People are usually reluctant to embrace change. But with the ongoing pandemic – something that nobody could’ve predicted – they were left with no choice.
Remote workforces are now the new normal, with large and small businesses embracing the work-from-home arrangement.
Although this new trend is still taking shape with many businesses still adjusting to it, one of the main challenges is employee retention.
If you run a business, it’s advisable to have a proactive mindset to avoid losing outstanding team players in no time. You don’t want to lose your experienced, reliable, highly-skilled, and dedicated remote employees.
In this respect, remote teams should not be feared. A number of well-known global companies and market leaders operate with 100% remote workforces, or offer staff freedom of choice. WordPress-owner Automattic gave up its beautiful 15,000 square-foot office in San Francisco in 2017. Well before the recent coronavirus crisis.
But what should you do to retain your remote team? Read on as we discuss this in more detail.
Tips to keep employee retention high in the era of remote work
1. Ensure consistent and timely pay
Employers know that human resources are one of the most important assets for any organization or company. It’s why there’s no room for mistakes because your competitors are constantly scanning the industry for top talent.
Plus, the work from home setup makes it easy for rival companies to poach your workers because they’re not constrained to the typical office supervision. Your employees may take side interviews or answer calls from potential employers without you even noticing anything amiss.
There are no real substitutes with the same motivational power as money to make your on-the-fence employees stay. Simply put, you have to pay your employees on time if you want to retain the top talent.
Offering impressive compensation for the skills they contribute to the business is the very key to keeping your remote employees. You can do this by getting a clear understanding of the market value of every position in your company and creating a compensation plan that fits the bill best.
Once these two are in place, you have to communicate the reward statement to your employees.
A good tip would be to remind your employees of the benefits they enjoy by being a part of your company and working for you.
While this may appear odd, it works from a psychological viewpoint by allowing employees to reflect on the company and what they gain. You’ll be surprised what a convincing statement can do to change the mind of workers who may be thinking of looking for other jobs.
2. Keep giving them rewards
Today’s job market is fiercely competitive and has a vast range of employment opportunities.
While this is exciting for workers, it can be nerve-racking for employers. Employers may have a lot of pressure trying to engage and retain employees. Precisely why you must develop effective strategies that can motivate employees to stay longer with your company.
A basic salary only encourages them to perform at the required level, so you must think about rewards. Not only do they make employees feel valued, but they also give them a sense of belonging.
These rewards can be based on employee’s determination, loyalty, and experience. In fact, you can even make the process easier by having a clear performance marker to monitor projects and tasks. By rewarding employees who deliver or surpass expectations, you’ll create an environment of continuous growth and motivation.
Below are some effective ideas for rewarding remote employees.
Home service perks
Think about providing services to your team that helps them run things smoothly at home. Apart from meal delivery services, you can cover the monthly costs of cleaning or gardening to offer a comfortable working space. Prioritize their comfort and convenience.
Provide a personal touch
Thank you notes can be a thoughtful gesture even in this time of virtual technology.
Take your time to write a genuine or heart-felt email acknowledging your employee’s efforts. You’ll be surprised how such a reward can make a difference in your company. Trust us.
All your remote employees are unique. Some come from different ethnic backgrounds, some may be from different parts of the world.
What you need to do is educate yourself on diverse backgrounds to create an online dialogue where employees can share their unique life experiences. Having knowledge about diversity will also make it easier for you to empathize with your employees and create a healthy company culture.
Tangible rewards are excellent but positive words mean a lot. More so for remote employees who have to work without supervision from the confines of their home.
Although the approach is often underutilized, highlighting your employee’s accomplishments during a video call goes a long way. You could also interview some team leaders or feature them in your blog.
Having said that, make sure you don’t start playing favorites. Every employee should feel valued – not only a select few.
3. Practice effective engagement and clear communication
Working remotely can be a huge challenge to both the employer and employees when communication isn’t working effectively.
To keep your remote employees, you have to find easy ways of communication. Simply sending project instructions via email may not be enough – you’ll have to make a follow-up call or message, explain the instructions, and answer any question your remote employees may have effectively and clearly.
