Employee Engagement in the Virtual Workplace: Key Strategies for Success

Employee Engagement in the Virtual Workplace: Key Strategies for Success

This On-Demand event was originally presented on August 23, 2023 (60 min)


According to a recent article on Forbes.com, “Remote and hybrid work models are here to stay, and companies that adapt, innovate, and create a culture of trust and flexibility will thrive in the long run.” While that is certainly true, the list leaves out one crucial success factor: the need to implement processes and strategies that foster employee engagement. When employees are engaged, they are emotionally invested in and connected to their work. Obvious signs of engagement include a sense of pride in the work, a high level of enthusiasm, and a willingness to “go the extra mile” on behalf of the team or organization. This results in greater retention, increased job satisfaction, lower absenteeism, and better customer service.

In a remote or hybrid work arrangement, many of the traditional means of boosting employee engagement are no longer feasible. Compounding the challenge is the fact that no definitive playbook exists for engaging remote workers — every organization and team will have its own approach. The good news is that by implementing a few simple but powerful strategies, engagement can be significantly amplified among your remote/hybrid employees.

In this enlightening and fast-paced webinar, we’ll explore some of those strategies, including:

  • Establishing clear expectations and guidelines for employees regarding flexible work.
    According to a recent survey conducted by Mercer, only a third of organizations have formal rules in place for managing flexible work. 48% rely on informal and ambiguous guidelines to manage flexible work, and 17% are completely “hands-off.” Such vagueness can lead to a host of problems, such as resentment, reduced productivity, and ultimately high turnover.
  • Providing opportunities for adaptive work rather than simply technical or tactical work.
    Technical or tactical work is defined as work that addresses a clearly defined issue with relatively straightforward solutions. Adaptive work, on the other hand, is work that may require adopting new paradigms, values, and beliefs to solve complex problems. Creating opportunities for employees to occasionally participate in adaptive work that taps their creativity and ingenuity can increase engagement dramatically.
  • Leveraging the Progress Principle to capitalize on the power of small wins and forward movement.
    In their book The Progress Principle, authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer write, “Our research inside companies revealed that the best way to motivate people, day in and day out, is by facilitating progress—even small wins.” Helping team members make progress on meaningful work is even more critical for engagement on a remote/hybrid work team.
  • Creating psychological safety.
    Psychological safety is the feeling of being able to speak openly and honestly at work without fear of punishment. Engagement increases when employees feel psychologically safe for several reasons. First, employees can try new things without worrying about making mistakes. Second, employees feel welcome to perform their work as they see fit without negative consequences. Finally, employees are emboldened to challenge the status quo in a way that promotes creativity and innovation.


Employee engagement is more than just an HR fad—it’s something that can truly make the difference between average results and exceptional results for your team or organization. This was always true, but in a virtual or hybrid workplace, implementing strategies for employee engagement to flourish is paramount.

For managers of remote/hybrid companies; leaders looking to improve company culture; training and HR professionals; independent consultants; or any managers delivering training, this webinar will show you how!

Attendees will learn

  • Why elevating employee engagement in a virtual or hybrid work environment is critical to success.
  • To recognize the importance of establishing clear expectations and guidelines for employees regarding flexible work.
  • Why creating opportunities for employees to participate in so-called adaptive work (rather than just technical/tactical work) can increase engagement dramatically.
  • To leverage the power of the Progress Principle, the finding that the best way to motivate people is by facilitating progress on meaningful work.
  • To identify the importance of psychological safety for employee engagement and how to establish it in your organization.

Special offers from our sponsor

Managing Offsite Employees Customizable Course

Managing Offsite Employees Customizable Course

Managing a remote workforce requires more than just smartphones, Wi-Fi, and webcams. It requires having the right employees in the right jobs with the right skills and resources. And it also requires managers with the know-how to communicate effectively, maintain a sense of community, cultivate teamwork, and develop relationships built on trust.

Managing Offsite Employees positions managers of a remote workforce for success with a half-day program packed with self-assessment exercises, real-life scenarios, practice activities, and more.


As founder and CEO of Right Chord Leadership, Dr. Michael Brenner collaborates with leaders and teams at all levels to strengthen the essential skills needed for peak performance. He achieves this by drawing on more than two decades of experience as an international leadership consultant, executive coach, keynote speaker, and educator and more than 35 years as a professional musician.

Michael has partnered with leading organizations in a variety of industries, including law firm Ballard Spahr, Morgan Properties, Burlington Stores, QVC, SAP, Penn Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Boeing, and The Goddard School.  He has worked with several not-for-profit organizations as well, including United Way and Habitat for Humanity.

Michael holds a doctorate in Adult Learning and Leadership from Columbia University and a master’s degree in Adult and Organizational Development from Temple University. He has taught courses in organizational behavior, systems dynamics, negotiations, and interpersonal relations at Immaculata University, Temple University, La Salle University, Penn State University, and American University.

Michael has been a featured speaker at many industry events and conferences around the world, including Southeast Asia, Canada, and Australia.

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.


Employee Engagement in the Virtual Workplace: Key Strategies for Success

This event is sponsored by HRDQ. For 45 years, HRDQ has provided research-based, off-the-shelf soft-skills training resources for classroom, virtual, and online training. From assessments and workshops to experiential, hands-on games, HRDQ helps organizations improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and more.

