Cultivating Employee Engagement for Remote Workers


One reason why employers are sometimes reluctant to pursue the potential benefits of having remote workers is that they are worried about lack of employee engagement. To elaborate, a concern for employers is that remote employees won’t identify/connect with the company, its culture, its mission, other team members or with the company’s clients if employees are working from home or from some other out-of-the-office location.  Consequently, employers fear that remote employees’ work ethic, work performance, ability to collaborate, dedication to the company or dedication to the company’s clientele will be substandard. In other words, it is a fear that if the company office, employees and customers are out of sight, they will be out of mind.

However  there are many potential advantages to small businesses of having out-of-the-office workers, and so before ruling out remote employment, small businesses should consider strategies for maintaining important connections with employees who don’t come to the company’s physical location on a regular basis.

Strategies for Engaging Remote Employees

• Before hiring, identify which job functions are well-suited to remote work and what skills and characteristics an employee needs to possess in order to perform remotely. Hire the right employees for the right remote job functions.

• Understand what metrics are appropriate for evaluating job performance. Ask for, and utilize, employee input in setting goals and objectives. Don’t expect to be micromanaging.

• Hold in-person team meetings periodically. Allow unstructured time for team members to interact, get to know each other, and develop an interest in connecting professionally. While conference calls and video-conferencing can be used to stay in touch between meetings, when possible, they shouldn’t completely replace human interaction.

• Visit remote employees and take time to get to know them. Figure out what communication channels work best for various purposes ranging from quick questions, to emergency situations, to lengthy dialogue about an issue, to sharing a funny story about the day.

• Build trust in both directions and authorize team members to take leadership when appropriate or needed.

• Understand what obstacles they might face and make sure that they have the support and resources that they need, e.g, with respect to technology, access to information, access to professional connections, mentors, finances, and knowing that someone has their back.

• Make effective use of  internal social media. Make sure that it is easy to access, attractive, easy to navigate, and that it contains important content for performing job functions such as company policies and procedures. Allowing for interactions between team members based on professional interests can help remote employees develop connections.

• Remember that remote employees are out there working for your business. Make a point of seeing and acknowledging their contributions and achievements. Don’t treat remote employees like they are invisible – out of sight, of out mind can go both ways!

• Put in place professional development and advancement opportunities for remote employees. Feeling like there is no room for development or advancement can undermine motivation.

• Be aware of the potential for burn-out and find ways to mitigate the risk. One of the common characteristics of people who are suited to be remote employees is that they are highly self-motivated. The combination of being goal-driven and working days that don’t have a set ending time can result in a habit of working excessively.

• Remote work is not a viable option for every job function; but for small businesses, when it is a good fit, it can reduce costs, increase the pool of qualified and motivated job candidates, increase productivity, increase coverage area (e.g. time zones covered), reduce employee turn-over, facilitate business continuity, and actually improve employee engagement. So, if offering remote employment might be a good fit for your small business, it is worth considering strategies for cultivating employee engagement.


Related Posts:

Remote Work Potential for Small Businesses

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas



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9 Holiday Tips for Small Businesses


For many small businesses – notably, but not exclusively, those in retail and hospitality – the holiday season is an important time not only because of the impact that it has on short-term sales but also because how a business is managed during the holidays can have a lasting reflection in public perception throughout the year. So this is a time of year to shine not only in marketing but also in taking care of important relationships, e.g, by paying attention to employees, customers and community kinship.

Suggestions and Reminders for the Holiday Season

• Do use your website and social media to promote your holiday specials, but don’t make everything about selling. Use them to tell your story, foster connections, and show appreciation.

• Keep up excellent customer service by handling requests efficiently and with good cheer. Use this as an opportunity to make customers feel like they are being taken care of.

• Have sneak-peaks, special hours, secret sales or a customer appreciation open-house for loyal customers.

• Send personal notes in your holiday cards and thank you notes.

• Connect with your community by attending local events and giving to charities.

• Plan ahead for the possibility of bad weather, thinking about how it might affect staff, customers, vendors, or shippers and what you might do to handle potential difficulties.

• Prepare in advance for staffing issues, whether it is the need for extra help or for employees to have holiday time off.