If you don’t engage or communicate effectively with your employees, the latter may get frustrated at one point, which will only ignite a desire to move on from your company.
Let us explain this with the help of an example.
Suppose you failed to use the right job aids and, as a result, inadvertently sent unclear job instructions for a project and an employee can’t reach you for clarifications on time. This will create a very stressful situation for your employee. You see, employees can spend hours waiting for your feedback, which, in turn, can have a negative effect on their morale and productivity.
Remember, communication is two-way. You have to be available at specific hours or days to assign tasks or answer questions from your remote team. When you do that, you’ll eliminate miscommunication and delayed feedbacks
You can use reliable communication and collaboration platforms to make communication a breeze. Here are a few platforms used by most freelancers, which you can use too:
Skype is an excellent platform that allows you to video call, send messages, and make phone calls. Besides the video call feature, Skype also lets you conduct online meetings where you meet with your entire remote team to discuss work-related issues.
Zoom is an excellent pick if you consider video conferencing a great way to communicate with your remote team.
You can use this or other webinar platforms to hold virtual meetings with your remote team either every two weeks or monthly. This way, your employers will feel part of your team when they participate and give input during such meetings.
Slack is messaging software that’s ideal for employers working remotely. You can chat with the whole team or individual employees, whatever you and your employees want. The software tool also provides an excellent means to get quick answers to important questions about projects.While working remotely it becomes equally important for your team to streamline the work by connecting Slack with other apps and help people in your workspace collaborate more effectively.
Other communication platforms and software that deserve an honorable mention are Google Hangouts, Dropbox, Asana, Podio, and SharePoint.
4. Create and enforce a flexible working arrangement
Among the top benefits of working remotely, it’s the flexibility that people prefer most.
Employees can attend to their personal needs conveniently as they fulfill obligations at work – something that can be very helpful for employees with families. Moreover, you don’t have to take our word for it as there are solid facts to prove this: In the United States, 89% of companies reported better employee retention, thanks to their flexible working options.
Evidently, remote employees appreciate their personal space. A flexible working arrangement allows them to plan their time accordingly so they can be happy, motivated, and maintain a better work-life balance.
Many employers focus on hours spent working instead of the results. With the time-spent approach, your remote employees may deliver low-quality work to meet the working hours required. Additionally, tracking working hours puts pressure on remote employees, which can lead to work-related stress.
Therefore, you must learn to trust your employees to complete projects at their own pace, with company needs in mind if you want to keep them around for long.
It’s advisable to focus on results and let your remote team know that. Prioritize effective communication and contact your employees only when it’s necessary as it reduces distractions and eliminates the feeling that you’re micromanaging them.
Trust us, your remote employees want to be more in charge of what they do in terms of how they can deliver quality work and when they work.
5. Try to recruit like-minded people
Retention starts from the beginning. You may wonder how to settle for candidates who are likely to stay, but the leading indicators are right on their resume.
When going through the screening process, ask yourself, what’s the recruit’s working experience? For how long have they worked at the previous company?
It’s likely for someone who has worked for multiple companies within a short period to not stay in your company as well. On the other hand, you may find a candidate who looks good on paper but has a fixed mindset.
Your vision is to see your company grow, but if you have to force someone to focus on that mission while letting go of their personal goals isn’t what you want. Such people don’t value commitment and they may not see the need to stick around. Everyone should be on the same page, otherwise, it’s a red sign.
So how do you know you’re recruiting like-minded people to join your remote team? Let’s take a quick look at some of the top traits to look for in an employee.
Can work without direct supervision
Hiring someone who lacks integrity is a recipe for disaster, especially considering the remote arrangement.
Regardless of the excellent results achieved previously, a recruit who is not authentic is a drag on productivity. One who is not dedicated may not be fit for remote work and is likely to quit after a short time. It’s best to simply avoid them.
Committed to continuous development
A company needs to embrace change and continuous improvement to keep up with the competition. Job-hoppers might be searching for a place to land. Therefore, trying to keep them in your company can be a waste of time and resources.
Passionate about achieving results
Passionate candidates are likely to stay at companies longer. The good news is that the success of such candidates is bound to shine through during the recruiting process.
