35 Best Virtual Employee Engagement Ideas (2023)
Keeping remote employees engaged at work is a relatively new challenge for organizations. Do you need to run more video calls, or is it better to cut back on meetings altogether?
There are about a thousand questions you might be asking yourself to find out ways for strengthening employee engagement. While there are more barriers to overcome in a remote-work environment, it is possible to create a solid remote culture with strong communication, collaboration, and virtual employee engagement ideas.
The Whatfix team is global, and we have experienced a few things about staying engaged virtually. Read on for the best virtual employee engagement ideas that work for distributed teams in 2023.
What Is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is the strength of the emotional commitment of employees towards their organization, its members, and their responsibilities. Employee engagement directly affects employee productivity, organizational climate, turnover rate, and company profits.
While employees working from a physical location feel connected to their workplace naturally, virtual teams don’t integrate into the company culture just like that. You need to take consistent steps aimed at sustaining remote employee engagement.
35 Innovative Virtual Employee Engagement Ideas for a Remote Workforce
Here are 35 tried and tested techniques world-class remote teams (including yours truly) are practicing to boost employee engagement. Implement them one by one, give them time to stick, and watch the amazing results they drive.
Remote work is impossible without the right technology. The same goes for remote employee engagement. You need to invest in tools and technology to foster effective online collaboration and communication in the first place.
1. Implement an internal communication platform
You must have already adopted an online communication solution, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. To use these communication platforms to their full potential, treat them as your workspace – develop rules regulating internal communications, create channels for different departments and teams, encourage people to keep their profiles updated, etc.
2. Invest in a virtual collaboration platform
Messenger apps such as Slack do not provide features for teams to collaborate on projects. You need a sophisticated collaboration platform for effective collaboration.
Collaboration tools such as Asana, Notion, Trello, or Miro make it easy for team members to collaborate on tasks, share ideas, and keep track of the progress. You’re free to choose any solution that fit your budget.
3. Empower your remote workers with better technology adoption
79% of companies use digital collaboration technology. Yet 69% of employees reported wasting up to 60 minutes per day navigating between collaboration apps. Apparently, it’s low technology adoption that prevents teams from using their internal tools to their full potential.
To encourage technology adoption, it is crucial to conduct effective training programs. If you have a growing company with new employees joining you regularly, it’s best to create interactive on-demand manuals or implement in-app guidance.
Implementing a digital adoption platform for your employee training programs enables you to deliver interactive in-app guidance on any workflow inside your organizational tools. It delivers learning via interactive walkthroughs, videos, and self-help menus and allows you to train employees on-demand while providing insights to measure training effectiveness.
Once you have communication technology adopted, you can work on improving your internal communication strategy. Effective communication is a major driver of employee engagement, and you need to work it out carefully to build a strong remote team. Let’s look at a few virtual employee engagement ideas to promote communication.
4. Regular standup meetings
The lack of socialization drives serious consequences for virtual teams. Scheduling a daily standup meeting for your remote employees gives them a chance to socialize and connect with their team members and share ideas. Even a 5-minute call where people have a chance to see their coworkers and discover what they’re up to today will make them feel connected and engaged.
Interacting with teammates at the beginning of a workday is a simple yet powerful way to boost employee engagement and prevent burnout.
5. Regular virtual one-on-one meetings
You can hardly understand individual employees’ ambitions and concerns when you only talk to them during team meetings. It is important for the managers and HR to connect with the employees in monthly one-on-one meetings to understand any challenges the employee might be facing and provide solutions accordingly.
6. Remove unnecessary meetings
Workers spend 25.3% more time in meetings post the switch to remote work. As a result, employees work 13.2% longer, which negatively impacts employee engagement, productivity, and retention.
Although it is necessary to schedule meetings for your remote workforce to keep them engaged, remember not to overwhelm them. If something can be conveyed with an email or messenger, you do not need to schedule a meeting for it.
7. Connect around a virtual water cooler
Back in the day, employees used to have casual conversations at the water cooler. Virtual employees however don’t have a break room to meet at. But you can create a virtual one.
