3 ways to improve employee engagement in a virtual work environment

Virtual birthday celebration

It’s more important than ever to reassess your employee engagement strategies.

Not only has the global pandemic made remote work the norm, forcibly separating teams and resulting in many employees feeling isolated and disconnected, the market and modern work are simultaneously becoming more complex and competitive. Your company’s people, and the extent to which they’re engaged, influence how fast and how far your business will go.

This has become clear at Workato, where we’ve tripled our global headcount in just a few years, and were able to do so because of our people as much as our product. As Head of People and Culture, my team and I are constantly optimizing processes to enable business agility, while implementing initiatives to improve engagement, which we know translates into business growth.

A dispersed workforce doesn’t have to mean a disengaged one. Here are three ways we engage our global teams while working remotely.


1. Make the interviewing experience as painless as possible

We care about the experience of candidates/future Workato employees from the minute they apply – candidate experience sets the stage for employee engagement. Hiring managers, people ops managers and technology teams are all impacted by the hiring process, too.

The more administrative this process is, the greater the room for error, bottlenecks and barriers to a sense of engagement for the candidate and the hiring team. And given our hiring pace and the fact that we’re no longer having in-office interviews, it’s even more important to streamline processes and increase visibility for all stakeholders involved.

To this end, we automate as many steps in the hiring process as possible. We do this by connecting our ecosystem of SaaS apps using our own product, the Workato platform.

Everything the interviewer needs, where and when they need it

For example, it’s easy to forget an interview is coming up, which can leave the interviewer underprepared, late or, worst-case, a no-show. So we created an interview reminder, enabled by a Greenhouse-Slack automation.

On the day of a candidate interview, ten minutes before, the hiring manager is sent a reminder on Slack with key candidate information. This information is automatically pulled from Greenhouse, including the candidate’s name and the role applied for, with links to their resume and the post-interview scorecard. The hiring manager no longer wastes time looking for this information in email threads or shared drives, and the recruitment team doesn’t have to follow up with manual reminders.


Getting back to candidates quickly and gathering feedback more efficiently

Another key part of employee engagement is hearing back from the employer in a reasonable amount of time. But whenever all the interviewers didn’t fill out their scorecards immediately after the interview, it left the recruitment team with the task of logging into Greenhouse to check whether the scorecards were filled out and then, if not, manually reaching out to the interviewer to follow up.

This caused inevitable delays in the hiring process, which the hiring team didn’t feel good about as the candidates were eagerly waiting for a decision.

So we created a simple automation that tracks whether post-interview scorecards have been submitted in Greenhouse. If they haven’t, up to three reminders are automatically sent within 24 hours to interviewers, prompting them to complete their scorecards through a direct link to Greenhouse.

Once feedback is submitted, the recruitment team is notified via Slack and can proceed with next steps for the candidate.

With this workflow in place, we’ve drastically reduced our turnaround time for responding to candidates. Plus, the recruitment team no longer has to manually track and follow up on every interview, freeing up time and energy they can redirect toward what feels like more impactful work.


2. Enable your people to drive performance

When it comes to driving performance, we often focus on simple things, like the work environment and available resources. When employees feel good and are able to work in an environment tailored to their needs, they’re more motivated to produce good work.

A conducive work environment was a given when we had our global offices, which we intentionally set up with the space, tools and resources the team needed to focus and be productive. Now, with everyone working from home, we have as many office environments as we do employees, and plenty of home offices come with distractions.

Shortly after shifting to remote work, we conducted a survey to see how we could improve the WFH experience, which revealed our global team’s need for headsets. In order to efficiently and accurately address this need around the world, we created an Asset Request Bot in Slack, which guides employees through the process of selecting their preferred headset.


This bot made the process easy, not only for the technology and people teams to coordinate the procurement and delivery of the headsets, but also for our employees, who only had to fill out a guided questionnaire on Slack. Without it, the process would have been more complex and lengthy, involving manager approvals and expense reporting.

With this automation, we were able to complete the purchase and delivery of 133 headsets to our colleagues in nine countries in just over a month during the peak of the pandemic, amidst global shortages and massive back orders. Our virtual meetings now feel fully immersive, just like we’re right there in the same room.


3. Create a culture of appreciation and sharing

Creating a culture of appreciation is something we’re constantly working on at Workato.

We believe that as much as our people are investing their time and skills, we should be returning and rewarding that investment – especially to those who consistently perform well – to show that we value them. This creates a positive feedback loop where employees feel valued, which in turn inspires their commitment to further excel.

Make peer recognition easy

An ongoing employee engagement practice we have in Workato is peer recognition. We encourage and enable this with a dedicated Slack channel where employees can share wins and offer kudos to colleagues.

Our Wellness Bot on Slack also prompts employees once a week to pen a recognition message for a colleague. These messages automatically flow into our “Kudos and Wins” channel. Celebrating our achievements together has helped us feel more connected to each other despite not sharing an office.

Give virtual social events a purpose

We’ve also doubled down on company social events while we’re all working remotely.

These events include happy hours, team-building nights and end-of-quarter celebrations, all virtual and open to our global team. We organize these events to incorporate some play time and bring people together. Knowing that we’ll most likely remain distributed for much of the foreseeable future, we also wanted to enable team bonding at a micro level. We began by sponsoring lunches for any team that wants to have a virtual lunch together to encourage connection.

We’ve found that coordinated activities can help make virtual events enjoyable for introverts and extroverts alike. For instance, a recent team-building event included everyone completing a personality test and sharing highlights about their working styles. The results helped us understand how to better support each other while working remotely, and discussed how to collaborate based on similarities and differences in working styles.


The bottom line

Distance doesn’t have to mean employee disengagement. At Workato, we’ve automated administrative work, established productive remote environments and set the stage for socializing to bring people together. No single strategy is particularly complex, but it takes thought and commitment to apply the ones that will matter most for your team. Commit to intentionally engaging your people, and they’ll organically make your business grow.

Looking for the ultimate guide on distributed working and hiring? Download this eBook.

Jessalyn Klein

Jessalyn Klein

PhD, is the Head of People & Culture at Workato, the leading Enterprise Automation Platform that helps people automate workflows across apps, while keeping IT happy with enterprise capabilities. Prior to Workato, Jessalyn led the people and change practice at a management and technology consulting firm, applying her understanding of human and organizational behavior to enable people, culture and high-performance teams.

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