Fully Remote Teams Can Outperform In-Person Teams With This One Factor
By Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, the global leader in public opinion research and advanced analytics. Clifton is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, creator of the The Gallup Path (a metric-based behavioral economic model), and co-author of the recently released Wellbeing at Work: How to Build Resilient and Thriving Teams.
By Jim Harter, Ph.D., Chief Workplace Scientist at Gallup. Harter has led more than 1,000 studies of workplace effectiveness, including the largest ongoing meta-analysis of human potential and business unit performance and is co-author of the recently released Wellbeing at Work: How to Build Resilient and Thriving Teams
Poorly skilled managers are one of the greatest risks in your workforce. Managers are the single most important factor in the engagement and performance of your workforce. They are in the best position to navigate ongoing changes and threats to your organization. And they are in the best position to bring clarity to everything because they are closest to the day-to-day lives of your employees.
Managers who give frequent and meaningful feedback have employees who are more likely to be engaged compared with managers who don’t. The benefits of regular meaningful feedback for those who work remotely 80% to 100% of the time are even greater than for those who work on-site. The combination of autonomy and meaningful feedback is the magic formula that produces the greatest benefit. But poorly skilled managers fail to offer regular and useful feedback.Managers who give frequent and meaningful feedback have employees who are more likely to be engaged compared with managers who don’t. — @gallup Click To Tweet
The significance of this cannot be overstated: Fully remote teams can substantially outperform on-site teams when they are managed effectively.Fully remote teams can substantially outperform on-site teams when they are managed effectively. — @gallup Click To Tweet
Giving each employee meaningful feedback once a week is a basic requirement of a fully skilled manager.
But what does it mean to give regular meaningful feedback? First, you need to acknowledge that feedback is not just a manager-to-employee interaction. While a manager often initiates feedback, set the expectation that employees should also ask for feedback. In fact, the latter is often the least awkward approach.
Think of feedback as a busy two-way street.
The primary component of meaningful feedback is that it is tailored to the individual receiving it. This requires managers to have a basic knowledge and understanding of each individual, their goals, and their strengths. Another component is timeliness. The problem with the traditional annual review is that feedback often comes months too late. Employees need ongoing conversations and continuous feedback because it is far more relevant and timely for the employee and the organization.Employees need ongoing conversations and continuous feedback because it is far more relevant and timely for the employee and the organization. —@gallup Click To Tweet
The intended outcome of meaningful feedback is inspiration, not just correction and advice. Poorly skilled managers don’t get this. Having inspiring conversations builds engagement and trust between employees and managers, which leads to more transparent conversations.
Gallup’s research shows a clear link between employee engagement and well-being, with managers serving as a conduit between the two. Engaged employees are more than twice as likely as actively disengaged employees to say they are very or somewhat comfortable discussing their well-being with their manager.
Giving each employee meaningful feedback once a week is a basic requirement of a fully skilled manager.Giving each employee meaningful feedback once a week is a basic requirement of a fully skilled manager. —@gallup Click To Tweet
Yet managers who are poorly skilled at handling the complexities of today’s workplace will inspire neither engagement nor well-being.
In all the risks to a net thriving culture that we identified — from mental health issues to the clarity of your purpose to policies, programs, and perks — the evidence is clear: Designing an engaging workplace that is the foundation for thriving well-being and overall mental health is led by the manager.Designing an engaging workplace that is the foundation for thriving well-being and overall mental health is led by the manager. —@gallup Click To Tweet
The Largest Workplace Study of Its Kind
In the past 30 years, Gallup has interviewed 42.9 million employees on 5.1 million teams in more than 5,000 organizations in 212 countries.
This much is clear: The importance of improving the percentage of engaged workers cannot be overstated. Employee engagement is essential for a net thriving and resilient culture.
The percentage of engaged employees in both the U.S. and globally has gradually improved, particularly in the past decade. But workforce engagement isn’t improving fast enough to fix performance and growing mental health challenges.
Gallup has studied organizations that achieved three or four times the global average of engaged employees. Even on Gallup’s hardest-to-achieve engagement metric, the best organizations can exceed 70% engaged employees in their workforce. While every highly engaged organization has its own unique approach, the following common themes emerged:
- Culture change was initiated by the CEO and board.
- They transformed managers from boss to coach.
- They practiced highly effective companywide communication.
- They held managers accountable for engagement and performance.
Gallup’s database has been the source for many research studies published in highly regarded scientific journals and business publications. One consistent theme from this database is that there is a core set of elements that consistently predict performance across organizations, industries, and geographies — and across time during economic fluctuations, technological changes, pandemics, and other disruptions.
This core set of workplace elements is captured in 12 survey items — the Gallup Q12. Combined, these items quantify the employee engagement of a workforce — the involvement, enthusiasm, and commitment of employees in any organization or geography.
Employee engagement is essential for a net thriving and resilient culture.Employee engagement is essential for a net thriving and resilient culture. —@gallup Click To Tweet
Gallup analysts recently completed the 10th iteration of meta-analysis across 112,312 business units and teams in 54 industries and 96 countries. When comparing top- and bottom-quartile business units and teams, Gallup found that the top-quartile teams had substantially lower absenteeism, turnover, shrinkage, employee and patient accidents, and defects. They also had substantially higher customer engagement, productivity, and sales. All of this accumulates into a 23% profitability advantage. The study also found that top-quartile business units had higher participation in company-sponsored activities and 66% higher rates of net thriving employees. (See Appendix 4 for a full technical report describing the details of this research.)
As we’ve noted, career well-being is the foundation for the other well-being elements. And employee engagement is the single biggest driver of career well-being.
Action Items for Leaders:
- Make sure everyone in your organization knows their strengths. Use a strengths-based strategy to design an employee experience — from attraction to hiring to onboarding, engagement, and performance — that leads to a culture of high development.
- Remove abusive managers. No organization should tolerate managers who destroy the lives of the people you rely on to get work done. In today’s workforce, bad managers are your highest risk.
- Upskill managers to move from boss to coach. Use proven methods to transition your managers’ mentality from boss to coach. Think of this as a year-long journey that starts with learning about high-performance teams. Each manager should become an expert at setting goals and providing meaningful feedback at least once a week.
- Make well-being part of career development conversations. Once they establish trust, managers and teams can dream big together — not just about career goals and development but about life and overall purpose and well-being.
From the book Wellbeing at Work: How to Build Resilient and Thriving Teams by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter. Published on May 4, 2021 by Gallup Press. Reprinted by permission.