This year, over 165 new employees joined our remote workforce at Quontic, each of them with unique routines and needs. So how am I, as Quontic’s Chief Empowerment Officer, keeping up? Let me tell you what 2020 has taught us about meeting the needs of many different individuals across backgrounds, teams, and timezones, and share where we hope to go in 2021.
Before the pandemic, Quontic had employees in primarily three states: New York, New Jersey, and Florida. Since March, when we decided that we would pivot to a primarily remote workforce, we have hired 151 brand new employees in 23 states. We’ve fully embraced the work from the home workforce and recruited the best and brightest out there—regardless of location.
This decision allowed us access to a widely diverse group of folks. I’m not just talking about different living experiences and backgrounds, but also different timezones and interests. It’s honestly been a joy that I didn’t necessarily anticipate! Bringing this many new people on has certainly been enlightening—and posed the challenge: How do we keep a huge group of diverse, remote employees engaged?
As we head into 2021, this opportunity to learn how to meet the needs of our new employees (without the ability to see them every day in an office setting) is my #1 priority.
At the top, communication is foundational for figuring out employee needs. In 2020, we’ve gone about this in a few different ways: one on one meetings, small group settings, large group settings, and via email. But we’ve found that the top place that our employees are comfortable right now is through anonymous surveys. In fact, we just got back the results from our engagement survey, where we asked questions and took polls to understand what employees need from us in 2021.
You’ve likely seen research about employee engagement that recommends companies understand an employee’s family’s needs. While we have reached out to do some family events that have been successful this year, the feedback that we received about family needs in our survey was clear: our employees reported that they aren’t that interested in family engagement at the workplace. With that incredibly valuable feedback, we now reallocate our resources, and put them toward the things that they’ve said they want to do, like wine tastings and cooking classes! We’ve even asked our people if they want to participate right after work or later into the evening, knowing we have to be inclusive of people across timezones.
Another element of the feedback that I was delighted to see was our employees requesting that our CEO and founder Steve Schnall continue his monthly ‘state of the union’ addresses. Essentially, Steve gives us a business update, including his thoughts and feelings, during our monthly all-company Zoom meetings. It has an FDR “fireside chat” feel to it, and it was something we started during the pandemic. We weren’t sure if we should continue doing it into 2021. Well, the people have spoken, and over 50% of the workforce say it’s their favorite thing about our all-company meetings. They reported that this communication from Steve makes them feel informed, safe, and that there’s an effort for transparency where other companies might not make one.
There’s another aspect to the remote workplace that we dug into in the survey: Staying socially engaged. Our employees shared that they want to take time out of their day to meet people outside of their team. To me, that means that the work from home fatigue is starting to set in; that there are social nuances that they’re not getting while working remotely. Even though we see each other in a box, maybe daily, we only see our immediate team. Now, we know that they’re ready to socialize with other team members that they don’t work closely with, but would normally see by the water cooler, at lunch, or at the coffee machine. And that will be one of my first initiatives for 2021: to start a matching program for people from different departments to meet and have a virtual cup of coffee just 15 minutes out of the day.
In addition to the fun and social stuff, our employees came back with two other needs: professional development and wellness initiatives. So what does that tell me? They want personal wellness and professional wellness; personal growth and professional growth. Which is fantastic, and we’re very well equipped to provide it.
All in all, what we’ve learned from these anonymous engagement surveys is that the most efficient and simple suggestions are the ones that everybody wants. People just want more professional development, low-stakes after-work events, and to meet with people on different teams.
Our engagement plan for 2021, with over 200 remote employees who have committed to being remote workers, is a fluid work in progress. If surveys are the way we’re going to keep people communicating and engaged, and if that’s how people feel comfortable? That’s what we’ll do. If their needs morph into something else? We’ll pivot. My job is to empower our Quontic family, and I’ll make sure that happens as long as I’m here.