At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies worldwide were temporarily closed or permanently shut down. Many business owners were forced to furlough or cut their workforces. Governments throughout the world placed strict controls on the mobility of their citizens, causing commerce to nearly grind to a halt. In response to these events, the United States offered businesses government aid such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), both of which provided emergency funding and allowed many businesses to stay afloat.
Company executives had to pivot their traditional way of thinking and allow their employees to work remotely instead of being present at the office. This was done to allow for continuing operations and also to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the workplace. Many employees that were temporarily released were receiving state unemployment assistance bolstered by an additional $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance as part of the CARES ACT.
Attracting people back to work became harder and harder. Driving down “Main Street USA” revealed signs in the windows of companies openly advertising sign-on bonuses in order to attract workers. Higher wages were being offered in addition to the bonuses.
Now that you have them, how do you retain them? Below are some creative ways that savvy owners have been able to retain their employees:
- Offer flexible work schedule. As stated earlier, executives and employees saw that their jobs could be accomplished remotely. Hybrid schedules for employees are now being offered. For example, they may be remote three days and at the office two days.
- Engage your employees often. Regular communication with your team and engaging them in the process of decision allows them to feel valued. Praising them or having an Employee of the Month program lifts an employee’s spirits.
- Encourage employee wellness. Expanding healthcare coverage that includes mental health has been a winner with employees. The uncertainty of the times we live in has created great stress on people. Having access to mental health coverage is an employer sponsored outlet that shows the executive team pays attention to employee concerns. As many of us became ill with the Coronavirus we saw the need for good healthcare benefits. Offering a rich benefit plan and promoting it during the interview and subsequent onboarding process is a great way to attract and retain talent.
- Take time off! Urge your employees to take some time off and recharge. This will allow them to come back refreshed, less stressed and motivated to jump back into their work.
- Establish a mentorship program. One of my clients has had great success in retaining his employees by paying for the them to participate in self help programs such as attending a Dave Ramsey conference. The post conference chatter was nothing but positive and the consensus was that the owner showed that he really cared about his staff and wanted to see their personal growth.
- Offer higher compensation, but be creative. As we are now in a new recession accompanied by higher rates of inflation that in recent recessions, the cost of goods and services has risen dramatically, especially food resources. Household budgets for employees have become strained due to higher costs. In order to retain good talent, employers need to provide higher compensation. Instead of giving employees raises, some employers are offering non incentive (discretionary) bonuses. I met a business owner that offered quarterly “inflation bonuses” to all employees in order to mitigate some of the costs his employees are experiencing.
- Finally, have some fun. Establish office activities that offer a break from the daily grind. Having themed meetings, office trivia or playing games such as cornhole are examples of ideas done at the office. Consider also doing quarterly offsite team building activities such as going to an escape room, go bowling or form an intramural sports league.
There are many ways executives can attract good talent. Once onboard, the goal is to retain them. Company executives have had to pay close attention to the world outside of their walls. Employees are vital to the life and growth of a company. Surround yourself with a smart, hardworking labor force and keep up the company morale. You will become a growing and vibrant company that will meet and exceed the challenges of a post pandemic world.