To bring spontaneous social interaction into your organization, create a virtual water cooler for remote workers. It can be a dedicated Slack channel, weekly lunchtime calls, virtual coworking sessions, etc. Some collaboration platforms like Mural also offer features to create interactive virtual water coolers for remote employees.
8. Create internal company newsletters
It’s easy to learn the news when you work from one physical office. You know when your colleagues celebrate birthdays, go on vacation, or reach milestones from the casual conversations happening in the workplace. However, getting these updates in a remote work culture is not that convenient.
To make it easier, launch a company-wide weekly newsletter to keep your virtual employees updated with everything happening at the organization. Include departmental updates, big wins, internal job openings, customer feedback, and anything else that might be of interest to the employees. It’s a good way to keep everyone in the loop and strengthen bonds among employees.
9. Create interest groups
You can’t make people who have nothing in common become best friends. It’s pointless. Instead, give your employees a chance to bring their interests to work and see people bonding naturally.
Maybe someone is a big fan of sci-fi and will be happy to hold an online book club on Friday evenings. Chances are you have a group of people enjoying a morning jog – why not encourage them to build a virtual running club?
10. Run employee surveys
Two-way communication is critical for maintaining highly engaged teams. Run feedback surveys for your virtual employees to understand their challenges and expectations. These surveys send a message that the organization cares for its employees and values their opinion. When employees know their voice matters, they feel more bonded with the organization and more engaged in their work.
Regardless of your work model, great management plays a key role in employee engagement.
11. Avoid micromanagement
Micromanagement hurts employee engagement and results in attrition. It’s a serious problem for remote and hybrid teams in particular.
Millennials are 22x more likely to stay at companies cultivating high levels of trust in the workplace. To avoid micromanagement, set measurable goals for employees and encourage them to take ownership of their projects.
12. Introduce a flexible schedule
Let your virtual employees choose their particular hours of work if it doesn’t hurt your organizational productivity.
Creating a flexible workplace is one of the best ways to express respect for your employees’ personal lives. Flexible work schedules enable employees to maintain a satisfactory work-life balance that boosts employee engagement and builds loyalty to the organization.
13. Acknowledge individual employees’ achievements
Praising good work is a critical component of strong employee engagement. 92% of employees aged 26–41 say it’s important for them to be recognized for their accomplishments.
Implement a dedicated Slack channel or run a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to employee recognition and rewards. Appreciate your employees’ hard work and reward them with e-cards or badges to motivate them and boost engagement.
Today’s employees increasingly seek value and work. They want to work for companies that live their core values and give them a sense of purpose. Here are some virtual employee engagement ideas to help build a strong workplace culture.
14. Adopt a strong organizational culture
LinkedIn revealed that when companies talk about culture in their posts, candidates are 67% more active. People want to work at companies with strong cultures.
Does your company have collective values, norms, and beliefs? If so, are you sure your employees know about it? Revisit and communicate your company culture through workshops, company culture champions, interactive resources, etc.
15. Strengthen your brand
Employees working at organizations with a strong reputation are more likely to be committed and motivated. Here are some of the methods that help to strengthen brand reputation:
- Strategic partnerships
- Community building
- Consistent brand identity
- Powerful mission statement
- Quality product or services
- Unique story
- Positive workplace culture
16. Live your company values
Having your company values and mission documented is good, but not enough. To make employees embrace your company’s culture, you need to live your values.
How is it possible? First of all, create realistic values and the company’s mission statement. Secondly, they should be documented. And lastly, create a step-by-step plan to bring them to life.
17. Encourage knowledge sharing
Remote employees don’t have the advantage of sitting together with their colleagues to discuss business processes and naturally obtain knowledge.
Investing in a knowledge management software can help streamline the knowledge sharing process for remote employees. Consider:
- Knowledge base software, which allows you to create a centralized internal knowledge base to store information
- Digital adoption software, which you can use to create in-app tutorials and walkthroughs of your digital processes and tools to help your employees learn how to navigate them
- Documentation tools, which can help you easily capture technical instructions on how to use software
- File storage tools so your staff can find what they’re looking for in an organized database
By creating a knowledge sharing culture, you’ll reduce knowledge gaps, build a learning culture, and improve the employee experience for your remote workforce.