Learn more at HRDQstore.com

On-Demand Webinar Recording
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Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, Employee Engagement in the Virtual Workplace Key Strategies for Success hosted by HRDQ-U, and presented by Dr. Michael Brenner. My name is Sarah and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions or comments, please type them into the questions box on your go to Webinar control panel.
And if you could, for me, just type in the questions block, say hello, where you’re from, Just locate that, get comfortable with using that for me today there, and you can also locate your handout today under the Handouts drop-down on your control panel as well.
And today’s webinar is sponsored by HRDQ. For 45 years, HRDQ has provided research based off the shelf soft skills training resources for classroom, virtual, an online training. From assessments and workshops to experiential hands-on gains. HRDQ helps organizations improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and more. You can learn more at HRDQstore.com.
And I’d like to welcome our presenter today, Dr. Michael Brenner. Mike is founder and CEO of RightChord Leadership, he collaborates on leaders and teams at all levels to strengthen the essential skills needed for peak performance.
He achieves this by drawing on more than two decades of experience as an International Leadership Consultant, executive coach, keynote speaker, and educator and more than 35 years as a professional musician.
Mike has partnered with leading organizations in a variety of industries, including law firm Ballard/Spar, Morgan Properties, Burlington stores, QVC, FAPE, Penn Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Boeing, the Goddard School, and more. May call the Doctorate and Adult Learning and Leadership from Columbia University and a Master’s Degree in Adult and Organizational Development from Temple University.
He has taught courses in organizational behavior systems dynamics negotiations and interpersonal relations at … University, Temple University, LaSalle University, Penn State University, and American University.
He has been a featured speaker, speaker at many industry events and conferences around the world, including south-east Asia, Canada, and Australia. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Thank you, Sarah, for that introduction, I appreciate it, and welcome to everyone out there in Virtual Land hearing my voice and joining Sarah and myself for today’s program.
Really appreciate it. I know your schedules are super busy, but the fact that you carved out an hour or so today, I think is, you know, testament to your interest in this topic into, to wanting to be the best. You know, leader, you can be manager.
You can be teammate. You can be and I think that’s really commendable.
So, I’m coming at you today from a pretty nice day here in suburban Philadelphia or the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I guess you’re all over the place, right.
So, again, Mark, my sincere thanks for coming on board today. It’s always great to work with the good folks at HR DQ. If you have an opportunity to, to, you know, checking the others of their webinars and so forth, I do recommend that there are a great organization. It’s great to partner with them. So, today, as Sarah mentioned, a moment ago, we’re going to be talking about employee engagement in the virtual workplace key strategies for success now.
Today’s webinar is the result of some work that I am doing with a private client of mine who is experiencing some challenges with this very issue.
And so, the, the, the research that I had done and the findings that I had discovered on behalf of my client, I thought, wow, why not? You know, share what I learned with, with as many folks as as I can.
And so, that was kind of the genesis of today’s webinar, so we’re gonna move, you know, pretty quickly, it’s, it’s not comprehensive in as much as it’s not going to cover every possible thing that we could consider with regard to this subject matter.
But I am going to share with you some of the highlights of the work that I’ve done.
And my, my sincere hope is that you’ll be able to incorporate some of these insights, some of these findings, some of these processes into your own work, and, and see, you know, see some results, because, let’s face it, you know, working in a virtual workplace is tricky.
It’s adding challenges to what is already fairly complex work, whatever it is that you’re doing.
And with all of the convenience, that might come with virtual work, with all of the cost savings, perhaps, that might come with virtual work, There are any number of challenges. But let’s face it, folks. It’s not going away.
Right, so I saw some research recently that the number of companies offering remote opportunity’s has grown 44%, within the past five years. Obviously, that was fueled by the pandemic.
Hey, what we discovered as as working adults is that we like it. We want and expect the kind of flexibility afforded by the Virtual Work model.
So there were a few folks working virtually prior to the pandemic but then with the pandemic a lot more of us got a taste of this virtual work thing. And you know what?
You know, we liked it, And so, it’s not going anywhere.
Research also shows that over 75% of the, of the biggest problems in remote work involved the so-called, softer aspects of people management, like relationship building, and communication. So, I thought that was really interesting. It’s, we’ve gotten, we’ve gotten accustomed to the technology.
We kind of understand now the ins and outs of of Zoom or goto Meeting, or teams or whatever platform we use. That’s not really the issue.
The issue is the so-called soft, or I don’t like that word, but it’s the word that that was used in the, in the research.
The softer aspects of how do we manage our people, how do we collaborate? How do we build strong teams? How do we communicate effectively? That’s really where the big opportunities are for us.
Um, in another piece of research from Accenture, which is probably a name you’ve, you’ve heard.
And their future of work study surveyed more than 10000 workers and 200 CEOs.
65% of the survey respondents claimed to be dissatisfied with how their company was administering hybrid work. That’s a big number.
So, the opportunity for all of us, collectively, to just do better, in this space, I think, is, is right in front of us. And so, if today’s little webinar can help move the needle, in its own, small, humble way, that that’s really, that’s really my hope today, because there is a big opportunity here. So, let’s let’s seize it.
OK, so, let’s talk about some of the virtual work challenges that organizations such as yours might be facing today.
And I’ve just listed, I don’t know how many you’re here, 12 10, 12, I’m not sure, take a look here.
Um, Then you’ll see that the last one is a series of question marks, which just opens up the opportunity for those of you listening.
two, Put in the questions box, Anything that’s not listed here.
So my ask right now is if you see one on the screen that has been a challenge for you or your team or your organization, just, you know, type it quickly into the question box or if you’re experiencing one that’s not listed here, go ahead and put that in the question box as well, so I’ll give you a moment to do that, and let’s see what No those of us on this webinar are are experienced it collectively.
Hair would like to know if you could define what thermo means.
FOMO, My understanding is fear of missing out So it’s a bit of a buzzword. It’s an acronym.
And, you know, fear of missing out means when I’m not in the office where I can hear all of the, I don’t want to call it gossip, but, you know, we’re not getting what I can feel more connected to what’s going on with my team and my teammates, I might be at home in my home office. I feel disconnected. I might be geographically separated. I don’t have that same sense of, of understanding what’s going on with my team. And my teammates. So, I have that fear of missing out, is Or is there something going on that I’m not aware of?
