Improving trust, culture and retention when working beyond borders
When people debate the merits of remote or hybrid working, how do you expect that to go? Maybe you think managers will err on the side of caution and say they’re worried about productivity dropping. And employees will say they’d like to be trusted — after all, the last couple of years have shown that remote working isn’t always a barrier to productivity.
When you throw in the option of working not just remotely from home, but from another country entirely, you'd expect these opinions to become even stronger.
Well, not quite.
Recently, we conducted a study of over 500 business leaders and full-time workers each, to gauge their thoughts on their current and future working models.
Now, 75% of workers said they were considering moving abroad to work, and 41% said they’d be willing to leave their company to do it.
Whilst that’s a bit of an eye-opener, it wasn’t the only big surprise.
Over half (52%) of managers said they trusted their employees to work abroad, and didn’t think productivity would be an issue.
Employees on the other hand, didn’t seem to have that same level of trust in their peers, with over half (53%) saying they’d pay close attention to their fully remote colleagues, to see if they were remaining productive.
All of the above shows three major challenges for businesses:
- The Great Reshuffle is more than just a trend — so how can your business adapt to new retention challenges?
- Building a harmonised culture seems to be an issue in this era of remote and hybrid working — how can you create a well-aligned employee experience?
- Trust needs to be improved — how can you build better relationships amongst peers across borders?
Here at Perkbox, we believe in the key principles of caring for, connecting with and celebrating your employees. These can help you overcome the challenges mentioned above.
It’s also important to note that as workforces become more dispersed, the role of managers and team leaders becomes more important. They are your facilitators on the ground in each location, so it’s important you get buy-in from them.
So, how can you and your managers use the principles of care, connect and celebrate to help with retention, culture and trust? Read on…
While our research showed that employees saw many benefits to hybrid and remote working, almost a third (30%) said it had a negative impact on their physical and mental health.
Now, prioritising employee wellbeing is the right thing to do, but it also has huge business benefits. One of the biggest is the increased retention rates. People expect their employer to take care of them, and the ones who do this properly will keep hold of top talent.
If you have employees spread across multiple locations, you may find this more difficult. In this situation, you need a wellbeing benefits offering that’s truly location agnostic, and covers a range of physical and mental needs.
Ultimately, wellbeing is a very personal thing — everybody has their own challenges. This is especially the case if you have people in different countries. It’s easy to assume that because your Australian employees make use of a particular benefit, the same will happen elsewhere. This isn’t always true, so try to be as broad and global as possible.
The last couple of years have also made people value flexibility and work-life balance. And as our research shows, they’re keen to take control of where they work from.
Businesses need to adapt. Offering flexibility shows that you do care for your people as individuals — again, this will help you with employee retention.
But flexibility is also about the way you deal with employees. Here’s a couple of other interesting nuggets from our research.
- 67% of employees agreed with the statement: "Remote / hybrid working has made leaders less able to micromanage, which I enjoy."
- 42% of employees agreed with the statement: "My manager has not updated their management style following hybrid/remote working, and needs to."
It’s clear managers have a different role to play. There’s a bigger emphasis on treating people as individuals and supporting their wellbeing, than “checking up” on their work.
The manager’s role in caring: Managers should make sure they’re not setting the bar too high. It’s good for them to have quick daily or weekly meetings with their teams to judge workloads and capacity. These don’t have to be especially long, but it’s a chance for people to say what they can and can’t do.
The most important thing managers can ask is a question like: “Does anyone feel overstretched at the moment?” or “How can I support you this week?” This simple act shows employees that they’re not just seen as a resource.
Almost half (48%) of employees we surveyed believed that remote/hybrid working would “challenge the flow of information around the company.”
But we reckon problems can often be turned into opportunities.
A great example is the ability for businesses to communicate with their people. While talking to a screen isn’t as nice as speaking to a room full of people, the end result and impact can be a lot better. Whether an employee’s in Sydney or London, and whether they’re listening from a cafe or a coworking space — you can get your message across to everyone equally. This leads to everyone being aligned and on the same page.
Consistency is super important. Ensure leadership messages are communicated frequently to everyone and provide a mixture of business updates, questions and celebrating successes.
Ensure there’s one central place for all things people-related. Often you hear about things floating about in various shared folders, or HR needing to send various emails when things have been updated. But having a central location which links to all the key information people need — whether it’s KPIs, HR policies, company values or anything else you can think of — creates that harmonised culture we mentioned earlier.
The manager’s role in connecting: Remember, communication is a two-way thing. And while it’s a good idea to have company-wide surveys once or twice a year, the best feedback often comes from the ground. Ensure managers are constantly checking in with their teams and passing feedback up. They will also be your go-to people when you’re trying to implement any cultural initiatives — use their insight to tweak things if needed.
Building trust and stronger relationships between peers starts with recognising and celebrating successes. The great thing is that you have the ability to embed it across the company, meaning you can engage people in every location.
The first thing to note is recognition should be an all-round process. Yes, it’s great for senior leaders to show their appreciation for good work — but getting people to recognise each other is what really builds those bonds.
A nice way is to set up regular, semi-formal recognition sessions. For example, how about an end of week slot where people can shout others out? This can simply be teams or departments getting together on a video call and giving each other praise.
If you have an online recognition platform, you can get people to post it up on there — what you’re essentially doing is combining new tech with good old fashioned compliments. This has the added bonus of being available in all time zones, making recognition between people in different countries easier.
Try to link these recognitions to your company values as much as possible. For example, we have clients who state that whenever someone recognises a peer on the Perkbox platform, they have to select which value the achievement most relates to. This is a good way of emphasising what you stand for.
Another useful way to strengthen relationships is by firing up some friendly competitions. An example would be physical activities such as steps challenges. Put people into teams — deliberately mixing them up to include people from across locations — and set up a leaderboard system. This will encourage interaction between employees from different countries, departments, offices and sites.
Whatever competitions you decide on, try to offer prizes that provide more socialising opportunities for the winning teams. How about takeaway vouchers so they can order some food while having a virtual get-together?
The manager's role in celebrating: Often, recognition goes hand in hand with reward, which falls into the manager’s remit. It’s important they understand what type of reward works well for each member of their team, so each one feels meaningful.
Managers are also the ones who can drive an environment where employees naturally recognise each other. And remember, this doesn’t just have to be for specific pieces of work. Here at Perkbox, we normally have somebody celebrating a work anniversary each week. Their manager will gather messages from various colleagues across different offices, and post them all on our Slack channel. This is a simple but effective way to get people singing each other’s praises and create unity.
The key takeaway
In an increasingly borderless working world, it’s all about retention and relationships. Keeping hold of your best people and creating a harmonised, “one team, one dream” culture across locations needs to be at the top of HR’s agenda. The companies that’ll succeed are the ones who’ll embrace the change and put individual needs at the heart of their people strategy.