It’s an understatement to say the labor market looks different in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. A staggering number of retail businesses are still struggling to fill vacant positions, with restaurants and other public-facing industries also feeling the crunch.

So how do you prevent your best employees from looking for that proverbial greener grass when the market is so full of unfilled jobs and flashy signing bonuses across a wide variety of industries? Somewhat surprisingly, it’s not always about the money.

There are many steps an employer can take to discourage turnover among key employees, or to win back an employee pursuing a job offer elsewhere. Focus on the following 5 key strategies to effectively retain employees in the face of a lopsided labor market (without blowing up your payroll).

  1. Flexibility. The Covid-19 pandemic gave many workers their first taste of working from home, and they overwhelmingly approved. Over a third of employees in online surveys expressed a desire to work from home on a permanent basis. The most common reasons for supporting remote work were commute time, transportation cost, avoiding germs, and not needing to put on pants. (Yes, really.) While many business models simply cannot be sustained without employees showing up to work in brick-and-mortar locations, you can still compromise by offering flexible shifts, hybrid work plans, or even something as simple as a loosened dress code (though pants in the workplace are still recommended).
  2. Opportunity. If you’re caught by surprise when a quality employee pursues work elsewhere, it may be worth reviewing their time at your company. Have they ever been sent to a professional conference or continuing education event? When’s the last time they were taught a new skill or walked through an unfamiliar aspect of your operation? Have they been encouraged to apply for internal promotions within the company? If you aren’t being proactive about giving your best employees opportunities to build a real career, it’s inevitable they’ll look elsewhere.
  3. Input. Key employees should feel like they have a stake in your operation. Regularly ask them for feedback and input, especially on matters that affect their day-to-day tasks. Changes to company policy or procedures should never be made before discussions among all the stakeholders, and the employees doing the hands-on work should be on that list. Even when their ideas can’t be implemented, workers appreciate feeling heard.
  4. Recognition. Speaking of appreciation, when’s the last time you’ve given your top employees special recognition? Be generous with your praise but make more tangible gestures as well. It doesn’t have to be as corny as an “employee of the week” wall, but it doesn’t always have to come in the form of expensive raises or bonuses either. Have a day each week where you order lunch for the office or get gift cards from other local businesses and hold weekly drawings for staff members who have gone above and beyond.
  5. Money. Sometimes it really is about the money, especially when many qualified employees would rather tighten their belts or attempt a career change than do public-facing work during a global pandemic. With all the line items to consider in your business’s budget, it can be easy to forget that employee satisfaction is one of your most important investments. If you’re unable to retain good employees or keep crucial positions filled, it may be time to come up with better metrics to measure the value of what your employees are doing for your company. Then make sure their compensation packages reflect that appropriately.

When all else fails, simply ask a departing employee what you can do to keep them on board. This question alone goes a long way towards making an employee feel valued and provides a great starting place for amicable negotiations. Contact Stang Decision Systems for more info.