How to Create an Engaged Company Culture When Your Employees Are Online

January 19, 2021 | Shannon Shoemaker

Many of our teams and employees are now working from home. We as HR leaders must be able to adapt to accommodate a growing remote workforce. This means we have to train our team leaders and managers on best practices for keeping remote employees engaged and how they can adapt their methods of communication to better support a dispersed workforce.


Virtual Employee Engagement is Essential in the New Dispersed Workplace

Engaging employees working remotely is challenging in itself. Engaging employees working remotely during a pandemic is a high-wire act. We are competing for attention as our employees deal with personal struggles and challenges including sick loved ones and family members as well as finding ways to entertain kids at home with limited childcare options while working remotely. In short, employees have a lot on their plates right now and HR leaders must get creative in how we communicate with employees, as well as how we train our managers and company leadership to do the same.

Working remotely means that we have a lot of virtual meetings. More than 300 million people use Zoom daily, marking a significant increase in the number of meetings held online every day. This large uptick in the number of meetings during COVID-19 is also why many people feel burnt out on virtual meetings and experience reduced productivity over time. Zoom burnout is very real. So what can HR leaders do to create an engaged company culture for virtual employees?

What has worked for us for in-person events—like meet your team bingo, scavenger hunt icebreakers or breaking a large group into smaller activity teams—don’t apply when we are presenting virtually. We need a few tricks up our sleeves to share with our company leaders and make meetings and workshops engaging for a virtual workforce.


Making Virtual Meetings Engaging

Show Your Face. In the past during demos, meetings, and webinars we haven’t shown our faces unless we’re meeting in person, but now it’s expected and helps make the online event personal. With so much happening virtually these days, participants in video conferences find it easy to check out when they’re only taking auditory cues. Seeing visual cues like smiling or hand gestures from a presenter can be the difference between dull and dynamic.

Showing your face encourages others to turn their video on as well. Because video mimics the experience of in-person meetings, it feels more personal and engaging than a meeting where all you can see are screens and not faces.


Make Learning Interactive.

Use polls and tools like text messaging to make the video calls interactive. My favorite tool right now is called Kahoot. It’s a live quiz show or polling system that interacts with Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts and you can program the questions and answer choices. I use this for our HR Quiz show using HR practice test questions.


Breakout Rooms.

This is a little known Zoom feature. You can choose to split the participants of a meeting into separate sessions automatically or manually, or allow participants to select and enter breakout sessions as they please. I love this as a great way to liven up the meeting and allow people to break into smaller groups to get to know each other.


Virtual Icebreakers.

Using a quiz game like Kahoot, you can create a group activity that breaks the monotony of virtual meetings. For example, if you’re presenting a session on open enrollment to a group within your company, send out a questionnaire ahead of your meeting and ask 10 fun questions (your favorite animal, favorite movie, favorite quote, fun fact we wouldn’t know). Then use the questions and answers to create a “how well do you know your coworkers?” quiz to start your meeting off. You can create a points system and offer prizes to the winners. It’s great for team building and morale, especially if it’s been months since your teams have worked in the same office.


Drawing board.

Who knew we would ever miss our whiteboard meetings? You can still have virtual brainstorming meetings by using a large sticky notepad or set up the area where you’re presenting in front of an actual whiteboard and use it to demonstrate what you’re discussing or list out participant ideas.

If you have a touchscreen monitor (or iPad), Zoom Rooms for Touch is equipped with a whiteboard. You can start a whiteboard session, and then invite others to view and annotate. You can also save the whiteboard image and annotations at any time by sending the image file to email recipients you specify.

A final reminder: Ask your managers and team leaders to reach out from time to time just to ask “how are you?” (and you and your team should do the same for them). Our company leaders and managers are really struggling with finding ways to engage, build relationships and create a culture when employees are working online. This takes work and requires us to be intentional. The shine has worn off in terms of the newness of the remote work. With everyone balancing so many things, it’s really important for leadership and the company to have lots of clarity and intentionality to what we are doing.


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