The learning curve blog

Helpful advice for online course creators, businesses, and entrepreneurs

5 Ways to Motivate Remote Teams

by | Mar 12, 2015 | Tips & Tricks

How do you motivate your team when you can’t look them in the eye? How can employees care about the success of your business when they don’t get the hands-on experience of being in the office every day? How can you increase employee engagement when perhaps employees have never met?

Earlier this year, we learned the rather shocking statistic that 70 percent of full-time employees admit to not feeling inspired or engaged in the workplace. This number can easily skyrocket when you are talking about a blended or fully remote team. So, how can you push aside geographical boundaries and make a personal connection with your employees so they feel motivated as part of a team?

DigitalChalk: 5 Ways to Motivate Remote Teams by Jennifer Riggins

1. Start by creating value

“You can only create new value when you protect what is already valuable,” writes management guru Jurgen Appelo in #Workout: Games, Tools & Practices to Engage People, Improve Work, and Delight Clients. He says an organization has two different values: core values which already exist naturally within and cannot be changed, and wish values which focus on your potential and what you want to become. In Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, he adds two more: permission-to-play values which allow you to be accepted on a team (or not) and accidental values which crop up spontaneously usually without the boss involved. We’re going to focus on wish values, the ones that everyone has more control over and which affect the direction of the company.

Start by creating a list of value words. You can toss a nickel and hit one of these lists on Google, like this one from a Mind Tools’ TED Talk. Use your learning management system (LMS) to create a quiz for all team members, including management. Ask each person to choose maybe three values that are important to them and then three more that are important to the work they are doing. Then, open it up to discussion. As a team, whittle down to three to five important values that you can unite to a Company Wishlist. These become the wish values that you as a team or entire company have decided that you hold dear in the work you do and wish to grow in future work.

Post your wish values up on any Intranet or enterprise social media or have cool t-shirts made and shipped out to members – really put the terms on any place that can remind everyone of your team’s value objectives. If you are a company that aims for transparency this should be featured in a mission statement on your About Us Page or Customer Service Agreement. And it should certainly be a part of any job offer you put out.

Simply by feeling like they have a stake in the direction the business is headed, employees gain an increased sense of motivation and team collaboration.

2. Use an LMS for performance management

Annual or even quarterly performance appraisals inspire a groan from both management and employees. Even if we’re nailing our goals, we all get this dreaded feeling like we are playing roles in a school production of The Naughty Student and the Principal. Instead of relying on imposing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) onto your team, simply notify them of your quarterly goals and then allow them to develop their own personal goals that support that main goal. Give each of your teammates an Online Assignment, asking them to create their quarterly or even monthly objectives (since annual performance management is just absurd in this fast-moving world) and to explain how meeting or at least pursuing those goals will meet your team or company-wide goals. You can of course give them feedback, pushing them to be as specific and measurable as possible, but once these goals are agreed upon, they are locked in by the learning management system, waiting for your review together when time’s up.

3. Acknowledge your team members

Use a Certificate to acknowledge small and large accomplishments in your team. It can be as small as one team member helping another out or as big as the team together exceeding the group goal because of those smaller goals. Certificates can be highly customizable so you can add your company colors and branding, as well as the all-important personalized message.

4. Make sure meetings are a moment to connect, not to report

This is a problem with face-to-face meetings as much as it is in online ones. We spend so much time reporting on what has happened, we don’t take a time to connect with how we feel about the progress made or lack thereof, and we don’t take the time to just check in to see how we are doing. At Happy Melly, we are a one-hundred percent remote small business. I’ve only met one co-worker so far, but have grown very close to at least half the team. How? Well, we keep in constant contact daily, with written communication tools, as well as we give daily reports of what we did on IDoneThis, which are emailed out to the whole team at the end of each day.

This means that when we have our three-times-a-week, non-mandatory coffee talks, we don’t have to waste time reporting on the minutia of the day-to-day of what we did. Instead we share experiences. This can be about our ongoing or upcoming projects, sharing feedback from our clients, or simply telling stories. A couple times a month, we get off on topics like movies we’ve seen or books we’ve read. This may not be directly related to our results, but it builds trust in a team that has mostly never met. It also keeps us motivated by simply making work more fun.

5. Don’t detach from the big picture

About once every six weeks, we hold a Retrospective. My coworker, Lisette Sutherland, describes it best: “It can be a time for blowing off steam, showing appreciation, and ultimately, to short-circuit ingrained patterns of thinking. The goal of the retrospective is to inspire continuous improvement.” The typical questions asked during a retrospective are:

  • What is going well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What have we learned?
  • What still puzzles us?

No matter how few or how many meetings you hold, you sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. Retrospectives are ways to catch sight again.

Tools like LMSs help your remote team seem less remote

Technology has enabled what wasn’t possible ten or maybe even five years ago. We can keep our employees motivated irrespective of where they work. But just how each in-person team is different, so is each remote team. What works for one, won’t for another. We recommend testing out different ways to improve communication, collaboration and, most importantly, motivation within your team. And then tell us below!

How do you motivate your team when you aren’t face to face?

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Written by: Jennifer Riggins
Jennifer Riggins is a Jersey Girl in Barcelona, using her passion for writing and marketing to help small businesses define their vision and brand. This eBranding Ninja has a special love for Spanish startups, SaaS, and any innovation that helps you grow your business.

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