Is there something good going on that I’m not apart, this is something that I read about it in the literature. So, that’s a great question.
So, we, in that time, we’ve had a lot of comments coming through. We have Michael saying water cooler chats and subtle cues that are missed.
And Angela also says Having fewer water cooler chats, we have, um, you’re addressing FOMO Alan same loss of accessibility and availability and availability. Jessica said Ineffective on onboarding as is an obstacle that they are currently facing.
Anita also said Onboarding new employees, employers and making them no fuel connections in their company.
Sky says losing productivity and a lack of a commitment to work. Now read off just two more here. Angela saying reduced exposure to face-to-face interaction and presenting and Brandy said Losing employee engagement and participation.
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Sarah. Those are, you know, those are very real challenges for organizations. And I get, I mean, a lot of my clients are facing the same challenges. And, as I said, that, that was the the origin of me wanting to find out more about this topic in the first place. I also, I mean, I see here an interesting question, in the in the box here, don’t you think these were problems before working from home? And the culture was to ignore it like onboarding or accessibility, I think. The first part of that is probably accurate, These, these have always been challenges in terms of, you know.
The quality of communication in the workplace, the different needs for demographically different members of your of your team, so these issues did not suddenly spring up as a result of the pandemic and the Pivot to virtual workplace, but I would argue that they were exacerbated.
I would argue that.
But, you know, the challenges that come with virtual work, such as, you know, that that sense of disengagement, disconnect, not being amongst your colleague’s, being away from the water cooler different, we had to come up with different ways of communicating that maybe didn’t feel that familiar to us.
I definitely think made things like onboarding more challenging, made things like accessibility more challenging. So I don’t know if the culture ignored it. Maybe that’s true in some organizations, In other organizations, You know, they tackled these issues head on, but the bottom line for me is, while these challenges existed to a certain extent, in a more traditional workplaces, I would make the case that pivot to virtual definitely amplify them and exacerbated them. And that’s why I think so many, even well intentioned organizations that want to do the right thing, or fight, and finding themselves, struggling in this space. So that’s a really good question.
So the topic for today is Employee engagement. How do we AMP up employee engagement in the virtual workplace?
Well, let’s start by defining what employee engagement is.
For, for me, it is the emotional investment that people make in their work. That’s probably the most succinct definition I could give you.
It’s, it’s the willingness two Apply discretionary effort to the job.
So, discretionary effort is, what am I willing to do above and beyond the minimum expectations of my job? So, if we extended that definition a little, a little more, you would see, you know, someone who is engaged with demonstrated doozy as an for the job.
Dare I use the P word, you know, passion for the job? Would you come in early and stay late, would, would go above and beyond whatever that required of them in their job?
And someone who was disengaged would kind of come into work?
and you go through the motions and sorted just show up for the paycheck, but wouldn’t necessarily execute their job with any palpable sense of energy or enthusiasm or excitement.
So that’s kind of the quick way to define engagement. And you might have other ways of looking at it. But I think that’ll suffice for today.
So a few quick statistics about engagement.
And there’s been, there’s a plethora of research over the last 10 or 20 years making the connection between employee engagement and a lot of good stuff that we want to see happening in our organizations. For example, organizations with engaged employees.
The kind of employees that I just described a moment ago outperform their competitors by over 200%. Now, what do we mean by outperform? Oh, that means, you know, the their work product was of a higher quality.
They got more done in less time, they, you know, they collaborated more effectively. They, they problem solved more efficiently, right? So there’s lots of ways to slice this term of outperform but that’s generally what that means. They just, they just did better work.
Organizations with engaged, employees generated 2.5 times more revenue, then organizations with low levels of employee engagement, and the researchers and statisticians can actually, you know, connect the dots between levels of engagement at a workplace and and, you know, return on investment revenue. So there’s a There’s absolutely a connection there.
It’s not just no hypothetical businesses with highly engaged employees see a reduction in absenteeism by 41% and a 17% increase in productivity. So again, these are very real numbers.
If you have A, you know, a financial person at your organization that thinks this employee engagement thing sounds kind of weird or kind of fluffy. These are the kind of statistics that can help you make the case, no.
Employee engagement is a key driver of success in organizations, you know, in these various ways, lower absenteeism, greater productivity, better work product, Highly engaged employees are 50% more likely than average to outperform their individual performance targets. Which makes sense, if you have a certain goals that you need to reach, and you’re highly engaged and highly motivated, and highly enthusiastic, you’re much more likely to reach above and beyond.
No, Just the, the the mere, merely what’s expected of you.
So this is all really good stuff, this is the kind of stuff that the high performing organizations that I’ve seen that I’ve worked with, engagement is a key part of the of the formula, there’s no getting around.
Now on the downside, 79% of employees are suffering from mild, moderate or severe burnout.
To go back to our previous inquiry, burnout is nothing new, burnout did not know. The pandemic hit and everyone suddenly felt burned out. Now people have been feeling burned out for decades.
Once again though, the stress from the pandemic, coupled with the pivot to virtual, we saw a lot more burnout than perhaps we had previously. And I, I saw that firsthand.
People becoming more anxious, people becoming more stressed, it was taking a physical toll on peoples.
Uh, you know, physical, they got sick, They they, I saw implications for mental and emotional well-being. So it was people are, people are suffering, it might not look obvious, they might be able to hide it.
But a lot of people are just cooked. They’re fried.
Low employee engagement is costing companies a lot of money up to $500 billion each year in callouts, in sickness, in absenteeism and in tardiness in turnover, It’s a major driver of, you know, of bleeding money that companies could could use on other things.
And 16% of employees said they were actively disengaged in their work and workplace. Now, that number doesn’t seem like a lot, 16%. Think about it. They’re not just disengaged.
They’re actively disengaged, That’s a huge number.
That means, I’m not only just coming to work and kind of going through the motions to collect a paycheck, but I am, I have low morale, I have low trust, I don’t really want to be here, I’m just doing it because I have to buy food and keep the lights on. And if I’m going to be miserable, I’m going to make you miserable, as well.
