The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a record-breaking rate of unemployment. This, in turn, has created something of a buyer’s market where power has shifted from workers to employers.

Companies had to lay off workers, cut salaries, and reduce benefits to keep their operations running. This trend has had an enormous knock-on effect on the economy, which had only recently begun to bounce back. 

KPMG recently conducted a survey to demonstrate how many businesses are battling with employee retention during the pandemic. The company surveyed CEOs to identify their top priorities at the time. Just one percent of those surveyed dubbed ‘talent risk’ as the largest risk on their minds pre-COVID. It’s now the largest risk overall, however, with a whopping 21 percent of CEOs agreeing. Businesses that aim to retain their talented staff are being urged to supply new and innovative tools to keep workers connected, up-skilled, and engaged during COVID-19 and beyond.

The Influences of Remote Work

With so many organizations embracing remote work, new employees no longer need to relocate to assume a role. Geographical location is no longer a hindrance, and businesses are competing for talent from across the globe. Likewise, talented job seekers have more opportunities available, as they can remotely work online.

Employers may hold more power right now due to high unemployment rates, but workers who have far more choice over who they work for counterbalances this. Additionally, workers’ expectations have shifted dramatically amidst the pandemic. 

Professionals expect more from their employers than ever before. Companies that prioritize transparency, flexibility, safety, mental health support, and technological progress are now far more adept at retaining their workforce. On the other hand, those who try to force their workers to work in unsafe or stressful environments face high staff turnovers and significant recruitment issues.

The Link Between Employee Engagement and Retention

There can be no denying it—employee engagement and retention go hand-in-hand. The more engaged a staff member is, the longer they’ll be willing to stay with their employer. Engagement is also directly linked to productivity. By engaging your workers, you’ll encourage them to stay longer and work harder. This will positively impact your organization on every level.

Disengaged workers are far more likely to start searching for greener pastures. One poll from Gallup found that more than half of disengaged and unmotivated employees will hunt for another job, and almost three-quarters aim to quit. This is especially true for workers who work in environments that lack supportive managers.

Ultimately, creating a healthy, motivating work culture is the key to employee retention. Even if your workforce is remote at the moment, you can still develop a supportive and nurturing culture for employees. 

This process starts with implementing leadership that values workers as human beings. Workers who feel like they belong and are being valued will naturally work harder and be willing to stay with your organization for the long haul. 

Hiring the assistance of a professional employer organization (PEO) can help in this regard. PEOs have gone through training to better handle your admin, payroll, recruitment, employee benefits, and other important processes to help you find and retain talented workers. The best PEO companies offer the ideal solution for small businesses that don’t necessarily have the time, resources, or scope to focus on HR. By outsourcing to a PEO, you can reduce the HR load, create a better working environment, boost employee satisfaction, and increase retention. 

The 3 Keys to Employee Retention During COVID Times

1. Engagement and Support

Your workers are undoubtedly hoping you’ll care for them during this crisis, especially since their lives are significantly more complicated and challenging to navigate now. They want to work for a company that communicates honestly and effectively—one that offers them benefits that’ll help lighten their personal and professional loads.

Offering employees access to comprehensive benefits and programs during these trying times is the key to retaining talent. When your workers don’t need to worry about money, healthcare, mental health, safety, and childcare, they will be able to focus more on being productive. The most vital employee benefits to offer during COVID are:

  • Flexibility
  • Paid leave
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Healthcare coverage
  • Extensive childcare support

Mental health services and paid sick time are exceptionally important now, too.

You can support your workers by engaging in one-on-one check-ins and discussions. Encourage your managers to engage workers in personal meetings, even if they’re held remotely. Ask them to gauge if workers are coping and making progress with their current projects. Your company should act as a support system, providing empathy, guidance and assistance. After all, employees must have what they need to safely and securely perform to the best of their abilities.

2. Clear, Transparent Communication

Your company’s managers, executives, and HR professionals need to communicate regularly with empathy, transparency, and honesty. Everyone is stressed and under pressure due to the uncertainty and strain caused by the pandemic. Others are facing devastating losses or fearing that their jobs may no longer be secure. You can address some of that anxiety by taking a position of leadership. 

Address these difficult emotions and worries, and communicate with your employees using compassion and care. Acknowledge what your dedicated workers are going through. This way, they’ll feel safe about speaking openly about their challenges, both with management and their colleagues. 

Workers whose employers care for them feel more included in their organizations. They’d recommend their employers to their friends and are more likely to remain loyal for years at a stretch.

3. Continuous Flexibility

The term ‘flexibility’ has stepped into the spotlight during COVID-19. Managers need to have conversations with their team members to identify the type of flexibility most important to them. 

As an example, parents home-schooling their children in the afternoons may not be able to have meetings during that time. A manager should acknowledge this need and give their employees the flexibility to perform their responsibilities earlier in the day. This reduces stress and ensures employees can meet their professional and family obligations

You can promote a flexible workplace by making it easier for your workers to set their own schedules. At the same time, you can still set boundaries, guidelines, and flexibility engagement rules, so they always know where they stand.

The Bottom Line

Talented employees are one of the most essential factors in your business’s ability to operate effectively. 

You can retain them by offering authentic support during COVID-19. Communicate clearly and effectively, grant them the tools they need to perform, as well as the benefits they need to feel secure and valued. Above all, be flexible in your approach, but be clear about what’s expected.

A valued, cared-for employee will be far more willing to work harder and more diligently to meet your business’ goals and ambitions.

Author Bio

Kelly Lowe is a passionate writer and editor with a penchant for topics covering business and entrepreneurship. When she’s not tapping away at her keyboard writing articles, she spends her free time either trying out different no-bake recipes or immersing herself in a good book.