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Why Remote Workers Feel Disconnected From Your Company Mission

and What You Can Do About It. New Gallup research shows a decline in connection to mission and purpose among remote workers. Experts say that could impact productivity, retention, and

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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  • Employee engagement is slowly improving--but company leaders might need to check in on their remote workers.

The percentage of engaged employees ticked up from 32 percent in 2022 to 34 percent in mid-2023, according to the latest survey of workers from Gallup, and exclusively remote workers and hybrid workers remain more engaged than on-site employees.  

But in spite of workers' increased engagement, there may be some cause for concern: Just 28 percent of exclusively remote workers feel connected their organization's mission and purpose, the lowest percentage since 2011. Why? Most likely a build-up of physical distance that's culminated in a greater mental distance, says Jim Harter, chief workplace scientist at Gallup.  

Without this connection, employees might start treating work more like a gig job, clocking in and out of shifts without thinking about longer-term goals. This disconnect could negatively impact "customer perceptions of service, productivity, quality of work, even retention rates," Harter adds.   

Here's how company leaders should evaluate and improve the people-to-purpose connection at their organization.  

Understand the root

If company leaders do identify a disconnect within employees in their organization, they should first determine why that disconnect is a problem, says Scott Dust, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati. Is it impacting team performance? Is it increasing turnover? Solving these different issues will require different approaches, he adds, so understanding the desired result is key.  

Employers also need to understand that not all remote workers are the same. For instance, the reasons a new worker might be feeling disconnected in a remote environment might vary greatly from those of a remote worker who has been with the company for years, says Anne Bahr Thompson, an independent global brand strategist. "What drove some people out and not wanting to come back? versus how do you connect people who have never been part of something?" Thompson says.  

Employers should take the opportunity to look inward--and also involve employees--to determine what's making them feel disconnected, says Melina Cordero, founder of Melina Cordero Consulting, a Washington, D.C.-based firm focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

Do they lack the resources and technology they need to do their jobs? Do they feel somehow ill-equipped and require additional training? Do they need more structured time with their managers and teams to understand their goals and thus the company mission? By collaborating with employees to gather these answers, leaders will have a better sense of the right solution, Cordero says.  

Do the work

The first step toward strengthening this remote worker connection might be as simple as reworking the company's mission statement, Harter says. Too many companies have a mission statement that is "really long and it doesn't really resonate with employees," Harter says. Instead, company leaders must ensure that their guiding purpose is "succinct and inspirational" and accurately captures the value that the organization provides, he adds. It can even be as short as one line.  

It's also possible that a company may have a clear mission or purpose, but its employees don't see how it connects to their day-to-day work on a regular basis. Years ago, Thompson visited the factory floor of a medical device company where workers were helping to create life-saving devices, but many of the workers she spoke with said they didn't feel connected to that mission every day.  

Thus, employers should look for opportunities to help workers see the bigger picture, Thompson adds. That could mean sharing an impact report or celebrating a milestone as a team. 

That said, for some companies, making employees care very deeply about the mission might be a tough sell no matter what, Dust says: "A lot of employees are super skeptical if you try to convince them that making a huge profit is benefiting the world in a significant way."

In this case, company leaders may need to help employees feel connected to the company in other ways beyond the mission. That might be a social mission project that the team can take on together, Thompson says. Or, the employer may need to strengthen employee engagement with better benefits, Dust says: "If you want employees to be high performers, and you want them to not leave the organization, maybe what they really want is flexibility. Maybe what they really want is leadership development."  

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