“How to engage and motivate remote workers?”, “What’s the key to success?” Those are questions which are being asked over and over again as many companies are struggling with motivation and engagement among their teams during remote work. I sometimes come across various bizarre ideas of organizations claiming to work on team engagement by organizing online Bingo games, sending out gifts or forcing their people to watch movies together (on their laptops, after work and in real time). The good news is – at least they are trying… but the bad news is – that’s not the way to go.

In this article, I’ll try to solve this Gordian Knot once and for all by providing hints on how successful, remote or hybrid companies ensure high dedication and performance of their team members starting with recruitment and ending up with providing a top employee experience.


What’s the problem?

In the past, I used to work with many companies assisting them within recruitment needs. Those were both startups and corporations that kept claiming the very same thing – “we’re on the lookout for top talent”. I have always asked them how they differentiate on the market, why candidates should join them as it was always crucial for me to hire for the culture fit and make sure that both sides would be equally happy about their future cooperation. The responses that I usually got were: “Oh, we’re paying well” or worst-case scenario “What do you mean? We are a cool company with great people, a nice atmosphere and good employee benefits”. Right. All this made me wonder… what about intrinsic motivation? Or are we just willing to go by the carrot and stick approach? Research has proven that extrinsic motivation has much less influence on job engagement than the intrinsic one which by its definition causes us to engage in an activity simply because we enjoy it, and it gives us personal satisfaction. And that’s absolutely crucial in the remote work era.



Let’s face it – within the past few years, the job market has become a loud marketplace with companies shouting out about their benefits and salaries, and candidates consequently practicing “job hopping” as they were pulled out from their current workplaces by hungry recruiters trying to sell them to another organization. Consequently, the only thing that counted and ensured engagement were external factors, totally ignoring one’s honest preferences and a true “match” based on mutual values as well as the mission and vision statement.


What’s a purpose driven company?

According to Salesforce, a purposedriven company stands for and takes action on something bigger than its products and services. This seems to be crucial for success according to a PwC study which shows that 79% of business leaders believe in this approach. And that’s what particularly applies to remote work and distributed teams.

Peony Li, Founder of Wise, a promising purpose driven e-commerce start up focusing on reimagining the silver economy, claims that “there are a few types of business models – companies that sell solutions to certain problems, companies that want to sell everything to everyone at low cost, and companies seeing true, deep problems or challenges focused on humans and are therefore producing goods to respond to their needs”. The bottom-line is that all companies generally try to engage and organize their business and team members around a certain idea. Some give more thought to it, and some of them – less.


Starting with the “why” vs. “being cool”

Let’s elaborate on relationships. And here I mean valuable relationships among people when we either connect with others because we share the same believes, we can count on one another or we stay together because it makes us feels good and just adds value. The work relationship should also be one of this kind where we can focus on the “why” behind our cooperation. Now imagine, especially during remote work, when you don’t see other people, then how can you ensure this constant engagement and energy boost? No “cool” employee perks like pizza days, fresh fruit or no dress code are applicable as there is no daily in-office experience, so how can we make up for all that fancy and trendy “culture stuff”?

The answer is actually quite simple. By going back to the roots of why we even operate and how our people perceive their input into reaching mutual goals. Let’s ask ourselves and our companies: is our work fulfilling? Does it give us pleasure? What was the main reason why we joined in the first place or based on which aspects have we hired people in the past? Was it just based on salary expectations and hard-skills or soft skills and shared believes?



Take the stairs, not the elevator

I’ve heard several times before that my views are “utopian” as it’s impossible to reshape the entire working world towards deeper meaning and answering individual preferences. Well, nobody promised that it would be easy and there’s also no one size fits all approach here. One thing is sure though, there are many successful companies that respond to the “why” and “how” first, rather than addressing the sole “what” in terms of business operations. According to Deloitte, those are the ones that are changing the nature of business today by authentically leading with purpose and therefore achieving meaningful growth. That’s why, especially in the flexible work world, operational excellence, high performance and engagement should be based on building solid foundations. We should attract the right people whose personal and professional goals are in line with the company’s purpose/mission and vision as well as outstanding leadership which aims to make all people the best versions of themselves.

As per Henry Ford “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”.

Feeling inspired? Make sure to listen to The Leadership Outlook Podcast, where Peony Li, the Founder of Wise talks about her purpose-driven business, leadership and deeper meaning in life. Moreover, she’s also into remote work and currently hiring!

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