For instance, you can consider giving special consideration to a recruit who raves about your industry. Employees who actively target working in a particular company bring passion to the job rather than collecting the paycheck.
These are just a few pointers for your consideration. You can create criteria based on your needs and requirements too – just make sure your prospect is capable of working from home with minimal instructions.
6. Always extend a warm welcome
When it comes to companies and work, employees come and go.
Today, 58% of workers admit they would accept a lower salary as long as they work for a great employer. While this is a considerable sacrifice, some employers are responsible for setting a negative tone.
You see, there’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with a new job. New employees want to do well and be productive, but they don’t know how to please employers. Such hurdles leave employees with one thing in mind: ‘This is another job I have to quit,’ which ends up reducing retention.
It’s due to this why the first days of an employee’s time in your company are crucial, even for remote workers. They may struggle to fit into the working culture if you leave them to figure things independently.
Wondering how to engage loyal remote employees? We got you.
Think of the onboarding process as a first date. Impress your employees as much as you can.
Companies that use this method enjoy higher retention. Other than this, you can also ensure a smooth orientation process by following the tips below:
Introduce recruits to key players right away
Just like in offices, remote workers will have to consult others when working on a project. Introducing them to key players ensures they are adequately orientated, making it easy to work on assigned projects.
This process includes setting recruits up with the right tools for video conferencing, chats, email, and more.
Extend a face-to-face welcome
Remote working doesn’t mean you can’t get in touch with your new employees.
A warm welcome can be through Skype or Google. Seeing your face and hearing your voice makes them feel as if they’ve been part of the company for a long time. You can also invite those living near you to your office and show them around if possible
Have a new hire checklist
An organized company creates a favorable atmosphere for you as the employer and the employees.
Transitioning to a new role in your company can be slightly more challenging when everyone is working remotely. To avoid this problem, you can create a checklist with easy-to-read documents, team members that recruits should meet, and forms they need to sign.
This will make sure your employee doesn’t feel left out and more comfortable with all the changes.
7. Give the required coaching and development
The ongoing pandemic has transformed many managers into virtual coaches overnight, which can come in handy as boosting your employee’s retention cannot be done without coaching and development.
About 98% of employees stay with a company longer if it invests in learning. After all, who doesn’t want to realize their hidden skills and potential to become a better version of themselves?
Here’re two ways coaching and development boost retention:
Creates a deeper level of learning
Coaching isn’t only about improving the employee’s skills but also taking learning to a deeper level. Employees gain a better understanding of themselves so they improve within a short time.
Applying new skills in different situations provides employees with a safe learning space. People will want to continue working in a company that creates a sense of self-awareness.
Increase the engagement level
Most employees find it hard opening up to their seniors, but coaching makes it easy to have one-on-one talks. Employees will easily contribute to new ideas that can benefit the company.
The feeling of being listened to also instills confidence. Through engagement, expect increased retention rates and productivity in your organization.
To be an excellent coach, though, you should listen more than you respond to retain A-players.
Strive to pay close attention to their tone, implication, and words. Since body language is hard to read virtually, allow what they say to guide your conversations.
Think of your organization as an airplane, and your employees as turbines.
The engine needs frequent maintenance and fine-tuning, which applies to a strong coaching program. Weak turbines have to be replaced, meaning your employees may leave for another company that invests in developing skills and knowledge.
Luckily, there are several ways you can communicate with your employees when coaching them virtually.
Video meetings are the most popular because you can see each other and gauge the tone. And while a phone call doesn’t have visual elements, it’s the fastest way to connect with your employees, so that’s another one on your list. Such conversations work best for low-stake development rather than in-depth.
8. Avoid micromanagement
Both managers and employees have to adjust to this new remote arrangement. Understandably, as an employer, you may feel the need to monitor productivity frequently, but too much of it may feel like spying.
The cost of replacing an employee ranges from one-half to two times the annual employee’s salary. You don’t want to spend your resources like that, so micromanagement should be a no-go zone. Plus, micromanaging ruins retention.
It brings trust issues, and once an employee feels untrustworthy, the need to resign starts to creep in. But this doesn’t mean that managers won’t have to be accountable to each other.
