Whatever the state of the world, keeping employees – and keeping them happy – should be one of the primary focuses of any company. Employee retention programs not only save you time, effort, and money recruiting and training new talent, but they also simply make companies better places to work – and therefore companies that do better work.

But how do you keep up these employee retention efforts in times of crisis – when, say, a viral pandemic has placed the entire world on lock-down?

Just as with most things in the social-distancing climate, to keep your valuable employees, your retention strategies might need to adapt to the current reality.

Saving Time and Money

Your employees are your company’s greatest assets. And replacing one you have lost is no small feat.

Even in times of non-crisis, the average cost per turnover – of recruiting, hiring, and training a new team member to replace one who has left – is 21% of that employee’s annual salary. 21% above what you would otherwise pay to keep the same employee a happy member of your team.

Add in a pandemic that stalls the global economy and forces physical distance between you and your potential new team members, and those costs are likely to rise.

Most of you know this, know that you need to keep your employees happy and healthy now more than ever. But, when the pandemic hits the fan, what needs to change about your current retention efforts to make that happen?

While compensation and employee benefits, as well as ongoing training, are as important as ever, there is perhaps something even more important weighing on your employees’ minds right now: feeling safe.

Being the Safety Net

The most important thing for people in all times – but especially in the uncertain times that we are living through now – is that they have a safe workplace where they feel valued, and where they see the value of their work and the company for which they work.

A safe workplace, not to mention the security of the steady income and path forward that company provides, helps your team feel grounded when everything else seems turned on its head.

While a “safe workplace” certainly includes making your employees feel physically safe – including, for example, tightened sanitation procedures for employees still working on site, especially in medical functions – it also means a place where your team feels emotionally taken care of.

What your employees need now more than ever is a work environment, whether it’s on site or at a distance, where they feel at ease. Where they can share and openly discuss their uncertainties, and feel heard and listened to.

5 Ways to Retain Your Employees During COVID-19

To keep your employees calm on the job, feeling secure in their work, and not only staying with your company but producing at the highest productivity levels currently possible, we recommend five measures:

1. Maintain Business As Usual

Yes, we know the world is anything but usual right now. This is exactly why your employees need to feel like at least some things will stay the same – such as their jobs.

Keep up your regular meetings with team members (at a distance now, if they’re not normally). Keep filling the pipelines with plans, and make sure you and your team are still focusing on their long-term personal development. Ongoing training is now even more important, to give your team a sense of direction and, at the very least, distract them from potential catastrophic thinking. We will come out of this, and keeping your team focused on what lies beyond the social-distancing finishing line – however far ahead that seems – is the key to ensuring you all make it across that line together.

Online training and e-learning are obviously the order of the day. Luckily, these already abound, with many existing online training now extending their capabilities as other more traditionally in-person development programs find their ways online. (Unsure of where to begin? Ask us!)

2. Address Uncertainties

It’s normal to feel uneasy in these times. Sooth your team members by reassuring them that their fears are normal, that they are being heard. Schedule in time to talk to each of your team members individually about their worries, and call on the help of your HR department and other relevant professionals to let them vent their fears and frustrations. (This might be the time to hire in an expert to help you do this.) The important thing is that your staff feels heard.

3. Be Flexible

Your co-workers are likely dealing with unusual situations working from home: the need to home-school, children going stir crazy, potential illness, or caring for sick loved ones.

Remember: you probably hired your team because you trusted in their responsibility and ability to work independently. That trust is especially important now. A little human understanding in the short-term now will go a long way in ensuring long-term loyalty and productivity.

Trust that, if someone needs to take a little extra time now to take care of things at home, they will make it up to you. The more understanding you are about their situation, the more likely they are to want to repay that understanding with extra productivity. Work with your team to find a schedule that works for you both.

4. Encourage Engagement

When employees don’t feel engaged is when the job search usually begins. One study showed that 56% of employees who don’t feel sufficiently engaged will look for another job, and 73% of actively disengaged employees will want to leave your company.

Even when working remotely and having no real face-to-face interaction, you need to have procedures in place to keep the level of engagement high. Have regular virtual meetings, and not only business meetings.

The training I talked about above is also a remedy here. Employees who are engaged in learning also feel more engaged in your company. Offer a professional growth plan, have interactive group workshops and individual coaching sessions. Keep them updated about the next steps you are taking with the company and the team. Pay attention to what they are saying. All the points discussed above are relevant here.

And remember to have some fun, too. Employees who feel socially connected to their team are more likely to stay connected to the company as a whole.

5. Be a Leader, Not a Boss

People follow leaders, not bosses. In fact, many people who leave their company cite their managers as the reason for them leaving. Managers who are bossier than productively leading the way forward.

First, be a leader within your company and team. Make sure you have a strong purpose and communicate what you stand for. Treat your employees with respect and make sure you truly listen to them, ensuring they are really heard.

But also lead the way for other leaders. Develop other leaders within your company to lead their teams. Empower your people, and help them empower each other.

You Are Not Alone In This

This is a lot to take on. Especially from a distance, and furthermore as you are probably experiencing worries and uncertainties of your own. But, just as your employees are not on their own in this, neither are you. There are professionals specialized in just these sorts of situations, and we are here to help.

Virtual Leadership and Employee-Development Workshops

Talk to us about our virtual leadership and employee-development workshops. We have programs focused on dealing with change and adapting to new situations, which are key skills not just in our current reality but beyond as well. Re-organizations, mergers and acquisitions, company growth, changes in client expectations – these are all normal but stressful changes for any company in any situation. Situations where agility and flexibility are required. Skills we’ve gotten very good at coaxing out of our workshop participants.

Our virtual employee-development workshops are available for teams or individuals, focused on keeping them highly motivated through this (or any) time of ambiguity, so that your team is ready for the always-changing future.

Your Digital Learning Academy

Our plug-and-play Digital Learning Academy unlocks all the possibilities for your organization, helping your team stay updated and well-trained, especially in times of social distancing. In a short period of time, you could have your own user-friendly learning platform set up and ready to use on your employees’ home web browsers, smartphones, and tablets.

The Digital Learning Academy also comes with a compliance dashboard, providing real-time insights into your team’s learning progress, certificates earned, and other important metrics.

The age of digital learning is upon us. Ready to lead your team into the future? Get in touch with us.

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