Motivating Today’s Employees: When the Carrot Can’t Always Be Cash

I have been interested in remote work for a number of years. Working in corporate communications while also doing freelance writing for a number of years when a company I was working for was going through a merger and planning to relocate its headquarters I thought: “why couldn’t I work for them—or some other company—remotely?”

And as I often did back then when I was wondering about something, I decided to write about it. In this case, a book on telecommuting. My first book was titled: “Motivating Today’s Employees – When the Carrot Can’t Always Be Cash” based on my observations as a manager (and employee) that high-paying work environments didn’t necessarily lead to motivated employees – but high-performance work environments where employees were engaged in their work did.
Once the pandemic emerged and so many companies rapidly shifted to remote or hybrid work models, I proposed an update of that book to my publisher. Managing Remote Staff, (Self-Counsel Press, 2020) was the result.

Remote Work Becomes Mainstream

I’ve been fascinated by watching the rapid successful adoption of a remote work model since the emergence of the pandemic. My belief has long been that managing remote workers really requires the same skills as managing workers regardless of where they’re located. Somehow, though, there has long been a sort of “mind block” related to managing people not located physically on site—even though many managers did exactly that (in global or dispersed organizations, when managing employees in branch locations, etc.).

Keys to Effective Management in a Remote Environment

The keys to effective management of remote staff (which are exactly the same as when managing any employees) are:
  • Creating mutually agreed upon and clear and measurable goals to evaluate performance.
  • Ongoing communication with an opportunity for two-way communication.
It’s also critical to leave neither of these to chance which is what I believe happens often in face-to-face work settings. It’s harder to leave these to chance, though, when employees are located off-site because their “absence” becomes more apparent or obvious, prompting supervisors and managers to feel some sense of unease or anxiety about what they’re working on.
Communication should also allow for plenty of two-way communication and feedback and a focus on creating a trusting and transparent culture where employees feel free to speak up and raise questions and issues or offer input and suggestions.

Technology Can Be a Great Aid

Technology can be a big aid here and we’ve been lucky since the onset of the pandemic that we have had access to tools allowing for remote interaction (e.g., Zoom, Slack, etc.) as well as remote tracking of work activities.

The Best Way to Motivate Remote (All!) Workers

So, the best way to motivate remote teams is to clearly indicate what is expected of these teams in terms of output and performance, providing ongoing feedback (positive and constructive) and, when goals and objectives are achieved or milestones met, take the time to recognize and/or celebrate these successes in meaningful and visible ways. That might be something as simple as a personal phone call to congratulate an employee on a job well done, a lunch or dinner out (vaccine mandates permitting) to celebrate a team win, or monetary incentives to drive the accomplishment of performance goals.
The key, though, is to be mindful of the importance of keeping communication channels open and providing positive feedback and recognition—regardless of where employees are relocated.
Managers are discovering new ways of effectively engaging staff these days. What best practices have you discovered work well when managing remote workers?

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21st Century Secrets to Effective PR

Managing Remote Staff

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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