The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated several processes that were already taking place in the workplace and business worlds. Indeed, research points out that even before the pandemic, some workers had been able to negotiate remote work conditions with their employers. Following the countermeasures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, nearly all businesses were forced to enact at least some form of remote work in a matter of weeks, with some industry sectors seeing as much as two-thirds of the workforce being moved to remote work.
The benefits for the employees are numerous, while the fears that remote work would lead to a less productive and efficient workforce have been soundly disproven. However, this new norm that appears to have been established also means that active job seekers are facing far greater competition than before. After all, with the elimination of geographic restrictions to a significant degree, job candidates from different countries across the world could become direct competitors for the same open positions.
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What Is a Hybrid Work Model?
Remote work is increasingly being accepted as a permanent fixture in the work landscape instead of a temporary option related to the pandemic. Businesses are trying to adjust their work models to this new reality where returning to the full in-office model seems unlikely. Employees are seeking out positions that offer remote work options as this allows them to achieve better work-life balance, cut some unnecessary expenses, remove the daily commute, and free up more time to spend with their families or friends.
To accommodate these emerging work preferences, some businesses are adopting hybrid work models that combine remote work with in-office hours. The exact parameters may differ from organization to organization as well as between different roles within each team. Some positions may be required to spend a couple of days in the office, while others could remain entirely remote. The most important characteristic of the hybrid model is that it is beneficial to both the employees and the businesses.
Retaining Employees Is Crucial
The pandemic has brought on another unforeseen consequence – it exasperated employees’ dissatisfaction with their current work conditions, and, as a result, the number of workers resigning from their positions has skyrocketed. In some industry sectors that were already experiencing a worker shortage, this has led to severe understaffing issues that cannot be resolved with an increase in recruitment efforts. Instead, businesses realize that retaining their current employees and convincing them to stay has become essential for their continued operation in the current turbulent environment.
Retaining employees in a hybrid or remote work model presents a significant challenge, requiring new and innovative approaches. Employees operate with a heightened sense of personal agency and can quickly reject jobs that do not meet their new standards for work-life balance. Businesses may need to offer more flexible and health-oriented ways of working in order to foster loyalty among their employees or risk having their workers poached by organizations that have already managed to adjust to the new employee-organization attitudes.
Retention Is an Ongoing Process
To successfully reduce the number of employees willing to leave, companies should be revising and updating their retention strategies in accordance with the changes in the business environment. Furthermore, companies should start thinking about employee retention as early as the recruitment phase to minimize turnover. Identify your corporate values, culture, and mission and look for candidates that are likely to correspond to them. Then, by continuously engaging them and showing that their daily efforts are appreciated, companies can attain long-term workers who only become more productive with time.
Also, take into account the time candidates have spent at their previous jobs. Staying at a position for an extended period of time could indicate loyalty, perseverance, and willingness to stick around even during challenging times. On the other hand, retaining a person who has been employed at five different places in the past six years could be a difficult task unless they are simply trying to find the right place for them.
Ensure a Smooth Remote Working Experience
Employees are less likely to quit if they do not experience daily frustrations caused by slow, glitchy, or old operating systems and apps. Having a solid IT foundation and adopting reliable cloud-based platforms with dedicated remote-work features could eliminate unnecessary issues. Switching to a newer operating system has the added benefit of boosting the organization’s security as older systems are less likely to receive regular updates or security patches.
On the other hand, enacting strict policies in regards to the allowed devices and apps could be detrimental to the working experiences. A growing number of businesses recognize that their employees have different preferences for the devices and OS (operating systems) they would like to use.
However, maintaining a sufficient degree of control over the technologies used by employees is still necessary, or organizations may be exposing themselves to increased risk of security breaches and malware attacks. One potential solution is creating an internal corporate app repository that workers can easily access. The IT department can curate the apps available there, keeping them up to date and ensuring that workers have all the necessary tools that they may need as part of their job.
Establish IT Support Channels
Even tech-savvy employees may find it hard to keep up with all the changes going on in the workplace IT sector. After all, people were forced to quickly become accustomed to using various video conferencing platforms, communicating through several messaging apps, following specific cybersecurity protocols, and more.
Setting up an appropriate communication channel between the IT department and the remote employees can be of tremendous help in this regard. The IT specialists can explain the benefits of a new software product adopted by the organization, provide necessary training, guide workers struggling to understand a specific app, or assist those encountering rare and annoying software errors. Employees need to know that they are not left on their own to figure out how to best utilize a piece of new technology.
Offer Education and Career Opportunities
Showing clear commitment to training and skill development can be a powerful incentive for talent to stay at the company. Employees who know that the company is investing in their professional and personal growth feel like their worth is being recognized and valued. Aim to provide clear professional and career advancement opportunities that have been tailored to the unique strengths, interests, and motivations of the employee. If workers know that they have a path towards greater compensation and responsibilities, they are more likely to feel that the company’s success as a whole is also a personal success for them.
Provide Competitive Compensation
Loyal, long-term workers expect to be rewarded for their efforts. They have been there when the company faced challenges, helped it overcome them, and now rightfully feel that they have personally contributed to its success. When a company is prospering but its employees do not see proportionate rewards, they could become demotivated, disengaged, and more likely to look for a different employer that will value their work efforts to a greater degree. To avoid such outcomes, companies should regularly review what they pay their existing workers, ensuring that it is both fair and competitive when compared to the industry standard and across the organization.
Keep in mind that the salary is just one of the possible factors. Companies can boost morale and show their appreciation through compensations, benefits, improved work environment, professional and personal development opportunities, increased vacation days, as well as other reward programs.
Some Turnover Is Inevitable
A certain percentage of employees will leave no matter the company’s retainment incentives. In these cases, and especially when the person is a highly-qualified individual, succession planning could help minimize the impact and avoid any disruptions of the work process. Companies should evaluate their internal structure to identify pivotal positions or employees and then develop action plans to address the potential loss of top-level talent.
Keep an Eye on What Other Companies Are Doing
The current workplace dynamic is highly dynamic, and a lot of experimentation is taking place as companies are trying to find the right strategies that work best for them. Businesses are drawing up talent practices, implementing retainment programs, and figuring out the appropriate proportions for a hybrid work model. Naturally, some would try to get ahead of their competitors by pushing the boundaries of attracting outside top talent while also keeping their valued employees from leaving.
When everything is in such a flux, practices that may seem like outliers could quickly become adopted as industry standards. Employees working at companies that lag behind the rest could start wondering why they are not being offered the same opportunities as the other workers in the same sector. To avoid losing top talent to competitors that are adjusting faster, companies should try to receive timely information about the results of these experiments.
Andrew Arkley is the founder of Purple CV, one of the UK’s leading CV writing services. He is regularly quoted by national publications.