Eleanor Hecks is the managing editor of Designerly. She’s also a mobile app designer with a focus on UI. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and goldendoodles, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, UX and/or tea on LinkedIn.
The shift toward remote work has had a profound impact on both employers and employees. The pandemic accelerated an existing trend and highlighted the ability of people to complete tasks from home, while also making employees aware of the benefits of remote work. However, this rapid change has left many human resources departments playing catch-up, as it takes time to find the right tools to keep remote workers informed.
In order to attract top talent, businesses must understand what potential job candidates want. Here are a few strategies to help recruit, engage, and retain employees in the era of flexible and remote work:
1. Choose Remote or Hybrid Work Options:
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that 35% of employees work fully remote, with 63% of those working in a hybrid model because their employers require it. Many employees expressed a desire to work from home more than they are currently allowed to.
When hiring, managers should consider whether a position can be completed remotely. While certain jobs, such as manufacturing or restaurant roles, require in-person presence, skilled knowledge workers now expect some flexibility. They may prefer to work fully remote some weeks and take a hybrid approach on others. Leaders who aim to attract the best talent must be prepared to offer this flexibility.
2. Define Career Progression Strategies:
Companies can increase their chances of retaining employees by offering a clear path to promotion. According to research conducted by the Alexander Group, 71% of media leaders were uncertain if their career mobility strategies were competitive. This uncertainty led to employees seeking opportunities outside their current organization.
Historically, remote workers have been more likely to be overlooked when it comes to promotions and recognition. Untrained managers tend to notice and appreciate employees they see face-to-face every day. To address this issue, business leaders must clearly define and communicate career progression paths so that employees understand the requirements and benefits. A strong HR strategy should outline the steps, performance expectations, and timelines for moving up into higher positions with better compensation.
3. Improve Internal Communication:
Effective communication is essential for all teams, especially remote ones. HR and people leaders can organize regular Zoom meetings or send concise, bulleted messages to ensure important information is not overlooked. Meetings should have a designated moderator to guide discussions, address questions from the chat, and set an example of caring for the staff.
Managers and leaders should focus on sharing information relevant to each employee's job. For example, a salesperson might not be interested in hearing about a marketing team member receiving a gift card for their hard work. While some acknowledgment is appropriate, excessive information that only matters to management and the recipient should be avoided. It's important to find user-friendly communication tools like Slack or Notion that suit the team's needs and preferences.
4. Encourage Work/Life Balance:
The pandemic has reminded everyone of the importance of work/life balance. Employees no longer want to spend endless hours in a job where they feel undervalued or unseen. They want time for their families, friends, and personal interests.
HR can play a crucial role in encouraging work/life balance by promoting the use of paid time off (PTO). If an employee is struggling with mental health or has an ill family member, HR should step in and provide targeted support to help them through difficult times.
Leadership should prioritize a caring culture where employees feel valued as individuals, which in turn increases long-term loyalty to the company. Employees should also establish healthy boundaries to prevent overworking. For example, silencing notifications outside of working hours can help resist the temptation to constantly check messages. Employers should support and encourage downtime.
5. Provide Learning Opportunities:
To enhance employee satisfaction and retention, HR leaders should strategically offer growth opportunities. Seasoned employees may benefit from external perspectives on areas for improvement. Leaders can offer to send these employees to courses led by thought leaders they admire or allow them to expense online skills training.
Employees often have a good sense of their own developmental needs. Remote workers should have agency in choosing the courses that align with their goals. HR should meet with employees and discuss the types of skills they would like to learn.
6. Recognize and Reward Top Performers:
Are your top performers feeling appreciated? In 2023, approximately 25% of all jobs are estimated to be remote. While the growth rate has slowed from the pandemic levels, remote work continues to rise. It's important to find ways to acknowledge exceptional employees, such as sending digital gift cards or expressing sincere, regular praise both to the employee directly and in shared spaces like Slack.
7. Update Policies:
HR departments must adapt policies to accommodate remote teams, even if they follow a hybrid model. Review current policies to ensure they apply to remote work environments and make necessary changes for fairness among all workers.
Employers should familiarize employees with the benefits available and explain how to take advantage of them. For instance, if the company offers an annual education stipend, remote workers should know what classes they can take and how to get reimbursed.
8. Understand Productivity:
Experts recognize that remote workers often experience fewer distractions, leading to increased productivity. However, when remote monitoring software forces employees to sit in front of their keyboards for eight hours straight, burnout can (and likely will!) occur. Employers and employees must understand how to adapt workloads to prevent burnout while maximizing productivity.
Management should prioritize measuring output rather than input (time spent). For example, one worker may log in early but accomplish zero tasks, while another might log in later but be highly productive during their working hours. Not all tasks for knowledge workers can be accurately measured by productivity trackers or clocks.
9. Implement Virtual Onboarding:
Businesses that haven't digitized their onboarding process should consider upgrading to assist remote team members in getting up to speed. Pairing a fully remote worker with an experienced employee who spends at least some time in the office can provide valuable connections and support.
New hires often have questions about internal operations and job responsibilities. Being connected with someone who is well-informed helps remote workers avoid feelings of isolation.
Regularly Assess Remote Work Practices:
As technology advances and remote and flexbile work becomes the norm, HR departments must continually adapt their approaches to meet the needs of employees in all areas. Pay attention to what works within your company and be open to making necessary adjustments. By striving to meet employees' needs, businesses and staff can work collaboratively to create positive changes that benefit both the employees and the organization.