That’s how I sort of define act of being actively disengaged. So you’re getting about 16% of people are trying to take you down along with, you know, make you miserable along with them.
That’s a huge number.
I don’t know any high performing organization that can sustain, that can sustain that. It’s just not possible.
OK, so a couple more statistics here real quick to make the case why this matters, 38% of remote employees reported feeling exhausted after daily virtual meetings.
If you’re like my clients, it’s meeting after meeting after meeting.
The term zoon fatigue entered the popular lexicon a few years ago and it was a real thing.
It was just like, I can’t take one more zoom meeting. I am exhausted.
So, 38%, more than one in three huge number, 54% of the US workforce is not engaged at work.
More than one in two of your teammates would rather be somewhere else.
Your organization, my organization, can ill afford, uh, these kinds of disengagement numbers. We have to do something about it.
Lest we continue to experience people at work who really don’t want to be there, who will jump at the next job for like just a little bit more money, who, you know, you can’t necessarily depend on to be there when you need them. Can’t happen.
So engagement is not some pie in the sky, warm and fluffy concept created by Management Consultants like me.
It’s a real thing.
It’s a real phenomenon, and most importantly, it has very real impact on the health of your, up your organization.
So, hopefully I’ve made somewhat of a persuasive case.
Thinking about engagement and ways to drive engagement, particularly in the virtual workplace, is, is important. So let’s talk about how to do that.
Well, there’s lots of ways to do it, and I’m going to share with you a few that I feel are really essential.
Um, I think Sarah mentioned in her introduction that in addition to consulting and training and coaching, speaking, and doing webinars, I’m also a professional musician. There’s probably a lot of you on this call who are musicians, maybe not professional musicians, but you play music.
Uh so the picture, there’s a picture of me playing a tenor saxophone.
This is a soprano saxophone.
That’s the long, the long, thin one. And so, I play Woodwinds mostly saxophones, like a Little bit of flute.
These photos are pretty old, so I’m going to quickly share with you a more recent photo.
Yeah, so, that’s a more recent photo, CERA.
I think that was, that was actually taken last week, and I’ve I’ve aged considerably.
I got the gray hair now, and two bad knees, but at one time, I was young and handsome and youthful.
I miss those days.
But the point in sharing these photos with you in this little autobiographical tidbit is that it’s the music forms, a metaphor that is at the heart of all the work that I do. And here’s the metaphor.
All right, if you are musically inclined, you know what a court is. A court is a series of notes played at the same time.
So if I played a particular collection of notes, you might say, let’s say, on a piano, that particular collection of notes play together, might sound pretty good to you. You would say, wow, that sounds very pleasing. Or that’s a very pleasant corridor, that that sounds very harmonious. You know, that’s the fancy musical term we’d use.
If I played a different collection of nodes, those nodes play together might sound very different. You might say, oh, I don’t like the sound of that core. That sounds very harsh.
Or the word, we might use this dissonant. That sounds very distant.
And the metaphor is that we play cordes all the time as well, not literal musical chords.
If you will, but chords in the sense of how we show up in the world, and more specifically how we show up at work.
We play cords every moment of every day with every interaction we have, every meeting, every phone call, every e-mail, The chords, we play, both individually and collectively on our teams, can really make the difference between success and failure.
So sometimes the cords we play are a little out of tune.
And we don’t quite get the results we were hoping for.
And we might want to reflect on what might I have done better? What could I do differently in the future?
But when our chords are in harmony or in the groove, as I like to say, you can kind of feel that, that feels really palpable.
You’re doing good work. You enjoy coming to work you, the work you’re doing is challenging and meaningful.
You like your colleagues, we might say that your chords are in the Groove, and so the courts we play or don’t play individually and collectively absolutely impact the level of our engagement on our team.
So, there’s there’s no two ways about it: Engagement is: or is a reflection of the chords replay, and the chords that the people we work with play, OK. And it doesn’t mean that every moment of every day we have to play, you know, sweet melodies to to extend the metaphor.
We’re only human, and sometimes we have bad moments and bad days.
But if that continues day, after day week, after week, we are going to start to see our engagement drop. We’re going to become disconnected. We’re going to become disaffected. And that’s when bad things start happening in the culture. So, an awareness of the chords we play is truly at the center of what I’m about to share with you. So just kinda keep that metaphor in mind.
And sometimes I say to people, you might want to think about playing some different chords, to get some different results.
Which is my way of saying what other behaviors might you consider adopting to know to get a different outcome? And I think that is very true when it comes to to this topic of engagement.
one of the first things you can do, and what are the easiest cordes you can play with regard to driving engagement in a virtual workplace is to focus on the clarity of your messaging.
Now, I know that sounds very obvious, but it’s not, OK.
In many organizations out there, there are no formal policies regarding virtual work at, you know, in the, in the organization.
I have many clients now who have told me, Mike, we don’t really have a playbook.
There’s, there’s no formal way of doing stuff in this virtual workplace.
The expectation is that our teams will come up with the best work arrangement that works for us, and that work arrangement might be different for team A than it is for TB than it is for teens.
Now, I think there’s some good things about that.
I think organizations that grant that kind of freedom and flexibility to their people, to come up with the arrangement that works for them, I think that’s, that’s pretty cool.
I’m a big advocate of flexibility, adaptability, and a big enemy of micromanagement. So I think that’s pretty cool.
But there is a downside to that.
And the downside to that is, you might have a lot of people doing different things, and because it’s not codified anywhere, it’s not written down anywhere in the in the handbook.
This is how we’re going to do things in the virtual workplace.
Sometimes, it’s not clear, the messaging is muddied, there’s confusion, There aren’t clear processes and protocols.
And so, getting clear is absolutely essential.
What happens, in vagueness stays in Vegas.
We call that a pun.
It’s true messaging that comes out that is unclear, that is ambiguous, that is vague. That is confusing.
Usually, remember that old game?
We used to play telephone, where the first person had a message, and then they would share it to the next person who shared it to the next person who shared it with the next person. And by the time it got to the end, the two messages are completely different.
Well, it’s no different in an organization.
In fact, that effect is amplified in organizations because there’s so much more complex.