18. Build a knowledge base
The easiest way to document knowledge is by building an internal knowledge base. When all the critical information is stored in one place, employees spend less time on research and can easily access all the necessary tools and knowledge to focus on their job.
19. Develop an employee handbook
Apart from a higher purpose that your company culture brings in, what’s motivating your employees to do their best at work every day?
20. Set measurable goals for each employee
Introducing a flexible workplace doesn’t mean you should let your employees relax and do whatever they want. It’s not only counter-productive but also harms employee engagement. Employees need to know the value and importance of their work to give their one hundred percent to the company. Creating a transparent career path with measurable monthly goals for each employee gives them a sense of direction and creates a culture of accountability. Additionally, providing career development opportunities boost employee engagement and corporate loyalty.
21. Run regular performance checks
You shouldn’t micromanage your remote employees. But you also shouldn’t let them feel nobody cares about the tasks they work on. Conducting regular performance checks gives you a better understanding of employees’ strengths and weaknesses and creates a sense of accountability for remote employees to keep them productive and engaged at work.
22. Introduce an employee reward system
An employee reward program introduces monetary and non-monetary rewards employees receive for delivering exceptional performance at work. It’s an effective approach for incentivizing employees, encouraging healthy competition, and boosting productivity in the workplace.
23. Run virtual upskilling workshops
You don’t need an office to run upskilling workshops. Determine the topics your teams would love to learn about, invite subject matter experts, and hold virtual workshops during working hours.
Online workshops are no worse than in-person events. As you run them regularly, people get used to the structure and collaborate better.
24. Offer non-work-related training
Developing soft skills is no less important than professional training. Offer non-work-related training for your remote employees such as seminars aimed at fostering collaboration, language courses, art classes encouraging creative thinking, and other initiatives that aren’t related to employees’ daily tasks.
25. Implement a remote onboarding program
Implement a remote onboarding program to standardize and streamline the process. A good onboarding process includes interactive guides for new hires, standard operating procedures, an employee handbook, personalized guidance for specific roles, and a clear description of the new hire’s tasks and responsibilities. It also involves scheduled meetings with team members, onboarding events, regular check-ins, and other activities aimed at effectively integrating a new hire into the company culture.
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26. Assign virtual buddies for new employees
To help new hires navigate your company culture, create a virtual buddy program.
A buddy is a coworker (not a people manager or an HR rep) helping a new employee understand how your organization functions. With a virtual buddy, a new hire does not feel isolated during their first days at work and connects with the team faster.
Having fun is just as important for employee engagement as every other factor on this list.
27. Run virtual happy hours
Happy hours are social events held at the end of the workweek to unwind and foster a sense of togetherness. Virtual happy hours can be no less exciting than in-person ones.
There’s a wide range of ideas for online happy hours you can choose from. Games, quizzes, workshops – you’re sure to find concepts your team will love. Select different themes weekly or bi-weekly to keep your employees excited about upcoming events.
28. Celebrate milestones together
Not being able to meet in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate company milestones and personal events with coworkers. From team achievements to birthdays, celebrating special moments with teammates ensure your employees bond together and build long-lasting relationships.
29. Send out a welcome kit to new employees
Want to make your new hires feel connected to your organization? Send out company swag to them! A welcome kit expresses how excited you are about a new employee joining your team and gives a great start to their journey at your company.
30. Send out holiday gifts
Even though you don’t see your teammates every day, you can create memorable experiences by sending gifts on occasions.
Sending out physical and digital gifts makes remote employees feel included while strengthening their engagement and loyalty.
Last but not least, put some focus on your employees’ well-being if you want to keep them engaged. Once you manage to build a culture with happy and healthy employees, you’ll see positive business outcomes soon.
31. Practice healthy habits
Remote working has a lot of benefits, but it definitely doesn’t add to your health. Bring in healthy habits in the workplace to encourage employees to reach their health and well-being goals.
You can create bots reminding people to drink water or run daily stretching sessions over Zoom before lunch. These activities will help your employees feel healthier and get more productive.
