After the “Great Resignation” trend of the past two years, many employers are scrambling to develop strategies to limit turnover. One strategy backed by most current research is to provide flexible employment options such as remote or hybrid work schedules. According to many studies, this strategy should not only attract new talent but also improve loyalty and retention numbers.
In fact, prior to the pandemic, remote workers were 13% more likely to stay in their current job for the next five years than onsite workers. More recently, the 2022 Owl Labs State of Remote Work study reported that over half of workers would take a pay cut of 5% or more to have flexibility in work location.
So, is there a problem with remote employees quitting? Even with a cooling labor market and many companies experiencing layoffs, some research says yes. According to the Owl Labs study, the highest percentage of employees changing jobs are remote workers. The report found that 37% of job changers were remote workers, followed by 28% hybrid workers. Only 21% were in-office workers.
Strategies for Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Remote Employees
To address the retention of work-from-home employees, below are eight strategies to consider for improving the loyalty and job satisfaction of remote workers.
1. Design and Implement Work Policies for Retaining Remote Employees
The most effective remote employee retention strategy is to embed remote work into the corporate culture. Walking back promises regarding remote work opportunities will inevitably lead to attrition. The Owl Labs report found that if a return to the office was mandated, 66% of remote employees would look for another job. Another 39% would simply quit.
In addition to officially recognizing the company’s permanent flexible work options, a good policy will clarify expectations governing remote workers. Policies should also address relevant labor and tax laws to reduce employer risk by ensuring that legal aspects are addressed.
2. Improve Your Hiring Processes for Retaining Remote Employees
Optimizing the hiring process to identify candidates that will perform best in hybrid and remote work environments is also an effective strategy for reducing remote employee turnover. Prior to the pandemic, even remote employees were mostly hired via traditional in-person methods. Once it became clear that fully virtual hiring processes would be needed, companies scrambled to develop and implement new methods. Now that the pressure has eased, it’s time to review those procedures to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
One certainty is that introducing remote workers to a corporate culture is a challenge. Invest in an onboarding process that makes new hires feel welcome. Focus on helping them come up to speed quickly regarding processes, policies, and technical tools. Comprehensive written policies, one-on-one coaching and mentorship, and online orientation training courses are all strategies to consider.
3. Develop Effective Communication Channels for Retaining Remote Employees
Implementing communication channels to aid with leadership transparency, gather essential information, and facilitate virtual teamwork were thoroughly discussed throughout the pandemic. However, as remote work goes from a short-term solution to a long-term lifestyle, these channels need to be reevaluated. What worked initially may not be appropriate in the long term. New channels need to be explored as long-term issues arise regarding access to information and advancement opportunities.
This is especially important in newly hybrid workplaces. As some employees return to the office, the emphasis may shift from asynchronous chat and email communication to informal, in-person channels. This shift in emphasis can leave remote employees out of the loop and contribute to a lack of engagement and a reduction in advancement opportunities.
4. Consider Generational Differences for Retaining Remote Employees
Every company workforce is unique and as such, requires a custom approach to remote and hybrid work models. In some instances, companies may find that there is resistance to incorporating remote work and in others, there may be pressure to implement more remote work flexibility. Some of these differences can be attributed to the employee’s generation.
Current research is finding significant differences in how Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z approach remote and hybrid work. For example, Millennials are the generation most attached to remote work and the most likely to quit if it is not offered. Baby Boomers and Gen X also appreciate work-from-home arrangements but are more likely to prioritize cost savings over stress reduction, a benefit prized by Gen Z workers.
5. Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits for Retaining Remote Employees
There are many cost benefits to a remote workforce, such as reductions in office space and overhead expenses. However, reducing the wages of employees for the privilege of working remotely may not be a good strategy. While higher wages may not be the principal factor when remote employees decide to look for a new job, it’s still a great reason to take one. To stay competitive and attract top talent, a good compensation package is still important. Paying remote workers less can also create the impression that in-person workers are more valued than remote employees. This inequality can quickly lead to interpersonal conflicts and a toxic work environment.
In addition, offering specialized benefits that appeal to remote workers can also help to sweeten the compensation package — especially if higher wages are not possible. Benefits such as gym memberships, reimbursement for equipment purchases, and stipends to upgrade home office spaces are all options to consider.
6. Train and Develop Your Leaders for Retaining Remote Employees
One of the biggest challenges facing employers of remote workers is developing effective leadership. Managing a hybrid or remote workforce requires a whole new set of tools. Gone are the days when employee performance is tied to attendance, and managers could look over an employee’s shoulder while providing advice and guidance. Today’s top managers are learning new ways of team building, evaluating performance, encouraging innovation, assigning projects, and promoting qualified personnel.
While some leaders are trailblazers and have a natural affinity to lead in virtual environments, most are not. Implementing new training and development programs or encouraging employees to sign up for external educational programs is key to a high-functioning remote work environment.
7. Create Advancement Opportunities for Retaining Remote Employees
Another major reason for leaving given by remote employees is to find better advancement opportunities. Since the pandemic receded, another challenge for remote employees has emerged in the form of being overlooked for advancement opportunities. This trend is attributed to a lack of face time and opportunities for impromptu conversations. Researchers think that remote employees are not top of mind when employers are assigning new projects or promotions.
By establishing formal advancement paths that apply to both in-person and remote employees, employers can help level the playing field. Adding remote-first meetings and regular one-on-one sessions with all employees can also help to keep remote employees in the loop and under consideration when new opportunities arise.
8. Implement Employee Engagement Strategies for Retaining Remote Employees
Because remote and hybrid employees are not as visible as in-office employees, engagement can sometimes be difficult to discern. If managers do not listen carefully and pay attention, they may not notice an employee’s disengagement until they quit. Implementing effective strategies to measure and maintain engagement is important to long-term retention. It can also help prevent the “quiet quitting” trend among remote employees.
Regardless of the approach chosen, it’s important to prioritize retention strategies for remote workers. It’s not enough to offer remote employment, thinking that’s all you need to do to keep your virtual workforce happy. With clear policies and onboarding processes, attractive compensation packages, advancement opportunities, and well-trained management, employers can reduce costly turnover while improving employee performance and engagement.
Does your company employ a remote workforce? What are your remote employee retention strategies? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!
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