With work from home rising as a global work-lifestyle preference, sustaining employee loyalty is a challenge for many businesses.
To put things in perspective, Indeed reported that remote jobs listings on their platform doubled during the pandemic. While demand for remote workers is rising, there is a paucity of workers to fulfill those roles. Thus, with so many opportunities, skilled employees are in demand, know their worth, and want to make the most of their experience.
Remote work is transforming the very fabric of the job market. While there are many reasons behind the success of work from home, there is one major contributor:
People who work from home are happier. Happy employees like their jobs, and thus make an effort to keep them.
Beyond broadening your talent pool and the cost savings associated with having a remote workforce, it has an even bigger benefit: it can increase a company’s chances of having a more loyal workforce, thus helping companies retain their best people.
It’s true that remote work comes with a set of new challenges that need strategic efforts; but the statistics are constantly changing to show that employee retention numbers for WFH employees are already looking better.
The Case for Remote Work Trends & Employee Retention
Happiness, loyalty, and retention are complementary elements in both on-site and remote workers, but something fundamental is changing about the way remote workers experience job satisfaction.
Employees with the first-hand experience of the benefits of remote work have been expressing how it changed their work lifestyle, and now there are surveys and studies that support these claims.
Owl Labs’ recently published its State of Remote Work study that analyzed the impact of remote work on employment opportunities, job satisfaction, happiness, loyalty, and productivity.
1. Remote Work and Employee Loyalty
The ability to work remotely makes employees happier, feel more trusted, and achieve a better work-life balance, among other factors. Giving your employees flexibility to work from home even in times it’s not a bare necessity (the pandemic), counts.
Perks are a huge part of why employees stay with a company or leave it. Studies even show that a majority of employees would instead pick better benefits (like being able to work with flexibility, or from home) over a pay rise.
It shows reliability, trust, and your ability as an employer to adapt to productive work lifestyles quickly. The ability to work remotely makes people feel more trusted at work and shows that their employer cares.
2. Remote Work and Happiness
Achieving happiness in remote work depends on many factors. It is also a long-term process that depends on the leadership of a company.
But having said that, working remotely is contributing to employees feeling happier at work. Their motivation for going to work is not so much about “if I don’t go to work I’ll get fired”, but “If I don’t work today I’ll have more piled up tomorrow”.
This shift in perspective that remote work creates is probably one of the most powerful reasons for it for emerging as the top work trend in 2021.
Because of a rising preference for working remotely, the companies which are able to create productive work-from-home environments for their employees are seeing an upsurge in the people who stay with the company and grow with it.
In fact, not being able to work remotely could drive employees away from a company, or expect a higher compensation if asked to return to work in a physical office.
Inspiring Employee Loyalty in a Remote Work Era: 5 Ways to Improve
While there are many benefits of working remotely, employee retention can still be a challenge. Especially now that we live in covid-induced uncertainty, highly skilled employees know what they want from a job and don’t shy away from job-hopping till they find the right one.
But that being said, employees want to stay with companies that promise job safety among other things. Thus, it is not remote work alone that drives employee loyalty, but the remote work culture of your company that does. Businesses must work towards providing benefits that make it worth it to stay with the company.
Here are the top 5 ways to inspire loyalty and retention:
1. Give More Employees a Chance to Work Remotely
The norm for most companies still adapting to work from home is to put experience above all. One of the top concerns of managers supervising a remote workforce is productivity. There’s still a lack of trust on the managerial level for how accountable their employees will be if given a chance to work from home.
As a result, there are about 18% more C-suite or executive-level employees working remotely as compared to, say, individual contributors or consultants. These stats don’t seem shocking, and it’s natural for companies to put trust in stakeholders to retain accountability when working from home.
But with work from home gaining popularity, more and more employees from different role hierarchies should be encouraged to work from home. This holds true especially for the younger lot, or the millennials.
Millennials have challenged business norms for a long time and don’t see a great distinction between their job and their life. As a result, they prefer WFH over on-site lifestyles and are ready to give more in return for the freedom to work remotely.
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2. Provide e-Learning And e-Training Opportunities For Professional Growth
There is little difference between what remote and on-site workers want when it comes to the perks and benefits of working with an organization.
