employees

Beyond the Pool Table: Engaging Your Employees Wherever They Are

By Mark McClain

In my early days as an entrepreneur the upward trend of shared recreational spaces was just taking hold. In my world, at a company founded prior to SailPoint, it started with a pool table. I saw that seemingly common object bring together employees and create some really fond memories on our overall business journey. Many companies, including SailPoint, now have ping pong, foosball, cornhole, etc., all with the goal of bringing employees together. So, what do you do when that is no longer possible? The remote working world is nothing new, but the way it has shifted in 2020 into a sweeping reality has simply changed how we see it and how it impacts our relationships at work.

Here are a few ways that you can empower your employees to stay connected, no matter where in the world they may physically be.

Show Up

Business leaders should be the champions of culture, even from afar, when they simply choose to show up. Not only are you maintaining transparency, but for many people, seeing your leadership boosts morale. While perhaps it isn’t reasonable to show up to every team’s virtual coffee-chat, it is likely that you have an extra slot or two in your calendar to dedicate to being on-the-ground. For me, that has taken the shape of joining our virtual parties on the patio and doing ‘A View From Mark’ where I invite other company leaders to discuss various topics over video, to name just a couple of examples.

Take Your Normal Activities Virtual

That Party on the Patio I mentioned above – it’s a quarterly thing we do at our company to give folks a chance to socialize, blow off a little steam and catch our collective breaths. We also have regular ‘lunch and learns’ where employees share various skills and hidden talents with fellow crew members over – you guessed it – lunch. These ‘lunch and learns’ often include a tie back to various philanthropic associations that we support at SailPoint. All of these we’ve transitioned to virtual events, not missing a single beat since shifting entirely to a virtual workforce a few months back.

It is vital to keep those things alive, whatever flavor they may be in your business. They were a part of your culture before, and they should remain so where possible. That said, you don’t have to try force fit everything into a virtual format. A good example of that is our annual support of a Habit for Humanity house build-out, something we support almost every year. Unfortunately, there’s no real virtual replacement for that. Some things we can’t save for later!

Tap the Brakes

I’m going to slightly redirect what I just told you. In this world where everyone is suddenly commuting from Zoom call to Zoom call, slow down a little when it comes to programming remote activities and meetings. Be thoughtful about the time you’re asking of your employees and the expectations you are setting. Most importantly, treat your employees like adults and allow them to manage their calendars without the added pressure and expectation that they must show up to another virtual happy hour. Forced interaction does not a culture make. More often than not, your people will want to join those virtual happy hours and social events, but let it be their decision to join, not yours.

So, as you set out to keep your employees engaged, do so mindfully and with the foundations of your culture driving the purpose of each activity.