How to Engage Mobile Employees: Reinforce Your Culture

Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

happy mobile employee

This is the final installment of a four part series focused on engaging a mobile workforce, including what’s similar (and what’s different) from engaging co-located employees. Part one focused on the importance of defining your culture, part two covered strategies for authentically communicating your culture to your people, part three offered tips on how to spur employee behaviors that align with your culture

So far in this series we’ve covered a lot of information about how to engage and motivate mobile workers. If you’ve been following the series, you likely have also picked up on our belief that the foundational strategy you use to engage decentralized employees isn’t actually different from how you engage any other type of worker. Instead, it’s the tactics you use to follow through on that strategy that need to adjust along the way to ensure you connect with your people—no matter where they’re located.

The same holds true for the final step in our framework: reinforcing the culture. However, you might be surprised to hear of all of the steps in our framework, this is the one I have found to be the most critical to get right. Why this one above all others? It comes down to the idea that “behaviors that are rewarded get done”—a generally accepted truism in life (especially among people who have learned just how hard it is to remove the reward and still expect the behavior!).

While some might argue this is an overly simplistic point of view (human decision making is, after all, incredibly complex), at the end of the day, an organization’s culture is really a set of norms and expectations intended to guide desired employee behaviors. And, when employees are engaged, they willingly exhibit those behaviors, giving credence to the authenticity of that culture (and, not to mention, actually doing the things you want them doing).

Given that each year companies spend an average of $2,200—per employee—to improve culture, it’s safe to say cultural management is a priority for most organizations. But what types of things are they doing to sustain and reinforce cultural stability and consistency? Here’s what we’ve seen work—no matter where your people are working.

Rewards for Individuals

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we cover this in the last article? Yes, we did, but it bears repeating—just like your own internal recognition efforts should. Humans learn through repetition and consistency, which means that it’s important to continually reinforce their behavior over an extended period of time.

This is hardly a new concept and it’s likely that you already have a recognition program in place that allows for non-monetary and monetary rewards as well as special awards, like milestone accomplishments and top performer accolades.

Ideally, these recognition and reward programs are tightly aligned to your cultural values and behaviors to ensure the connection is crystal clear for your people on how their actions support the organization.

These types of recognition programs are appealing for all types of workers, regardless of location. But to really reinforce relevancy, think about how you can offer these types of opportunities while also personalizing your tactics further to support the varied circumstances of workers. For example:

  • Certificates, plaques and trophies can be a great way for office-based workers to promote their accomplishments. But if you’re home-based or on your feet in a facility most of the day, those rewards aren’t going to carry the same level of impact. Instead, consider providing a branded tangible item that can reflect status achievement while also supporting the employee’s work, such as apparel, a mouse pad or clipboard.
  • One of our clients, a large retailer, provides physical badges for uniforms that reinforce the employee’s exemplary behavior. This is a key support mechanism for the organization’s culture but wouldn’t translate for workers who don’t work in that environment. As an alternative, consider offering electronic badges that are visible to other employees via employee profile pages to reinforce the accomplishments of workers who aren’t co-located.

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Celebrating Collective Success

While individual recognition is certainly an important component of reinforcing your culture, increasingly organizations are also recognizing the importance of rewarding high performing teams or even the entire organization for achieving collective goals. Celebrate how your organization’s ability to work as a team is responsible for positive results, focusing on key elements of teamwork.

While town hall style meetings or celebrations work well for co-located employees who are able to step away from their workspaces, the approach doesn’t necessarily work for all. If you’re looking for more inclusive celebration options, consider offering something like a live simulcast or distributing leader and/or employee videos that highlight accomplishments. Make the praise powerful by demonstrating gratitude and recognition through unique, substantial ways.

These tactics are guaranteed to carry more impact than an email and will help to more effectively convey emotion, creating a stronger connection—and more meaningful recognition.

We hope that the ideas shared in this series will help you ensure that your employees are engaged and aligned with your culture, no matter where they’re working. To take your efforts to the next level, take a moment to learn how to apply the science of motivation to improve mobile work.

Christina Zurek

Christina Zurek

Christina is an experienced leader with a passion for improving the employee experience, employee engagement and workplace culture. Few things excite her as much as an opportunity to try something unfamiliar (be that a project, development opportunity, travel destination, food, drink or otherwise), though digging in to a research project is a close second.