manage employees

How to increase staff retention during COVID-19

We’re all too familiar with the adage that good talent is hard to come by—and retaining good employees hasn’t gotten any easier during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labor shortages abound in the pandemic-fueled recession. Nearly a third of small business owners have open positions going unfilled for more than three months, according to CNBC and Momentive’s Q3 Small Business Survey. Half say they can’t find qualified workers. These kinds of statistics underscore the importance of holding onto trained and talented employees.

Fortunately, there are companies across the country testing smart attendance and employee retention strategies, and finding great results. I’ve compiled some of my favorite methods I’m seeing in the market today. Consider whether any of these could be a good fit for your business to encourage talented employees to join up and show up during the age of the coronavirus.

How to get employees to show up during COVID

We already know your business is following the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect your employees and customers during the pandemic. But even safe workplaces are having a tough time motivating their employees to come back to work.

Offer a cash bonus to return to work

As pandemic-related unemployment programs came to a close earlier this year, many states implemented cash bonus programs to incentivize residents to get back to work. Take a page from the government’s book by creating a cash bonus program. To earn the bonus, require workers to show up for a good amount of time. Whether that’s 160 hours or 16 weeks is up to you.

Provide breakfast or lunch at work

Free food boosts employee job satisfaction and retention. At the same time, sharing a meal with colleagues builds company culture and provides an opportunity for increased collaboration. And providing food at the office increases productivity by limiting the need to venture off-site.

Considering the return on retention, collaboration and productivity, buying meals for employees can be surprisingly affordable. According to Fooda, providing a $10 meal to an employee every day costs $2,600 a year. When buying meals during the pandemic, consider prepackaged options, such as individually wrapped breakfast sandwiches, subs and burritos, that limit exposure to germs.

How to retain great employees during COVID

The pandemic has changed workers’ expectations for employers. Try implementing some of these tactics to hold on to employees once they’re on your payroll.

Reward employees during onboarding and training

You’re not out of the woods once you’ve made a hire. Ghosting employers, sometimes even on a first day of work, isn’t uncommon. Keep brand new employees engaged and invested in your onboarding process and the growth of your business by providing bonuses at strategic points, like the end of training and the six-month mark.

Get employees invested in furthering their learning by increasing hourly pay as they earn certifications or pass relevant courses. Supporting and rewarding workers’ growth at your company builds culture and incentivizes them to stay.

Give employees more power over their time

By implementing flexible hours, employees get to choose when they get their work done, and thus, feel more empowered. For small businesses that don’t rely on shift work, let employees choose when they begin and end their workdays. For parents who have school pickup in the afternoons, let them make up those hours remotely after the kids go to bed.

If face-to-face collaboration is critical to your business, consider requiring employees to be in the office together for just a couple of hours a day, perhaps from 10 a.m. to noon. Or schedule one day a week with set 9-to-5 office hours and flex time the rest of the week.

Many companies have also revamped their paid time off (PTO) policies during the pandemic, according to SHRM. Some have let employees with COVID-related concerns take off time they hadn’t yet accrued. Others added time off for wellness and mental health. With travel restrictions in place, more businesses swapped their use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies with annual rollovers.

All of these approaches give employees more power over their time at and away from work to take care of themselves and their families. That kind of flexibility is an attractive attribute in an employer these days.

Increase labor rates

This is a hot topic, as employers who typically offer minimum wage positions have begun to double the federal minimum wage to entice new workers. Increasing your employees’ hourly wages and salaries communicates their value — and makes it less likely that you’ll lose them to a competitor who’s willing to pay more. To cover the cost of higher wages, consider increasing your prices for customers.

Increase piecemeal pay

You may pay contractors or other workers on a by-piece rate, based on the number of units, projects or pieces they complete. To hang on to this talent, increase their piecemeal pay to ensure the work they do for you stays at the top of their priority list.

Pack Your Patience for the Long Term

There’s no doubt we’ll be dealing with COVID-19 for some months to come. Businesses of all kinds should do what they can to remain calm during this turbulent time. Remember that most companies are in the same position with regard to retaining employees. More than anything, pack your patience!

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the QuickBooks® Resource Center.

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