So, the idea of getting clear and succinct and precise with your messaging is a really easy way of driving engagement, because when people are unclear about what they’re supposed to do, when they are unclear about their goals, when they are unclear about what the boss is looking for, when they are unclear about what the team is supposed to accomplish, guess what happens to engagement?
Goes down, OK.
Now, part of the problem is that in English, the language, most of us use, not all of us, but many of us used to communicate, is inherently, um, uh, I would say flawed, but inherently vulnerable to misinterpretation.
I mean, just look at this sign here.
If you drove by this sign, you would probably look at it twice.
Right, we love hurting people. What kind of a church is that?
Well, it’s not that the church loves hurting people, the church loves people who are hurting.
Because then, we welcomed them in, we’d give them the spiritual nourishment and the love that they need to overcome whatever it is they’re dealing with.
but, the way it’s worded here is very confusing and ambiguous. and I’m sure, you know, if someone pointed it out, the folks that put that sign up and go, Oh my gosh, we have to change that song.
Here’s another example if your dog does a poo, put it a little bit.
Well, somebody took that a little too, literally.
Right? Most of us understand that.
The word it refers to the poo, this individual, this took the it as meeting the dog.
Now, I’m sure this was just a joke, OK?
But the point is: is that in the language we use everyday, common, familiar language, has built into it.
High, susceptibility to ambiguity, confusion, and misinterpreted misinterpretation. Phrases like ASAP ASAP. I’ll have that to you ASAP.
Well, my ASAP might not be URIs ASAP.
Then I come to you at the end of the day and I ask for the report, and you go, I’m not going to be able to get to that.
For a week, Mike?
See we had a disconnect on what ASAP met.
Or somebody says, Yeah, I’ll try to get to that.
What do you mean? You’ll try to get to that? You will get to it. You won’t get to it.
So, again, clarity of communication drives, engagement, muddied confusing messaging drives, disengagement.
Nobody is a mind reader.
Nobody is a fortune teller or, you know, I don’t know if you believe in that.
That’s fine. But generally speaking, people, people can’t read minds, and people can’t look into the future.
All right.
So messaging that we think is clear, or that feels clear to us, often lands in a way that, that we don’t expect with the other person.
So what we’re giving feels like this to us, Often, what we’re really giving is something that looks like this.
OK, so I Underscore the importance of using the language of specificity in all of the various messaging that you do throughout the day, setting, expectations.
Making, requests, setting, goals, giving instructions, whatever it is that you do, um.
Check yourself, say it seems clear to me, but let me double check it and make sure that there’s no ambiguity.
Look, one message that is not quite clear, you can clarify that. Like someone just asked me, Mike, what is FOMO mean?
And I took a minute to explain it, right? No harm done.
But if your messaging is continually vague or ambiguous or unclear, people around you, you’re gonna start to check out.
Because it’s just requiring too much effort to interpret whatever it is you want them to do.
So at the very least, I would say, with all of your messaging, you should be clear on three things. Who will do what by when?
So many people have these virtual meetings at the end of the meeting. No, but I don’t wanna say nobody, but people are still unclear about who’s supposed to do what, What exactly is supposed to be accomplished? And when, Exactly, it’s supposed to be done by.
So, I say at the end of your virtual meetings, Hey, all right, Before we break up, who is doing this piece? Who was doing that piece? Who is doing that piece?
What exactly are we clear on what exactly we agreed needs to be done? And what is the timeline that? we agree?
I think just answering those three questions are going to save you a lot of aggravation and frustration down the road. They’re very easy questions to ask. But they’re often just They’re just missed because people are busy, and people are tired, and people, it’s just not on people’s radar.
So when you think scalpel, in your communication precision specificity rather than firehose and I have clients that just they loop everybody in whether or not those people are relevant to the job or not, I say why do you do that? They say, well, I just want to cover my button. Well, no, cover your bot.
It’s not a great organizational strategy pinpointing the people who need to know the people who need to be involved. The people are going to be part of the decision of the decision making with clear, succinct messaging. Now that’s an organizational strategy, but just fire hosing you know everybody.
Just for the sake of doing it. Whether they’re involved or not is just going to make people resentful and aggravate.
The average American worker, I read gets about 150 e-mails a day.
So if you’re just showering people with messaging, um, without considering whether that messaging is on point, you know, that’s that’s gonna, that’s going to irritate your colleagues. So don’t don’t be that person.
I would also, in the name of clarity, follow up with questions, are my directions clear.
Have I left anything out? What questions do you have?
You know, these are just examples, but, again, just like, who will do what, by when.
Often we go about our separate ways after an interaction, after a meeting, after whatever, Whatever it happens to be, and we haven’t followed up to ensure understanding, then person aide goes off, to do what they thought you needed, comes back and gives you, or you give them something that, you know, which was not what they were hoping for.
So, yes, is this rocket science? No, ladies and gentlemen, it is not.
But when you increase the precision and clarity of your messaging and communication, even by a small degree, it can have a tremendous difference. Think about the amount of confusion, it can help reduce, just by doing some of the things that I’m sharing with you, here.
And the less confusion, the less ambiguity, the more people can spend on doing the work that really matters, and consequently, engagement goes up.
If you can’t explain it, simply said, Einstein, You don’t understand it well enough. And by the way, folks, that goes for e-mails too.
If you or a QALY are in the habit of sending out these kind of e-mails, I strongly suggest you rethink your approach to e-mail. E-mail was never intended for this, you know, kind of.
Amount of content.
If you have to communicate anything more than a few short messages or bullet points, I strongly encourage you to pick up the phone, schedule a Zoom call, or, you know, whatever you need to do.
But, nothing will make somebody, not want to deal with you more than, you know, a steady wave of, of these kinds of e-mails.
OK, so, in conclusion, that’s the, one of the easiest cordes you can play, is just AMP up your awareness around the clarity of your communication, that’s something we can start doing, but today, there’s no reason to wait for that now.
Let’s talk about other ways of driving engagement beyond just tightening up our communication to eliminate ambiguity. Let’s talk about employee motivation and what really motivates people in the workplace.
If you want your teams to be engaged in their work, you have to make their work engaging.
Let me say that again.
If you want your teams to be engaged in their work, you have to make their work engaging, and so we need to talk about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation comes from, you guessed it, within intrinsic, it’s the fulfillment.
We experience, when we do work, that we feel is meaningful, that allows us to grow personally and professionally that we just flat out enjoy, That allows us the opportunity for self expression, that’s fun to do. That comes from within.