Employees who like their jobs, expect opportunities to grow professionally and appreciate a workplace that invests in their employees’ skill development.
It’s becoming increasingly common for remote employees to find their jobs ‘mundane’ or ‘not challenging enough and hence, moving on looking for a fresh start.
To create a workforce that is loyal, companies should invest in avenues for professional growth through e-Training or e-Learning opportunities. These learning sessions can range from upskilling, understanding group dynamics, DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity), to hacks to be more productive when working remotely, etc.
It’s important to remember that e-Training is not a one-way road where only employees benefit. A business benefits from its newfound knowledge too, which can lead to the creation of actions/assets valuable to a company’s growth.
Online platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy for Business, and Coursera provide remote workers with in-depth courses on tech, marketing, design, and business.
A tip that can come in handy -- use an online educational platform with a Learning Management System (LMS) to assess results from the training. You can also utilize information on employee progress, engagement level, dominant skills, etc to facilitate your internal mobility programs.
3. Recognize and Acknowledge Employee Accomplishments
We all know what being appreciated feels like. It feels good, and makes you feel closer to the task at hand, and, of course, inspires you to do better.
One of the most important driving factors of job satisfaction is feeling appreciated. When an employee’s time, effort, and skills at work are valued, it creates a relationship with the workplace that’s beyond tasks and deadlines.
As a company, to grow in the long run, you need a workforce that aligns with the vision of your brand. People who feel appreciated at work engage with it more meaningfully, and, hence, find themselves aligning closer to the vision of a company.
Remote workers may feel more isolated when managers forget to reassure them. With the physical isolation that comes along with remote work, it can get difficult to communicate appreciation (because everyone’s already busy making sense of the hundred thousand messages about tasks on Slack that need to happen today).
As part of your employee management strategy, there should be space for appreciating the good things that happened in a day, week, or even a month.
Even simple acknowledgments count. For example -- If someone had a great idea, call it out on the team Slack channel. If someone did a good job, bring it up in a meeting, or your next team standup.
4. Don’t Micromanage Your Employees
While some tasks approaching deadlines could require collaborative, live-time, micromanaged co-ordination, this should not be the norm in your company.
Consistent micromanagement is a sign of a lack of trust within the organization. It takes away from the flexibility of work.
To build accountability in a remote employer-employee relationship, create responsibility for your employees by encouraging them to be the watch-persons of their own actions.
For example, if a marketing poster needs to be out in five days, don’t follow up every two hours starting day one. It’s easy to create task clutter with online communication, and micromanaging your employees for every task can seriously damage productivity.
The most efficient way to manage different workflows and make it work for everyone is to create space for your employees to finish tasks based on priority. Different people could have different ways of approaching a workflow. But a distinct working style doesn’t mean things don’t get done on time but get done in the ‘most’ productive ways.
5. Talk to Your People More Often
If you’re an organization that practices geographical diversity in hiring, chances are you’ll never meet a lot (or a few) of your employees.
Because remote employees work ‘remotely’, it’s important to create a sense of belonging and community for your workforce. When people feel like they’re an integral part of your company, they care about the outcomes of their efforts too. Doing team-building exercises as a part of employee engagement can be one way of doing this.
Most employees will not feel a sense of loyalty to an organization if they don’t communicate regularly. This ties down very closely to collaboration as well. A bad communication culture can create a chain of bad outcomes--poor coordination, bad conflict resolution, non-clarity of responsibility, a sense of detachment, etc.
A good way to encourage regular communication is to hold conversations beyond work once a while. The gold lies in the small things. If your employees feel you’re approachable, that’s half of your work done. For example, take feedback. Care about what employees have to say about the way things work.
If you’ve recently introduced new workflow apps for better coordination, take a consensus once in a while and find out what your workforce thinks about its functionality. Be open to new ideas, and welcome suggestions.
Last Two Cents
Employee loyalty is a positive sign for the growth of your company. It means you have a strong employer brand, and that is one of the top characteristics skilled employees look for when seeking new avenues.
While structural changes take time, you can start doing your small bit to create a more meaningful remote work environment, starting now.
And for the closing lines: Leaders of today need to understand that while competence is trainable, accountability or loyalty is not. Invest in your employees and be open to experimentation!