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Head off a post-pandemic employee mass exodus with these 5 retention strategies

Posted by Kanika Sinha

June 10, 2021    |     5-minute read (848 words)

The specter of mass employee turnover is now looming over businesses. Economists report a significant increase in voluntary quits despite an uptick in job creation, and a recent Prudential survey indicates that 1 in 4 workers is planning to look for a new job as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Some seek career advancement, better compensation or a different career altogether. Others cite burnout and a need for time to focus on their families or to pursue passion projects they came up with during lockdown. Whatever the reason, hints of a large-scale employee turnover pose serious implications for businesses.

The effects of this potential mass churn, particularly employee turnover costs, can be crippling for organizations regardless of size. According to LinkedIn’s Calculating the cost of employee attrition and disengagement report from 2019, the average cost to a company of losing an employee could be roughly 50% to 250% of that person’s annual salary.

But the good news is some of this can be prevented. Here are five retention strategies that can help prevent a costly talent exodus

  • Keep working remotely

Working for more than a year from home, employees have embraced remote work as their new normal. In fact, legions of them would consider quitting their current job if the employers weren’t flexible about work arrangements.

An April 2021 FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people found that employees want to continue working remotely even after the pandemic is contained. More than 50% of respondents indicated they would look for a new job if they were unable to continue working from home. Employees also reported having no commute and the associated cost savings of working from home as the top benefits of remote work. Some 83% estimate they saved of at least $5,000 a year by working from home.

Parents in particular seem unwilling to forgo the work-life balance they achieved while working from home, with some even willing to take a pay cut or give up health benefits for the same, according to another survey from FlexJobs.

Those weighing alternatives point to concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and express a willingness to join companies that take the virus seriously and allow them the flexibility of working remotely.

  • Be flexible with schedules

Nine-to-five is no longer the most productive schedule for work in the pandemic era, especially for parents whose kids are still home with schools and daycares closed or only partially open.

As employees juggle among responsibilities, many seek a Plan B for their workday, meaning one that offers greater flexibility with work hours.

Employers are advised to be receptive to these needs and aim to give employees time to deal with both home and work responsibilities. This is conducive to helping them put their best foot forward rather than risk burnout.

Strongsuit co-founder Lindsey Michaelides has supported staff during the pandemic by reducing working hours. She started by resetting the expectations of customers who were used to instant responses. Any message not marked urgent was assigned a 24-hour turnaround time, which gave parents on the customer service team the flexibility they needed.

  • Give employees the opportunity to grow

Providing opportunities for employees to learn and grow increases their satisfaction. Human resources leaders report that people who receive on-the-job training that helps them perform their work better are in turn happier employees.

Redouble your efforts to provide training programs for employees or encourage them to attend virtual conferences or even professional growth courses beyond the workplace for which you reimburse them upon completion. This keeps staff up to date with the business’ changing needs and lets them know the company has their long-term interests at heart.

  • Switch to working smarter

Consider working toward becoming more efficient and finding better ways to function for the business at large. These will take some of the load off overburdened employees and create a more pleasant workplace.

Colugo, a family-owned stroller company based in Philadelphia, switched to working smarter to help its employees hustling between work and home. The firm adopted batch processing and asynchronous communication for requests that weren’t deemed high priority, such as inventory and refunds. This allowed the last employee on duty to respond and process inventory and refunds in one go.

  • Support mental health and wellness

The pandemic has significantly increased the incidence of mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety. Even if they have so-called unlimited vacation, many remote employees are reluctant to take time away to deal with such struggles.

One option is to offer mental health days employees can use to attend to such needs. By allowing them to care for themselves, you will have a better-performing employee upon their return. One PwC Australia report showed that for every $1 that a company spends toward making the workplace mentally healthy, the return is $2.30 due to increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.

You can also introduce wellness offerings that support employees. Some businesses are organizing stress-management programs and reimbursing fees for virtual fitness classes, for example. As HR leaders have long said, good mental and physical health employee is good business.

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