32. Never contact your employees on weekends and holidays
Sending emails on weekends doesn’t improve employee engagement. Instead, it leads to burnout.
Even if you think a person can read and respond to your message when they’re back to work, don’t send it. They’ll likely receive a notification and be tempted to respond immediately. While it’s not a catastrophe in short term, it may result in negative consequences, like exhaustion and burnout in the longer perspective.
33. Help your employees equip a home office workplace
Not having a proper workplace kills productivity. Ask your employees about what they need to have their home office workplace optimally equipped and help them build a better workspace.
How to Improve Remote Employee Experience With a DAP
The challenge with engaging a large workforce stems from the lack of personalized employee experiences and feedback. By integrating your employee engagement initiatives with a digital adoption platform (DAP), you can engage all of your employees and address their needs no matter how big your company is.
1. Automate your digital onboarding
Automating your digital onboarding helps you create better, more contextual experience for remote employees. If your new hire experiences poor onboarding in their first week, they’re twice as likely to start looking for a new job within a few months of joining your team. Optimizing your onboarding process will increase new hire productivity by 54% and new hire retention by 50%.
Automating your onboarding program with a DAP can streamline the entire process and give your new hires a more personalized and effective onboarding experience. You can set up contextual walk-throughs for complicated tools and processes and integrate a self-help menu – all directly in your applications, providing contextual learning at the moment of need.
2. Set Your Employees Up for Success With In-App Training
Whenever you add a new digital tool to your arsenal, you have to provide the necessary training so that your employees aren’t left to figure out everything on their own.
With a DAP, you can create walk-throughs for your new tool so that your team can learn by doing. When someone encounters a bug, you can create a quick popup announcement to tell your team that there’s a known bug and what they can do to circumvent the problem. Apart from that, you can also have a list of best practices that are easily accessed through a self-help menu or a contextual popup for higher productivity.
Digitizing tool training and providing easy access to much-needed information means that your employees can learn on-the-go without needing to get on multiple one-on-one calls.
3. Invest in Employee Development
Lack of career development is a leading reason for low employee retention. In fact, 28%, providing new skills training, enabling professional development, and sponsoring continuing education is one of the top drivers of employee engagement.
Have a wellness stipend to encourage a healthier lifestyle and an educational stipend to show your employees that you care about their development. Investing in your employees encourages them to stay loyal to your company and invest in your mission in return, and a quality employee development plan will help organizations create future leaders.
4. Develop an Engaging Company Culture
A company culture that thrives on building each other up improves the employee experience, which leads to higher engagement rates. A helpful and welcoming environment can boost employee morale and encourage your employees to be more passionate about what you hired them to do.
Emphasize and embody your company values, encourage employees to chat with their co-workers, and foster an environment of helpfulness. Furthermore, you can also implement employee engagement software to uncover opportunities to engage employees and drive growth.
5. Give Employee Recognition and Feedback Regularly
A study by Gallup shows that employees who receive weekly feedback are three times more likely to agree that they are motivated to achieve results. When your managers are on top of providing feedback and helping your members improve, your team is more likely to be engaged. In fact, Gallup has found that manager quality is responsible for 70% of the variance in team engagement.
Tell your employees what they’re doing right and what they can improve in a constructive way. By doing so, you are directly giving them opportunities to grow and improve themselves.
Apart from providing feedback, showing appreciation for your employees increases retention rates. Telling your employees how much you appreciate their presence can boost their motivation.
6. Be Transparent
Transparency fosters trust, engagement, and collaboration. Being as transparent as possible with your employees increases their trust and confidence in you to successfully lead the team to success. Having transparent communication ensures that each team knows what everyone else is doing, thus increasing opportunities for collaboration.
Growing employee engagement is a neverending process. Start with adopting the right technology to equip your remote employees with everything they need to work effectively. Then proceed with building a strong communication strategy and fostering a company culture – these virtual employee engagement ideas will require consistent effort and constant development.
You can standardize processes, create in-application announcements, and encourage a collaborative environment. No enterprise employee engagement strategy is complete without a DAP.
Whatfix empowers organizations to improve end-user adoption and provide on-demand customer support to boost employee engagement in training programs