The Top 6 Challenges and Solutions for Employee Retention During the Pandemic
Why Is Employee Retention a Problem and What Can Organisations Do to Reverse the Great Resignation?
First there was the pandemic. Then came the Great Resignation. Organisations are losing employees at an unprecedented rate. At the time of writing, the exodus of employees shows no sign of slowing down.
Organisations are facing challenges on many fronts, but it is becoming evident that employee retention issues must be prioritised. Record numbers of job openings suggest that even employees who you least expect to quit could be tempted to do so.
In this article, we examine six key employee retention challenges, and how employee retention problems can be tackled during pandemic periods.
Why is employee retention a problem?
Employee retention has become a big headache for many organisations. The pandemic and the reaction to it ─ working from home, lockdowns, and the range of financial aid made available to employees ─ has changed how people perceive work.
Understanding why employees quit is crucial to developing staff retention strategies, and in this regard our clients are experiencing six common employee retention challenges:
- Remote work
- Employee engagement
- Communication and feedback
- Employee burnout and frustration
- Organisational changes
The rapid response to the pandemic ushered in a decisive shift to remote work. People found they enjoy the autonomy of working from home and the improved work/life balance it provides. Consequently, many employees don’t want to return to the office, and are seeking remote working opportunities.
The 2021 Workforce Institute Engagement and Retention Report found that almost half of employees feel less connected to their employers. 42% feel that their company culture has diminished during the pandemic. Only one in five say they are very engaged at work. It’s been difficult to stay connected with employees who work from home, and taking the temperature of staff has been particularly challenging.
Leaders have found it difficult to alter their leadership styles. Leading in the remote, digital age is very different to leading people in-person. Different qualities are needed. Leaders have found it hard to proactively connect with their team members, despite the provision of communication technology.
There’s a disconnect between perception of the effectiveness of communication and feedback ─ two of the most important ingredients in highly collaborative teams. Effective communication boosts productivity by up to 25%, and 97% of employees believe communication impacts their daily tasks. And the disconnect? According to the Deskless Report, while 86% of leaders feel their communication is high quality and meaningful, 56% of workers say that the communication they receive is somewhat not at all useful.
As the pandemic bit, many organisations trimmed their staff, or suffered because of infected personnel going into self-isolation. Remaining employees have been expected to take up the slack and do more. Those who work from home have found themselves to be ‘constantly at work’ and unable to switch off. Workers have become burnt out, or frustrated that they don’t have an outlet for their concerns to be listened to.
In a survey by LimeAde, organisational changes were found to be the second most common reason for people quitting their jobs (after burnout). Organisational change is challenging for employees, especially when change has been thrust upon them, with a lack of transparency and poor communication meaning that employees were less likely to understand the change.
6 Solutions to boost employee retention
Having discussed the reasons for employees quitting, an organisation’s leadership team can design retention strategies that help employees feel appreciated and valued at work. While each organisation’s specific retention challenges will be specific to them, the following solutions should provide a place to begin solution ideation:
- Use employee engagement tools to solicit employees’ opinions and feedback
- Offer constant recognition and growth opportunities
- Prioritise culture and connection
Be in constant contact with your team members, and take the pulse of their feelings using tools such as employee surveys. Stay on top of things by looking for changes in their tone and body language. Give them their voice and be sensitive to what they tell you, both in person and over video calls. These little habits will lead to better success for both you and the team.
Design jobs and delegate tasks that make the best use of individual skills and help employees to develop themselves toward their career goals. Leaders must learn to coach and inspire, while also providing personalised learning and development opportunities. Managers should seek to know their employees so that they can similarly personalise rewards and recognition, thus encouraging greater satisfaction and engagement.
Ways in which you can prioritize company culture and reinforce your values include:
- Conducting regular ‘culture audits’. Talk to employees in team meetings and one-to-ones and conduct pulse surveys to get a handle on the mood of the organisation, and discover what employees like and dislike about the culture of the organisation.
- Talking at every opportunity about the organisation’s purpose and mission. Discuss how the work that people do contribute to the attainment of business goals, and help them understand how they fit in the big-picture strategy.
The desire for better work/life balance has never been greater, and greater flexibility of working patterns is high on many employees’ lists. Some employees may wish to work to a hybrid working pattern (part-time in the office and part-time at home).
Leaders and managers will need to demonstrate trust in their employees, and allow them greater autonomy to design their own work routines. Organisations that are unwilling to be flexible are more likely to lose their best talent, especially as the opportunities for remote work increase.
Organisations can understand flight risk more effectively by using external stay interviews. These provide more accurate results because employees are less likely to express their true views to their managers. When speaking to external third parties, employees are more inclined to disclose their genuine thoughts, including why they are considering leaving.
The most effective exit interviews are also conducted by external third parties, and after the employee has left. Exit interviews should be structured with open-ended questions to obtain reasons why employees resigned and to translate these into actionable strategies. HR analytics should be used to compile and analyse results over time, thus quantifying the effectiveness of retention strategies.
The bottom line
To ensure that your organisation does not succumb to the worst of the Great Resignation, which may well be yet to come, leaders and managers must focus on the reasons why people are quitting, learn from these, and adjust culture and practices to foster greater employee engagement. It’s crucial to communicate openly with employees, listen and act upon feedback, and personalise employee experiences.
Achieve all this, and your employees should not only be highly motivated and loyal, but they should also become enthusiastic advocates for your employer brand.
To learn how our leadership coaching programs can help your leaders and managers lead more effectively as you combat the Great Resignation, contact Primeast.