Feeling isolated is one of the greatest fears of both potential employees looking to join a remote team and managers tasked with leading a team of remote employees.
As a manager, your ability to overcome this fear, both personally and for your employees, will go a long way in determining how successful your team will ultimately be.
When working in a remote environment, communication (at times bordering on over communication) is key. This should start with your on-boarding process, which should be developed to ensure that new employees feel welcomed and part of the team from day one — hint, this is not an easy thing to do. I also highly recommend weekly one-on-ones, 15-30 minutes each, with every employee on your team.
Outside of the structured processes you can put in place to ensure a high level of communication with your employees, there are also a wide range of technology solutions that can help foster more natural commutation that would traditionally happen in the company break room, in the hallways, and at employee’s desks.
In this post, I will focus on one of these tools, Yammer, that we are using at Keystone Solutions as a way to build new relationships, share information, collaborate, keep updated on industry news, and sometimes just to have a bit of fun.
The following infographic illustrates user adoption of Yammer at the 30 day mark.
You can see that a majority of our employees created an account on Yammer within the first 30 days but the majority of the content was only being generated by a few employees.
It was also difficult to tell how many employees were lurking but I had a suspicion that there were many employees just reading the posts but were not communicating because they were either scared, didn’t understand how to use the tool, or perhaps felt like they didn’t have anything of value to add.
In an attempt to get more employees actively involved in our Yammer network, we executed an internal marketing campaign to help get employees signed up for the service and become more involved in conversation. We designed a two part campaign that started with an email to the entire company explaining what Yammer is all about, how it will help us stay connected, and a simple guide on how to get started.
The email campaign was followed up with a video message, a lighthearted message that was aimed at getting people more comfortable interacting on Yammer. After the internal marketing campaign, we saw a massive increase in engagement on Yammer from both the already engaged employees as well as from employees that were previously just lurking.
One important note, we’ve let Yammer evolve naturally, although we have marketed it’s use internally, we have shied away from putting in usage policies or mandating people become involved, we have simply let the community grow and evolve on it’s own. I’m convinced that our decision to rollout Yammer, and let it grow naturally, will result in far reaching benefits from improved employee satisfaction to increased client success as our employees collaborate more and increase their subject matter expertise.
Here is what some of our employees have to say about how Yammer has changed the way they work:
Yammer has helped me quickly identify the right person to talk to when I need specialized help. Prior to doing this, it might take 2-3 different Skype handoffs, each person saying “Ask <insert co-worker name here>”. Now, people opt-in with expertise.
Yammer brings the remote employees closer. I can get on and instantly feel apart of a conversation. It is like a virtual water cooler.
With Yammer, all of our conversations are saved and cataloged, so we aren’t losing all of the great knowledge we are generating.
Even if you don’t directly interact with folks on the projects you are working on, you still get the benefit of their knowledge and different experiences with other clients and projects, just by reading some of the great interactions that are posted here.