We call that intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation, which comes about as a result of something that is given to us from the outside. The most obvious one is pick.
Others include promotions, bonus, benefits, bonuses, benefits, you get the idea now, both types of motivation are very important.
If you don’t pay people well enough and they think they’re being paid unfairly, all the intrinsic motivation in the world won’t really matter much.
Because people, number one, want to feel like they’re getting paid fairly once that need is satisfied.
These intrinsic motivators really kick into gear.
And I would argue that in the virtual workplace, we’re so many of those other means of deriving satisfaction are not available to us.
In terms of passing somebody in the hallway just, Hey. How was your weekend? Great, I went down on the shore, how was it, are you? I remember you telling me your your, Your boy was in the Little League Championship How did that go?
Those kinds of casual, informal conversations are not really available to us the way they used to be. Or grabbing a tolley for lunch and go into the employee cafeteria.
And just having a collegial conversation, or grabbing a cup of coffee, are all the things that we used to enjoy doing are not really available to us.
And so, those are the things that in a more conventional work environment, we used to derive pleasure from, We used to feel helped drive our, our positive feelings about our workplace and our colleagues, and our employer.
If you take all that away, that’s a pretty big void, which is why I say that leveraging intrinsic motivation has got to be part of your recipe, if you want to optimize performance in the virtual workspace.
So, how do we do that?
Well, here’s something for you to think about, that I think you may find useful.
What I would suggest is to focus on three intrinsic motivators.
These three motivators are certainly important in traditional workplaces, but I think they become even more essential in the virtual workspace for the reasons we’ve been talking to them.
The first one is autonomy.
When I have freedom to determine how I achieve my goals, that’s a key intrinsic motivator. It’s the opposite of micromanagement.
It’s the opposite of, um, I’m going to check in on you to make sure you’re doing it exactly the way I want you to do it.
OK, that drives engagement Downward, autonomy drives, engagement upward. The second one is mastery.
When you give people the opportunity to learn new things and you give them interesting things to do, that’s been shown to be a key intrinsic motivator as well, intrinsic that comes from within.
When you learn how to ride a bike, when you learn how to play the clarinet, when you learned how to hit a tennis ball, you got better at it and better at it and better at it, Did your desire to do that activity increase or decrease?
It probably increased, same principle at work here.
And the third is purpose.
When I understand how and why my work matters, my engagement goes up. Now, I didn’t come up with these three.
That come from a book called, Drive: The Surprising Truth About what motivates us by a guy named Dan Paik.
And the book is, I don’t have it here. It’s about this thick.
You could read it in a couple hours, and he talks about autonomy, mastery, and purpose, autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
And so I thought about, OK, how can we leverage autonomy, mastery, and purpose to drive engagement in the virtual workspace?
And that’s what this next slide is, all about.
If you want to leverage the power of autonomy, giving people freedom, too.
Achieve their goals, and do their work the way they want to do it.
The number one thing you can do is exactly that.
If you’re a leader, a manager, or supervisor, someone in a position of authority, you want to create opportunities for people to work when, where, and how they want.
Now, for some of us, that might, you know, be a little anxiety, that might create a little anxiety, especially if you’re a manager, that likes to keep sort of a tight grip on the range, OK.
The research suggests that in this new, normal, of working, virtually, people crave the ability to do the work when they want to do it, where they want to do it, and how they want to do it.
Of course, with some, you know, some, some protocols and guidelines that absolutely need.
You need to, you need to be there.
You can’t just have people, you know, doing whatever they want, OK?
But when you’re clear on the work that has to be done, when you afford people, the opportunity opportunity to do it, the way that works best for them, while you as a leader or a manager, you don’t ride herd over them.
You coach them, you check up on them, and you make sure they have the support and the resources that they need.
That’s the secret sauce, OK?
That’s how you leverage autonomy, which we know is an important intrinsic motivator.
We know that from the research, rolling out working arrangements with your team, that clarify expectations, That’s really important. So, if you’re going to grant your team members, a certain degree of autonomy, you’ll want to make sure that that arrangement is clearly defined and clearly articulated. So that there’s no misinterpretation around what’s expected and how that, you know, the team is expected to carry out their work, OK?
And, finally, if you are in a position of leadership, speaking of autonomy, you have the autonomy and dare I say, the obligation to create a work experience that really works for everyone.
Um, it’s not necessarily, um, a privilege to work, to have a job that is fulfilling and enjoyable.
It’s I would dare say it’s a right.
I think everyone has the right to work that is satisfying and challenging and enjoyable.
And one of the things we can do to bring that about is to grant a certain degree of autonomy, as we see fit.
And of course, that’s going to differ from team, to team to team, I get that, but this is something that we need to be thinking about. Now, mastery, how do we leverage the intrinsic motivator of mastery.
Well, we make space and time for what’s called adaptive work.
What does adaptive work.
Adaptive work is my favorite kind of work.
It’s work that taps into our innate creativity, problem solving capabilities and and thirst for experimentation and innovation.
So back in the eighties, there was a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. And those of you old enough might remember the commercial.
We’re the old, the older gentlemen. gets up at four in the morning, and he says time to make the donuts.
And he goes to Dunkin’ Donuts before the sun comes up, and he starts making the donuts. And he says, The refrain is time to make the donuts time to make the donuts.
And the point there was that, before, your local Dunkin Donut shop even opens.
We’re baking our doughnuts fresh so that, you know, they’re, they’re ready for you when you come to the store, That is not adaptive work, OK, That is important work.
But that is, that is routine, work that is done. That’s what’s called the daily grind. Alright? That’s the kind of routine work. That is a part of all of our work experiences. It’s the daily stuff that you just gotta do.
It’s not the kind of work that taps into our potential as creative human beings.
So if you want to drive intrinsic motivation in the virtual workplace, give your people opportunities for adaptive work. Now, how are some of the ways that you can do that?
Ask some of these questions here.
Not every single day perhaps, but regularly, routinely, have young people think about the answers to these questions. How can we deliver amazing service to our customers? Yeah, Our customers like us.
What more can we do to, to, to, don’t, to surprise, and delight them?
You know, the Amazons of the world, the apples of the world. They’re always thinking about that. Yeah, we’re good now, and our customers love us.
How can we have us? How can we have them love us even more?