• Find ways to show employees appreciation for their extra efforts.

• Enjoy time with family and friends and also allow yourself some quiet time.

Best wishes to you during the coming month of holiday activity!

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

Related Posts

Practicing Gratitude: A Good Practice for Small Business Owners

7 Holiday Tips for Small Business Owners

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Practicing Gratitude: A Good Habit for Small Business Owners


With Thanksgiving this week, the holiday season is underway and with the holidays, for many small businesses, come added pressures. One way to deal with these is to practice gratitude. Not only will it make you feel better, but the practice shows good leadership and will be appreciated by those around you.

• Reflect on why you are in business and the positives you get out of business ownership. If you haven’t already, write these reasons down. When things get demanding, remind yourself of the positives to keep you motivated and to keep your energy up.

• Start each day with good thoughts about what you are going to accomplish, so that your day starts with something that feels better than just a to-do list.

• Consider your staff and all of the things that they do to support you and to help make your business successful. Find opportunities to acknowledge a job well done and to thank employees or partners for what they do. A grateful attitude makes others feel good and sets a positive example.

• Appreciate the customer service that your vendors give you when they rush orders, deal with your questions or problems, and give you special orders or promotions.

• Remember that your customers keep you in business. If they seem especially demanding around the holidays, smile and remember to be grateful for their support of your business.

• Give back to your community. Support local business and think about what they contribute to your community. Participate in local events and support local causes that you care about.

• Give yourself a pat on the back for what you have accomplished each day.

• At the end of the day, bring gratitude home to those that you care about – to your family, your pets, your friends and neighbors – gratitude both for what you have and for what they mean to you.

Practicing gratitude is a good habit for business owners around the holidays and all year long.

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving and a successful holiday season!

Related Post:

7 Holiday Tips for Small Business Owners

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University KSBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas


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The Importance Of Failure

A life without failure would be great, wouldn’t it? Like the story of King Midas, everything we touch turns to gold, and each life turns out precisely how we desire. The first girl/guy we asked to prom goes with us, the first interview we sit in lands us the job, and the first business we start makes us millions. Nothing goes wrong, nothing ever blows up in our face, everything is how it should be.

How dreadfully boring.

Fortunately, and sometimes unfortunately, failure exists and it’s part of our everyday lives. Now, this is the important part on your behalf. How will you choose to view the failures that you are faced with today and in the future?

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for tv.”

Thomas Edison and his team made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at the lightbulb before figuring out the right combination.

Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater…three times.

J. K. Rowling was completely penniless when writing the Harry Potter series.

How did these people choose to move forward?

Look at your gifts. Learn from and embrace your failures. Build something great and improve this world.

(yes that’s a Batman reference because I might be a little bit of a nerd, you’re welcome)


Collin Billau
Marketing Consultant
Washburn KSBDC
(785) 234 – 3235

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Ember Woods Sawmill Puts Down Its Roots



Ember Woods Sawmill is veteran-owned business that recently opened for service in the city of Riley, KS.

After 20 years in the army, Ret. 1SG Scott Jacobs decided that he wanted to do something about which he felt passionate, something that he enjoyed doing everyday.


(photo used with permission of Scott Jacobs)

Arriving at that point involved a little bit of trial and error, but he got there when he opened Ember Woods Sawmill!


Located in the city of Riley, KS  – about 20 miles northwest of Manhattan – Ember Woods Sawmill specializes in logging, milling, and drying custom woods (eg. beautiful walnut, hackberry, sycamore, cedar, locust, hickory and oak), and in custom woodwork (e.g. table tops, mantles, shelving, and custom cut signage).


Ember Woods is also a full lumber yard serving the city of Riley and surrounding communities.


Scott originally came to the WU KSBDC for assistance when he was in the pre-venture stage, working on his business plan and figuring out funding for the business.


He recently participated in a lively panel discussion by veteran business owners as part of the National Veterans Small Business Week Resource Fair in Junction City.  The event was put on by the SBA, SCORE, VBOC, and WU KSBDC.

Scott’s advice: “Find that one thing that you enjoy waking up in the morning to do and run with it. There will likely be hardwork and sacrifice at some point, but in the long run, it will pay off!”


