Employee Retention in a Disconnected World

For better or for worse, 2020 has been the year of remote work. With the majority of the world going remote for the time being, organizational leaders have been forced to rethink how they approach problems affecting their teams. One of those problems is retaining good employees. Employee retention is crucial in creating continuity among a team as well as saving time and money associated with hiring and training new employees. However, keeping good employees around is not always easy. 

According to Gallup, before the global pandemic, 51% of employees were looking for a new role. Imagine, half of your team is ready to get up and go if they receive a better salary, more health benefits, or a more prestigious position. In normal circumstances, every company has a playbook on how to retain their best people—but the current times are anything but normal. 

We are living through a time of crisis where everything seems up in the air and nothing about tomorrow is promised. Employees are feeling anxious with reduced job security, negative morale due to deteriorating mental health, and often strained personal relationships due to the difficult times. These challenges make it harder to work effectively and may have some wondering if they are in the right place, at the right company. In these uncertain times, companies require strong, forward-thinking leaders to help mitigate the risk of losing team members. 

Why Employee Retention Matters

Employee retention rate has long been a critical metric for the success of any business. Keeping a team together is not only good for productivity and the bottom line — but it has a huge impact on team morale and the way a team views itself. 

Let’s start with the money. According to Gallup, replacing an employee generally costs somewhere between one half and two times their annual salary. For an executive level employee, this figure can be even higher! The dollar amount mentioned also doesn’t account for lost productivity during the period the role is vacant. Considering new employees also take time to ramp up and perform at the same level as a more tenured employee, retention starts to look like an easy place to start saving some cash. 

Another reason retention matters? Team morale. Nothing screams “sinking ship” like a parade of disgruntled employees walking away and being replaced. Teams thrive as they begin to get to know each other, understand coworkers’ working styles, and establish trust. By breaking up this office continuity, you risk a morale crisis. Strong morale leads to more engaged employees and more engaged employees lead to better productivity. According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged employees are more productive, have more loyal employees, and make more money! 

Employee Retention in a Remote World

This year for the first time ever, almost all nonessential workers got the chance to work remotely from home. For some, this opened up a new world of opportunities, while for others, it posed all sorts of new challenges.  

In times of crisis, unemployment tends to go up and employees are less likely to leave and look for new jobs. This scarcity of jobs leads to a “buyers market” where employers have all the power and employees are clinging on and just looking for job security. 

While it may be a buyers market for employers right now, it won’t last forever. Once this pandemic ends, companies are going to be competing for talent like never before. It’s very likely that 5 years from now, an employees location won’t be much of a factor in the hiring process. All of a sudden, workers will have the opportunity to shop for the best companies with the best benefits without needing to relocate.

Figuring out how to retain remote employees can be difficult enough in normal times — and downright scary during a pandemic. The trick is to think differently, companies have to think about specific needs and lifestyles of remote workers. The companies that are able to start building their “remote employee retention” playbook right now will be a step ahead of the competition next year. 

Creating a Workplace People Want to Be a Part Of

So, with all that being said, how do you build a company where employee retention takes care of itself? It’s all about culture and taking care of employees. It’s about creating an environment that people enjoy spending time in and want to be a part of. 

Here are some ways to start thinking about improving employee retention in a remote, disconnected world.  

Invest in Your Employees

The first step of any good employee retention plan, for remote or traditional teams, is investing in your employees. 94% of employees in LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report say they’d stay longer at a company if it invests in their career. Right now it’s easier than ever to provide a stipend for online courses or to send an employee to an online conference. 

However, this isn’t only about investing in professional development, it means investing in salary and benefits packages as well. Offering a home office equipment allowance or a health stipend shows your team you care about their well being and ends up being a very small investment when compared to the cost of replacing even one employee. 

Show Trust and Offer Flexibility 

What do remote workers want more than anything? Freedom and flexibility. Often cited as one of the biggest benefits of remote work — the freedom and flexibility to work when you want and where you want make all the difference. Now only does this improve work-life balance and overall quality of life for employees, it shows a level of trust. After working in a flexible workplace, nobody is considering leaving for a rigid 9-5 job with a micromanaging boss. 

The same goes for other HR policies like sick days and time off. Empower employees to make responsible choices and watch the loyalty grow. 

Build a Strong Culture 

Culture is really hard in a remote world. With a team spread out and not having the day to day interactions they are used to, it can be difficult to rally around shared values and build strong relationships that keep employees tied to your company. One new tool that can help companies build remote culture is Voodle. With Voodle, teams like Mystery in Seattle create and share 60-second video messages. The async short videos keep the whole team feeling connected and having fun in their day to day work. 

Recognition and Appreciation

When no one physically sees you working it can be difficult to feel valued and appreciated. In this new remote world, it’s going to be essential for employers to look for ways to properly recognize the great work being done. This includes both formal and impromptu ways. Whether it’s video shout-outs with Voodle, an employee of the week award, or random spot bonuses for great projects — employers need to look for ways to make their team feel appreciated and seen. 

Two Way Communication To Nail Employee Retention

Finally, it’s important to remember that everyone feels a bit off during a crisis. Build a communication cadence with regular, scheduled touchpoints and ask leading questions to check in on team members. By keeping a pulse on where everyone is at, you can get ahead of any problems. This means, you mitigate any turnover risk before it ever appears. Solicit feedback in these conversations on what you could be doing better as a leader or as a company.


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