What about our work, might we improve or enhance or strengthen Or what can we do to drive growth, even in times of uncertainty? What impacted our team have last week and what did we learn?
Know from our successes and failures, let’s talk about how do we get better as a team?
What might we try this week that might be a little bit of our come out of our comfort zone that would stretch us, that would challenge us.
These are the things that define adaptive work and when you afford your people, just a little bit of an opportunity to work on these kinds of things.
Boy, people, just, their faces, light up to get energized.
Know, our children love adaptive work. When we send them to school, they’re building things, they’re there, they’re, you know, what a show and tell, you know. Show and tell us opportunity to go, This is really important to me, and I want to share with you why it’s important to me.
Do that with our teams, too.
Know, a book you recently read that has profound lessons for our team, or, you know, an innovative way that we could bring a new product, a new product or service to our, to our clients? So, give people the opportunity to master new skills and explore new possibilities.
That’s absolutely something that should be on your radar if you want to drive engagement in the work virtual workplace.
And finally, purpose, purpose, the number one thing that you can do to leverage the power of purpose to very simple, ensure that people on your team know exactly how their work is adding value, and contributing in a meaningful way, secure organization success.
Now, you might be saying, Mike, wasn’t that important?
No Before coven.
Yes, it was.
But in a virtual workplace, where we feel a little bit more disconnected, where we we don’t have that palpable sense of of collegiality that we might have had when we were working under the same roof.
It’s easy to get untethered.
From the meaning and purpose of our work, it can feel very rote.
It can feel very mundane. It can feel very time to make the donuts.
So, as leaders, or even just as teammates, we need to make sure that our people understand the value and importance of the work they do every day.
one of the ways you can do that is by collecting and showcasing input from your team members.
Something they learned last week, or a conference they attended, or an article they read, that can be shared with the whole team, or, or a small win that somebody experienced last week, that we can all celebrate together.
These are the kinds of things that that AMP, that amplify purpose and meaning.
So, and speaking of AMP AMP, it’s a perfect acronym for autonomy, mastery, and purpose, And I would challenge all of you to think about how can I leverage the power of autonomy, mastery, and purpose, in my virtual workplace, with my virtual team.
I can’t answer that question for you, because it’s gonna look different for everybody, but, but it’s, it’s really important to start, you know, asking yourself those questions.
Now, I’m going to switch gears quickly here, and give you something else to think about.
And here’s where Sarah is going to pose a quick poll for you.
The poll is, a research survey I recently saw asked almost 700 managers to rank the importance of five factors that influenced motivation at work, and I’d like you to answer, which of these do you think came in last?
Which of these five factors that impact motivation network came in last?
In this survey of almost 700 managers.
Was it recognition incentives, supporting people to make progress in the work?
Providing interpersonal support, or providing clear goals? Which do you think?
And the poll is open responses are streaming in.
We will give you about 10 more seconds here to submit your answer, and then I will get the results up on the screen.
OK, great, let me get those results up now.
Do you see those on your side?
I do, Yes, thank you.
So, OK.
interesting, We, oh, interesting numbers here.
OK, well, The 13% of you that’s selected support for making progress in the work, according to the the, the book that I’m about to share with you, you answered it correctly, OK?
So, support for making progress, support for helping people make progress in their work was actually ranked dead last out of those five motivators, which suggests a fairly profound unawareness of the power of progress across all levels of management.
So, what is progress?
Well, it’s consistent forward, movement on meaningful work, consistent, forward, movement on meaningful work, not mundane, work on work that really matters.
And where this finding comes from, is a book called the Progress Principle, which I had on my desk a moment ago, but I don’t any longer.
And in the book, it says, Of all the work day events that can boost a person’s emotions and intrinsic drive, right, that engagement to do a great job. The single most important is making progress in meaningful work.
And although this progress principle, they call this the progress principle, that may seem obvious, it really isn’t.
The way they landed on this finding was they did a very exhaustive study of what drives engagement in the workplace.
And what they found was, when people reported making progress on work that was meaningful to them, it was the number one driver of positive emotions.
Positive work outcomes, Positive relationships.
And yet, and yet, very few managers were aware of, that fact, we’re very aware, sorry. We’re unaware of how much making progress and meaningful work really means to people.
And that’s why I left. Yes.
Real quick, can you just re share your screen?
It looks like, oh. Yeah.
To do that, you can go over to your control panel up where it says sharing.
I may have just got frozen there, and then under that Big Play button there. Perfect, thank you, So sorry about that, folks.
Is it showing?
Great, thank you.
So, what is it about making progress? That makes it such a potent motivator.
Very simply, when we make progress on work that matters to us, it just feels good.
When you make progress on a, on a, on a home, you know, a home construction project that’s important to you.
It just feels good, You want to do more of it. When you make progress on learning a new instrument, it just feels good, you want to do more of it.
That’s the bottom line, folks, right?
And given all the barriers to engagement that exist in the virtual workplace, helping your team make progress, I think, is especially critical.
It’s an important tool for you to have in your toolkit, whether you’re a formal leader or not, and I could get into, you know, a lot more depth.
You know, the, the, I could peel apart the progress principle and what it is about making progress that, That, that is so powerful, but you, you, you felt it yourself in your life, And so, anything that we can do to help one another and make progress is going to serve as a as a driver of engagement and intrinsic motivation.
Something else we can do is just be aware of setbacks.
No kidding, Dead-ends, obstacles, roadblocks, constant changes.
These are the kinds of things that people reported, really setback engagement profoundly.
So, um, one of the things that we can do to leverage the progress principle, Simply track your team’s progress.
Use a daily progress checklist guide for reviewing the day, What did your team accomplish today? What did you accomplish today?
And after a week, after a month, after a year, you can show your team look at everything that we’ve accomplished. Look how much progress we’ve made.
And by the way, can progress can come in the form of just forward movement, chipping away at something, A small movement forward.
It doesn’t have to be in the in the shape of a major triumph or a major, you know, overcoming a major problem.
That’s nice when it happens but just chipping away at something just a little forward movement can satisfy as progress.
The other thing you can do is look for those small wins, those seemingly minor incidents of progress, that we can celebrate, that we can acknowledge why?
