Remember the time when remote working was thought to be a weak business model? There was hardly any trust, remote workers weren’t seen as actual workers, and managers were nervous about allowing their reports to work away from the office.
Those days are long gone. Now, employees love working remotely and a whopping 66% of companies allow remote work. More and more, we’re talking about the hows of engaging remote employees — because engaged workers are more likely to stay with you.
So, yes, remote working has been gaining more attention than the “Stranger Things” kids. In fact, it’s such a popular way of doing business that 16% of companies have gone 100% remote.
One of those is Zapier. In just 3 years, they’ve managed to grow from 0 to 600,000+ users, make millions, and become experts in engaging their remote employees.
So, they might know a thing or two.
How to motivate remote employees (according to Zapier)
In this blog post, we’re taking a look at how Zapier motivates its virtual teams and its whole remote employee engagement action plan. Zapier’s VP of Customer Support, Pam Dodrill, shares some of the best ways to engage employees, even if they’re working across the world.
Be transparent and always be involving remote employees
The very first thing Zapier does is to assure full transparency and collaborative decision making. Back in the day, all decisions were made on a team level, but the company is growing so fast it’s not feasible anymore.
Now, managers make decisions. But, Zapier ensures all employees are kept in the loop, and they know everything about changes suggested by management. On top of that, all employees are asked for input about these decisions. And feeling as an insider is among the key drivers of employee engagement.
So, if you’re wondering about how to keep remote workers happy and motivated, you can start about letting them know what’s going on. Transparently. They’ll feel valued and not at all like outsiders.
Focus on employee empowerment
Zapier makes sure that everyone (from a Customer Champion to the CEO, Wade Foster) knows how to solve a customer’s problem. This is not just an employee engagement idea but an excellent business decision as well.
Being familiar with your customers’ needs means you’re all on the same page. This is vital when tasked with making decisions on every aspect of the company. It also promotes the idea of being engaged at work for the right reasons, which is, basically, your customers’ satisfaction.
From marketing to customer support and all teams in between, all choices should put the customer first. And knowing their pain points and solving their problems, you’re more likely to make smart decisions.
Get everyone to step into customer support’s shoes
So, a smart way to have everybody informed about the customer’s needs is to engage in a tactic called “all-hand support.”
Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier, has written about the benefits of all-hands support. This is where every single employee takes two hours a week to work on customer support tickets and solve real customer problems. Even their onboarding includes customer support training as a part of the working from home motivation strategy.
That’s because when the entire company works on tickets, it makes it much easier for them to advocate for their customers. This way, every decision made by the company is made by someone who interacts with them, first hand.
It might not be the best remote work productivity trick. But, it’s one of the best ways of engaging remote employees because the whole company works to meet one common goal: customer satisfaction.
Include fun remote employee engagement activities, regularly
Working from home can be tedious. You don’t hear it often, but it can happen. According to our recent remote work survey, loneliness is one of the main challenges of working remotely, and, luckily, Zapier recognizes this need for fun and connection among coworkers.
Zapier lives on Slack where you can find channels about any topic, department, or hobby. All employees get to chat with each other and, at the same, time stay in the loop about company updates and news. But the fun doesn’t stop there.
The company manages to meet in person twice a year. Not as part of their at-home employee engagement plan, but because it’s fun! For these meetups, all employees spend their days in a hotel or conference rooms where they talk about company goals and spend time together.
To define “fun,” the organizers take into consideration the personality of each individual working in the group. So, there are Dungeons and Dragons nights, video games, board games, karaoke nights, dance parties, movies, and so on.
These types of personalized team building activities show how seriously you need to take diversity in the workplace — yes, even if there’s not a physical workplace.
Strive for diversity and inclusion: A top-notch strategy for engaging remote employees
Working with remote employees means you have access to an unlimited hiring pool. You’re able to hire the best of the best and be selective. You can make sure candidates have the right skills and the kind of values that align with your company’s principles.
And two of these should be diversity and inclusion.
Zapier takes inclusion very seriously, and that all employees should look out for each other. According to Pam, when people feel comfortable, they’re not only happier; they also do their best work.
FYI, not integrating your remote team into your culture is one of the most common mistakes when training remote employees. Don’t do it.
Managing a remote team is not easy. You have to monitor performance, hold virtual meetings, do your job, and figure out how to keep your remote employees engaged and motivated.
Τhese lessons from Zapier are certainly a great start to inspire you. If you want to learn more about how Zapier (and other software companies) train and engage their customer service teams (remote or not), check our ebook: How to achieve outstanding customer service: Experts share their secrets. It includes ideas from SurveyMonkey, Wrike, PieSync, Miro and, of course, Zapier.