Read on to find out how you can build trust and accountability.
Delegate on the what, not how
Employees need to feel they’re free to thrive. Make them understand what they need to accomplish and why by delegating certain tasks. A remote employee who is experienced, knowledgeable, and has the record of making things happen won’t give you brain cycles.
Ask for timesheets
Just because remote employees should have freedom doesn’t mean you avoid following up on what they do. Create an accurate timesheet to give you insights into productivity. Also, it makes you aware of people eligible for overtime pay. Just avoid becoming too overbearing.
9. Boost collaboration and transparency
You have to remember that working from home can be quite isolating. To some workers, it may be the last straw before they consider calling it quits.
But retaining top talent as you transition to working remotely can be done if you focus on allowing your employees to collaborate on key projects. Try to encourage collaboration and transparency to save your company from the challenges that might arise from this sudden shift in work arrangement.
Some of these challenges include having little motivation, facing difficulty hiring new talent, and dealing with hierarchical structures. Your employees are more likely to report higher levels of morale if you and other key team players become more open when sharing ideas.
Openness allows teammates to trust each other – something that’s a core component of human nature.
Remember, simply encouraging your team members to be transparent isn’t enough. You have to be more involved in this delicate process now that most of the employees will be working remotely.
What’s the other better way to foster the new habit than to lead by example?
If you establish collaboration as a core habit in the company, you’ll have an easier time attracting new talent. Plus, your employees probably know other people with a specific talent. The only way to leverage such knowledge is to ensure that you collaborate with them both professionally and socially.
With time, your workers can become the most important source of hiring information. You can attract recruits that are a good fit for remote work through them. What’s more, the new hires will be less likely to leave the company not only because they’re like-minded but also due to the obvious ties they have with your current employees.
10. Track accountability
Mapping out employee’s accountability means keeping up with your workers’ performance. This can help solve problems in a good time and motivate everyone to work toward the goals and vision of the company.
Replacing an employee will cost you anywhere between 16% and 213% of their annual salary depending on the job position. Through tracking accountability, you’ll be in a good position to streamline everything instead of replacing your team members.
Also, you’ll learn more about the nature of work instructions. Millions of workers around the world mention lack of clarity when questioned over poor work quality.
With remote work, your instructions have to be crystal clear because you’ll not be supervising your employees from the same room or closely. This way, you’ll have fewer cases of employees jumping ship over miscommunication or stress.
And that’s not it…
Tracking performance can also help set realistic expectations. Your employees will know what you want to be done, giving you a clear picture of the results you expect. You can also use an employee management software tool to help the entire team keep up with daily responsibilities.
What else? It’ll be easier to hand out appropriate responsibilities. For example, you can determine whether a person will be the best pick for a specific task by looking at what they’ve done in the past.
Understanding how to manage your employees is also crucial. For some employees, giving them ample time brings out the best results. Therefore, don’t stress your workers with unnecessary work-related pressure.
That said, you should monitor performance carefully where giving promotions is concerned, This will help you understand who needs the least supervision to get things done and who should be guided more often. This, in turn, will help the entire team grow.
This strategy may easily help retain a focused employee who has been thinking about leaving since the promotion they want has not been forthcoming.
The bottom line
It won’t be surprising if remote working becomes the order of the day moving forward for most companies as it offers a host of benefits. Businesses can save on office supplies, utilities, furniture, real estate costs, janitorial services, and transit subsidies, among others. So there’s definitely a charm to this whole shebang.
But one thing you definitely don’t want to compromise on is the quality of your workforce. Losing some of the best employees means losing constant innovators, effective problem solvers, and reliable winners. Sounds like a nightmare already, right?
Less stress is also one of the significant benefits as it boosts the working morale, so don’t forget to keep them satisfied by providing them with timely and clear instructions. Once you follow this and the above tips, we’re sure you’ll enjoy higher employee retention rates in your company.
About the Author
Raul Galera is the Partner Manager at ReferralCandy and Candybar, two tools helping small and medium businesses run customer referral and loyalty programs. He’s been working in the tech sector for the past seven years and regularly writes about marketing, eCommerce, and tech.