How We Keep Our Remote Workforce Engaged

IGS Energy employees

The following article recently published in HR Daily Advisor. You can access the original article on the magazine's website here.

For more insights from IGS Energy, visit our Energy Resource Center.

Keeping a growing workforce engaged poses a challenge under the most "normal" of circumstances. But as every HR professional knows, the last few years have been anything but normal.

For IGS Energy, where I serve as Chief People Officer, there’s no doubt that things were simpler before the pandemic upended the way we work. Just before 2020, our company nearly doubled in size through some of the largest acquisitions in company history, as well as through organic growth. From how we work together to where we work, so much evolved in such a short time.

While some of our team worked remotely before the pandemic, nearly 70 percent of our team is fully or partially remote today. Despite these changes, however, a great deal has stayed the same, too: our long-term approach to growth, our purpose and values, and our commitment to our people. (Our HR team is named “People Are Why” for this very reason.)

In our most recent engagement survey:

  • 94% of our team responded that IGS is a great place to work.
  • 93% of our team responded that they’re proud to tell others they work here.
  • 89% of our team responded that they’re encouraged to balance their work life and personal life.

In many ways, our team is more engaged today than we’ve ever been. Here are some ways how:

Embrace All the "Workplaces" Within Your Workplace

We’re all in on our flexible work arrangement, encouraging our people to choose the work situation that best supports their needs. Roles within IGS are classified as remote, hybrid, in-field, and in-office, and each job is reviewed annually to determine if the classification is still appropriate.

When you have a large hybrid workforce, you have to ensure all team members, regardless of where they work, have the opportunity to experience your company culture, connect with colleagues, and benefit from “perks” in an equitable way. This can be as simple as providing gift cards to employees who can’t attend an on-site meeting and will miss out on catered lunches. And it can be as impactful as finding new opportunities for team members whose workplace is no longer accessible. During the pandemic, we chose to transition our field sales employees to remote roles that would allow them to stay on board.

Keep in mind that hybrid work requires new ways of collaborating with employees in the modern workplace. Leverage a variety of tools for presentations, brainstorming sessions, and one-on-one meetings, and ultimately, encourage people to choose what works best.

Transparent, Consistent Communication Matters

If you want your team to be engaged, they have to be informed. Without proximity on your side, this becomes more difficult but not impossible.

We communicate regularly with our team through monthly “People Are Why” e-mails, wellness and benefit updates, key event details, employee recognitions, quarterly financial updates, and annual all-team meetings during which strategic insights and business priorities are shared.

Employee feedback is just as important. Leverage engagement survey data and related focus groups to gather information on how your people are feeling. This information is critical for action planning and driving effective change. For IGS, over the last few years, this feedback has also served as the foundation for:

  • Pay equity analysis and the launch of a pay transparency initiative
  • The creation of implicit bias training for leaders and employees
  • New mental health benefit offerings for our team

People leaders hold a massive responsibility when it comes to keeping a team informed and engaged. Encourage managers to check in regularly (meeting in person when possible), establish and track specific and measurable objectives, and create a team culture of recognizing and celebrating accomplishments.

Don't Forget About Employee Recognition

Just one in three employees strongly agree they belong at their organization. This sounds in part like a recognition issue. Visibility matters, and celebrating employee achievements (in and outside of the workplace) is especially critical for hybrid workforces.

Each month, we celebrate Living the Values recipients, or employees nominated by their colleagues for their commitment to the IGS values. We host a virtual celebration, which is then shared with all employees through our internal messaging channels.

Perhaps most importantly, we continually invest in our people, reinvesting 90 percent of our profits back into the business each year. The hope is that all IGS-ers know just how valued they are.

And Don’t Forget About the Importance of Wellness

We know that remote work can lead to burnout.

In the last few years, we’ve invested heavily in our employees’ wellness resources beyond the traditional physical health benefits (though we’ve expanded those, too). All IGS team members have access to the Headspace meditation app, a monthly wellness allowance, and access to 12 free visits (for all family members on the medical plan) with a mental health specialist each year.

When it Comes to Employee Groups, Let Your People Lead the Way

Before launching any new employee engagement initiatives, you have to gather feedback directly from your employees. How do they feel about your organization and its culture? What gaps do you need to fill? Knowing how employees feel is especially important in today’s hybrid work environment, where more traditional feedback channels (e.g., an in-person conversation) may not be available to all employees.

It was by gathering candid employee feedback that we developed our diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion (DEBI) action plan and IGS Communities, our version of employee resource groups (ERGs).

When we launched IGS Communities in 2021, we knew it was essential that our employees have as much input as company leaders. These groups exist to support our people, so IGS Communities are identified, created, and led by employees.

Finally, Make Time to Bring Teams Together

It’s important to come together when you can.

This summer, we hosted a massive event near our headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, bringing together more than 1,200 employees for 3 days of information-sharing and celebration, which we rounded out with the first-ever IGS Music Fest. While this was a significant investment and major undertaking for our team, the memories we made that week will be with IGS-ers for a long time.

To cultivate a thriving hybrid workforce, it’s essential for HR professionals to prioritize employee empowerment by actively soliciting feedback and aligning work arrangements with individual needs. By putting employees at the forefront and fostering open communication, organizations can create an engaged and adaptable workforce capable of excelling in any environment.