Congratulations, Scott, and best wishes to you with Ember Woods Sawmill!



Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University SBDC

America’s SBDC Kansas

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Are You Paying Attention? Google Analytics – And How The WUKSBDC Can Help.

For illustration’s sake, let’s say that you own a used car lot. What could you know about me when I walk into your sales space through the front door? Maybe you look out the door and see what I’m driving, you see what I’m wearing, you obviously notice my gender, my age, you might be able to judge my interest, and possibly how hard I am trying to avoid you. However, there are many things you cannot discover without getting to know me and my story. You don’t know what I like, you don’t know my budget, you don’t know about my family etc. The point is, we can assume all that we want about how our online presence and how our customers like it by how we see their surface interactions but we will be missing out on a ton of information that is crucial to business growth. The question is, are you paying attention?

There is a ton of information available, but don’t get bogged down. If nothing else, focus on a few metrics: bounce rate, acquisition overview, and exit pages.

Bounce Rate

Google defines a bounce as “a single-page session on your site.” This is especially important to those who have websites that depend on users to navigate past their home page. If users are coming, looking at the home page and leaving, then there is obviously some type of problem that needs to be investigated further.

Acquisition Overview

How are people getting to your site? Like most organizations, I am sure you are running multiple marketing campaigns to drum up business and most of them have some type of link or call towards your website. Are you measuring if these are successful? Are users finding your business via organic search, if not, do you want them to? These types of questions can be answered here.

Exit Pages

Where are people leaving and is it where you want them to be leaving. This can be huge for those who are running E-commerce websites. Track your customers through the sales funnel, if they are leaving at a particular stage in the check out series, figure out why.

What’s the best part?

We can help. If you need assistance setting up Google Analytics or have questions about your reporting give set up free one-on-one consulting by calling (785) 234-3235 or email


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TrenDesks: Trending Toward More Healthful Work Spaces


TrenDesks™ and accessories are ergonomically-designed standing desk furniture by SunField, LLC of Manhattan, KS.

Shane Feng was inspired to create TrenDesks™ after being bothered by neck problems that developed after several years of working in a traditional office environment.  Hunching over a desk most of the day, Shane found that he frequently needed to take breaks to stand up or walk around. Then he read about standing desks. He thought about just building one for himself; but building an adjustable standing desk is more complicated than he had initially thought. To come up with a design that he was truly happy with, Shane needed to apply knowledge from his manufacturing background, talk with physical therapists and study good ergonomic design.


Shane became passionate about designing a desk that allowed people to use good posture both when working at the desk and also while adjusting it, that allowed people to have a functionally-sized work area with accessories that accommodated modern technology, and that was sturdy and stable. From inspiration to actualization, the design and manufacturing processes took about a year. Shane was able to take advantage of his family’s manufacturing company and his personal background in business, in order to get his products made so that SunField was able to go to market with the desks and accessories this autumn.


This first desk model, E-1, is just the beginning. Shane’s vision for TrenDesks™ is that the company will be a major part of the trend of toward more healthful office environments. He wants to help bring about more comfortable, functional, productive work areas for anyone who works in an office or at a desk.Desk2

As a college student in China, Shane knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and also that he wanted to attend graduate school in the U.S. Reflecting on his decision to attend K-State and ultimately to start his business in Manhattan, Shane feels blessed. “I have such good people here in Manhattan – caring people, advising me and connecting me with resources – that, as a Christian, my faith makes me feel like God must have led me to this place.”

Shane stared working the WU KSBDC after meeting Trent Armbrust (Director of Economic Development for Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce) and me at an event. He says that in working with the SBDC advisors and Trent, he really feels like we understand what it is like to be in his shoes as a business owner and he appreciates our willingness to use our knowledge and resources to help him on a variety of issues such as business planning, working with investors, marketing and facilities.

As for advice to someone interested in starting a business, Shane says to think of the Chinese saying, A thousand miles begin with a single step. If you want to get started you can’t just talk about it or think about it, you have to take the first step and look not just at your dream for the future but also at what you can do today. Work hard and stay positive.

Congratulations, Shane, on your new line of standing desks and accessories!

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisory


America’s SBDC Kansas

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