satisfaction and the value of their own work.
  • Embrace diversity of working styles – this is an opportunity to send the message that the company values each employee and respect that everyone is different.
  • Active communication with management – as an organisation grows, the distance between employees and management becomes more distant. It's a good idea to provide opportunities for employees to make suggestions and hear about the mission and vision from management at close quarters, for example through daily chats, lunches, or post-work drinks.
  • Promote communication between employees – this creates opportunities for employees to interact more with other departments and thereafter a stronger sense of understanding about the company.

SThree Japan has been working on a number of initiatives to increase employee engagement and belonging across the company, including a more proactive approach towards online seminars and online training from managers, coupled with the launch of our Hybrid Working Model in September 2021. This model was meant to support employees to have the option to either go for remote work or office environment that suits their needs. These are complemented with other new initiatives that we’ve implemented especially in a remote work environment.

Chris Reilly, Managing Director of SThree Japan, teamed up with Miho Sakai, Talent Acquisition Consultant, to develop a new employee engagement initiative. We held our first roundtable session in late September 2021 where all new employees had a chance to meet Chris. Chris not only reiterated the company's overall policies and objectives, but also gave all new recruits the opportunity to ask questions as well as share their honest feedback on the interview and onboarding process. This was positively received by all attendees.

Our new starter Francois Fleury (Progressive Recruitment) says, “I think it was a great way to get engaged with the business, understanding short, mid and long term strategy. It gave us a stronger sense of belonging and was a great way to get to know our senior leadership on a more personal note, where we could ask virtually anything we wanted to. It also helped me to get to know more people from the office as our group was a good mix of people from different teams.”

Despite working in a remote work environment most of 2020-2021, we used different methods to ensure we are still maintaining employee engagement. This included a cross-country virtual meeting, games, and even cultural sessions. ‘Thrive’, is our global commitment to wellbeing developed by a working group based on employees’ feedback. This supports the health and wellbeing of our staff, with a clear focus on Body and Mind, Personal Growth, Self Purpose and Financial Stability especially during through covid-19. There were modules that were led by our own people which included mediation tips, yoga classes and many more.

The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is another initiative which we encourage our people to use. It is a hotline which is completely anonymous but available to everyone should they need someone to speak to. It includes topics on improving relationships, parenting, couples’ support, managing stress, managing life changes, surviving the loss of a loved one, maintaining physical health, amongst many others. This was implemented to allow our people a channel to seek help where needed which became even more important in 2020.

In addition, we were able to make use of technology for on-the-job learning where mentors listen to calls remotely to advise junior consultants accordingly. This meant that despite working remotely, we were able to onboard, teach as well as guide consultants through their careers.

If you wish to be part of a company that values employees’ engagement, wellbeing and job satisfaction, and one that provides you with the flexibility of remote work or office work environment, feel free to contact us.

Contact us today

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