Because the research shows that they can sometimes yield.
Or they do yield significant psychological benefits. Often, as large as, you know, much greater leaps forward.
So don’t dismiss the little wins. Don’t dismiss the small victories that take place every day on your team.
And if you’re a leader or manager, you know, keep your eyes and ears open for them and just call them out. Just acknowledge them, just recognize them and that serves as a way to, to drive engagement as well.
OK, so, I see I have very little time left.
I just want to share one more quick concept with you and then open it up very quickly for questions.
And that is, once again, if you want to drive engagement in the virtual workplace, which can kind of be a scary place, an anxious place, psychological safety.
When people have the confidence that they can take so-called interpersonal risks without fear, without a fear of punishment, or reprisal, offering a dissenting view, providing honest feedback, pointing out problems, um, psychological safety.
Yes, Important in the conventional workplace, arguably even more important in the virtual workplace, where we don’t have those, not that kind of emotional support, that maybe we used to when we all worked together under the same roof, OK?
So, I think the idea of psychological safety becomes even more paramount, even more important in the virtual workplace.
And so, you know, why detecting social cues or non-verbal agreement very difficult when you’re the size of a postage stamp, you know, on a Zoom call team, members may feel isolated distractions, so, if virtual meetings are inherently difficult, you know, the current environment is, it makes them even more so.
So we really need to be aware of creating safe spaces for people to, to, you know, push back, express their opinions, offer feedback. Do the things that are the hallmarks of high performance teams and not to shut that stuff down.
So real quick, you know, some of the things that managers do to erode psychological safety you have these in your deck.
All I would say is you know, do your best to avoid them.
Even well intentioned managers sometimes fall into the trap here, of doing some of these.
And you know, these are the things that that erodes psychological safety.
And some of the things that actually boost psychological safety again, you’ll have this in your deck, exhibiting Humility and Transparency.
You know, telling your team members about maybe key learnings from this webinar and sharing your insights and learnings with more acknowledging when team members collaborate and problem solve effectively in the virtual workspace. This is, this is how you build trust, this is how you build rapport, this is how you build psychological safety.
So, again, you know, I only have time to share these with you and trust that you will on your own, think of ways of incorporating them into your own repertoire.
And then, finally, you know, a couple of things to be aware of in terms of quiet quitting.
Because that’s not always obvious. So, people who may not be participating in meetings or checking out, or calling in sick would be a red flag.
You’re going to want to maybe check in with them, you know?
Make sure that everything’s OK, you know, Ask good questions. No.
What’s going well? What’s getting in the way?
What do you need more for me to be successful? What are you working on?
Just checking in with people, not checking up on people.
Checking up on people feels very micromanagement and will make people feel uncomfortable.
Checking in with people, checking in on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being is a critical part of this, of this process.
OK, I know I’ve gone over here by approximately two minutes, If you have to go, I totally get it.
I thank you for your time.
I hope this was useful. And again, it’s not something that that maybe you can transform your culture in a day.
But I guarantee that if you start building some of these concepts, and principles into your team, into your organization, into your work as a leader, if you are a leader, I can practically guarantee you’re going to see positive results, OK. So those of you that can hang out for another minute or two might have a question.
I’ll hang out as long as necessary.
So those of you who are going to bolt, thank you for your time.
Those of you who have an extra minute or two to stay, I’m all yours.
All right. And it looks like here.
I have time here to do this one question that we had come through from Gina who says, Do you agree to CC everyone in an e-mail?
So it avoids confusion with who is doing what and this is going back to when you were talking about miscommunication and and, you know, things being misinterpreted.
Yeah, that’s a great question. I actually have a client who is, we’re just talking about this the other day.
And at this client, the employees have a tendency to see, see everybody, know, whether or not the person getting the e-mail is as relevant, whether they’re involved in the project or not just everybody routinely gets everything.
And I would say that, that, that is, that is not, that is not good.
And one of the things that I shared with them is we have to impress upon your people, to be more thoughtful and strategic in terms of, of who they communicate to.
And so we want them taking a step back before they send that e-mail and going through a series of questions, like, Who needs to see this information?
Um, what is my, what am I asking of them? What is my ask? What is my request?
and if I’m making a request, am I being crystal clear?
If I’m just sharing information, what do I want them to do with this information? You know, this information is simply for your records only, you know, say that, or I’m sharing this information, because we’re going to bring it up at next week, staff meetings say that.
Because if people are just fire hose with e-mails that are not relevant to them, I can tell you by firsthand knowledge, that is very frustrating, and people will just start tuning out.
And, and, you know, and that’s when people become disengaged, disaffected. And, and, and, you know, that, we don’t want that.
So the bottom line is thoughtful, strategic, consider who needs to get this information, and what do you want them to do with it? And I think that’s gonna be your, your best, your best path.
Great, and thank you, Mike, for this very informative session that we had today. That does seem to be the common theme that we’re hearing from our audience today. So great job today. Thanks for joining us during this, this webinar.
So, Sarah, if people wanted to, I don’t know, reach out to me or had any other questions, or whatever wood wood, they, should they go through you?
Yeah, Or They can contact you via e-mail. You can also send us. Send us an e-mail as well to connect with us for sure.
OK, that’s great, Yeah, I’d love to serve as a resource for you. I’m not even talking about like a formal partnership client thing.
Like, if you’re just like Mike, I didn’t have a chance to ask this question. Or can you clarify something like no charge, totally complimentary. I love this work, I’m passionate about this work. I want to be helpful to you. And so please feel free to reach out by e-mails, Michael.
My first name: michael@rightchordleadership.com.
And let’s let’s talk.
Thank you, Sarah.
Great. Thank you, Mike, and if you are interested in learning more about this topic and hearing more from Mike, make sure that you check out, keep an eye on your calendar e-mail. We will be having a related podcast episode on HRDQ-U InReview, so make sure that you look out for that e-mail that I’ll be coming within the next couple of weeks and make sure that you join me for next week’s session at Be The Change to Implementing Agile on the L&D Team. And with that, have a wonderful day, everyone, and happy training.
Thanks, everyone!

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