Here’s the thing about cat’s versus dogs. Cat’s form bonds with their environment, not their caregiver. When you take a cat outside of it’s home or territory, cats freak out. It makes no difference if mom is there for the cat – it’s the environment that the cat is connected to. Dogs, on the other hand are very bonded to their human. As long as dad is there, the dog is calm and cool. Things are under control and all will be well.
How does this apply to the remote employee, you might ask. We tend to be one personality or the other. Some humans need more social contact, others are very contented being on their own, just don’t mess with their space; dogs vs cats.
The challenge from the communication side is you need to engage both dog and cat personalities and, frankly, one-size does not fit all. To make matters more complicated, remote workers and office dwellers tend to be a mix of both personalities.
Better communication plans for the headquarter employees will be a balanced combination of meaningful human connection and environmental display. Each personality can engage at the level they are comfortable with and feel connected.
It’s far more challenging with the remote employees. And this is where most communication plans break down and can fail.
3 Things to consider about activating remote employees:
- Treat their personal space with respect and attention. Even though it may be a home office environment, they may feel a stronger connection with some “corporate” signage that they can integrate tastefully. Lean towards concepts of integration, value and connection. It is particularly helpful to give them paraphernalia that they can bring with them when they leave their space. It becomes part of their overall experience.
- Never ignore personal connections. Email does NOT count. In an ideal world, this would translate into in-person contact, but sometimes that’s not practical. Even one-on-one phone contact with regard to program initiatives can impact the perceived value of the employee. Offering electronic forums, community space… even yammer helps maintain a sense of connection, though it’s still digital.
- Be flexible. Allow a remote employee to dial up more on one communication channel or the other depending on their personality. The role of the communicator is to offer the options in a way that the employee feels deeply connected in a way that satisfies their personal needs.
Maintaining a valued connection with remote employees is a balancing act and one that needs constant nurturing. A combination of information sharing and active listening tempered with an a la carte strategy.
Eric Berrios is responsible for client strategy and client relationship at Realm Advertising in Atlanta, GA. Since 2005, he has been driving business-to-business clients towards setting and achieving their goals and gaining a stronger sense of brand purpose.
He has also served on the board of directors for IABC/Atlanta since 2010 as VP Professional Recognition and 2 years as chapter president. This non-profit organization seeks to build business through communication.