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Written By NaviPay Blog Contributor:
Suzanne Davis
Coastal Business Evolution, LLC

Business owners and company leaders have felt the pressure to quickly adapt to multiple changes during the pandemic, continue to endure economic uncertainty, and are also faced with employee shortages. Forced closures re-framed how we look at the labor market dividing employees into two categories, “essential” and “nonessential”. Keeping or bringing back essential workers who fear exposure or who fared better economically with enhanced federal employment benefits can be less than eager to return to hourly or service jobs. As we move through the phases (even if slowly) of reopening, attracting, and retaining talent to help us run our businesses continues to be more important than ever.

Keeping top talent, whether in manufacturing, retail, restaurant or in salaried positions will be tougher than ever. A side affect of the pandemic is that the world of work had to change and will continue to do so as we move forward. Employees have also taken stock of their work lives, needing, and expecting more from employers. The overriding theme is that we must all value our workforce much more and many articles have been written on the topic. From those sources, we have identified some overriding themes and present to you a list of six things (not necessarily in order of importance) that need to be in place to retain your top talent.

1. Communication, transparency, and trust.

Although we are not listing these items in an order, retaining employees STARTS here. In fact, it is suggested that we totally nix the exit interview because it is then simply too late. Instead, we need to look at “stay interviews”, “pulse surveys” or simply regular conversations. Also, do not keep secrets from the staff. If you think you are going to need to make staffing changes, communicate that struggle openly rather than springing it on your workforce by surprise. Transparency builds trust even in the direst of circumstances.  

2. Plan for the future.

We’ve all heard about pivoting and the truth is that organizations that can leverage this crisis will have a strategic advantage moving forward. Knox News brings us back to number 1 above in Leading during a pandemic: Plan for the future by listening to employees now. Now is the time for leaders to develop an approach to planning that incorporates strategies for the current situation, the transition, and the future.

3. Provide for employee wellbeing, safety, and security.

How you treat your employees while navigating through the various phases of the pandemic is absolutely vital. Safety first is not just a clever slogan. Let your employees know what measures you have taken to keep them safe and healthy and how you are following CDC guidelines. Also, have a clearly communicated protocol in place should an employee contract Covid-19. What is your sick leave and return to work policies? Do you current PTO policies fit our current reality? Do you provide flexibility in schedules or work location for those at risk or those who live with at-risk individuals? Do you have a wellness program and/or employee assistance programs in place?

4. Be as flexible as possible and provide an individualized approach to work.

If workers can, voice a desire to, or that must work remotely due to family considerations, make that happen. A survey by McKinsey and Company found that remote workers with dependents were faring much better than remote workers without dependents.

5. Invest in relationships, create a sense of belonging while maintaining a culture that values inclusion and social harmony.

Okay, maybe the remote workers without dependents were simply lonely? Let us go back to ask what they need for that social inclusion. Some may love virtual happy hours, while others absolutely hate them. Zoom brainstorming meetings. Do you have all the essential workers that have to be present at your business? Regularly communicating your goals, plans, and recognizing the efforts also builds a sense of community and belonging. Look at your individual staffing circumstances, ask their opinions, and develop a plan so that all have a sense of being a part of something big as you navigate into the future.

6.  Give thanks, recognition, and praise.

Onsite workers in retail, restaurants, and manufacturing are now looked at as real heroes because of this pandemic. Recognizing employee efforts on the frontline could be as simple as providing lunch, public praise, simple thank you notes, a special parking space—anything at all to let them know how important they are to your business. In any work situation, even if your entire staff is remote, recognizing contributions, success, and effort go a long way to employee loyalty. And remember, employee recognition can be free, and it is now more important than ever.

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