Last year many businesses were forced to embed a remote working culture across their entire organization within a couple of weeks. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella famously said that we had seen two years of digital transformation in just two months. Here in 2021, we are just beginning to understand the impacts these changes have had on our staff.

Many employees initially felt compelled to overcompensate and flirted with burnout. Others slowly became disengaged from their company and began to feel like they have been forgotten. Shortly afterwards, we also witnessed the rise of virtual recruitment which means that many teams are now working with new colleagues they have never met in person.

Embedding new employees within your company culture and making them feel an integral part of the team can be difficult without a face-to-face introduction and walk around the office. Both employee engagement and the onboarding of new team members are arguably the most human aspects of leadership.

I have been speaking with many employees, HR departments, leaders and have browsed through countless employee engagement surveys. The worrying trends that I am seeing follow a universal theme. Employees often feel neglected, overworked, disconnected, siloed, and being away from their colleagues has taken its toll on them too.

When attempting to encourage inclusive engagement across an organization, you should keep doing what you already had in place. Just because you’re now working in either a remote or hybrid environment, you can still create cross-functional teams to increase collaboration and keep the momentum going.

I’m a big believer in sending more personalized notes. If you step back and think about it, we are all surrounded by tech that bombards us with impersonal notifications throughout every minute of every day. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, email, and other critical applications are the biggest culprits. But we all crave human interaction and simply want to feel appreciated.

Sending a unique personalized note can help clear the white noise and make an employee feel special and integral member of the team. Sending notes from the executive team, HR, or having their manager send a handwritten note will go a long way. We might live in an age of faceless digital communication but trust me when I say that if you receive one of these notes in the mail, it will transform how you feel about yourself, your efforts, and the company you work for.

Recognition programs are also more critical than ever before and should not be put on hold just because you are out of the office. It’s one of the main drivers for why employees decide to stay in an organization. It’s relatively easy to host a virtual recognition party or recognition awards ceremony for your organization. Prizes can be delivered to their homes, so they proudly show their gifts on the screen. 

It’s also worth remembering that when your employees work from the comfort of their homes, it has never been easier for them to access and confidentiality apply for a new job and even attend a remote interview for the position. You shouldn’t need this as an excuse to make staff feel appreciated for the work they’re doing, but it should encourage you to ensure that every staff member feels valued.

We all need a reason to jump out of bed in the morning. That’s why finding meaning in our work is so important. Managers can harness this energy and encourage greater collaboration. Leaders should also be reaching out to their team members and checking in on them more often. An additional weekly call to make sure they’re not suffering from burnout or loneliness might feel a little awkward at first, but it will increase your bond with them.

Larry King once said, “I realize every morning that nothing I say today will teach me anything, so if I’m going to learn a lot today, I’ll have to do it by listening.” By doing more pulse surveys, you can unlock the ability to listen and genuinely hear what your employees are thinking and feeling.

Our world is more connected than ever before, but this is not the time to pull back on interconnectedness. We crave more connections with others because we simply want to be understood and play our part in something bigger than ourselves. These are just a few reasons why inclusive employment engagement is one of the best investments that leaders can make.