The global workplace culture and professional realm have experienced remarkable changes following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aftermath of the pandemic specifically, includes what is informally known as the “great resignation”, where employees have resigned from their positions at mass rates, leaving employers scrambling to assess how to maintain a healthy workforce.
As the employment world is shifting from a peak pandemic state to a more settled post-pandemic norms, employers must continue to consider how they will manage their company practices to promote employee retention in this pandemic context.
Additional retention strategies, outside of the pandemic, to consider can be found here.
Below we have set out some considerations that can be easily overlooked when developing employee retention strategies, and potentially new strategies to incorporate in this new climate.
BASELINE: THE GREAT RESIGNATION AND HOW TO MOVE FORWARD
Employers will not be able to develop any meaningful employee retention program without an understanding as to why these programs are necessary in the current professional climate. Employee retention now is a vastly different scheme than even three years ago.
During the pandemic we witnessed an ongoing and pervasive economic trend of resignations across all industries. This trend was strongly seen in 2021, prompted by wage issues, cost of living issues, job satisfaction deficiencies and safety concerns in relation to the virus. While this trend was most seen in the United States, as Canada begins to open economically, employers will likely need a strategy to avoid these sorts of resignations here.
Some common factors among the employees who participated in the great resignation are:
- Age 30 to 45, or employees who were “mid career”
- Described as overworked and over stressed
- Expressed desire to maintain a flexible work schedule
- The #1 reason cited was the desire to maintain remote work
- Work life balance, especially for those in the younger age range
While Canada has seen not seen as high of a level of employee resignation compared to the United States, surveys indicate that Canadian employers will need to focus on employee retention in order to maintain their workforce.
Recent surveys have indicated that employees are finding that remote work has significantly improved their work-life balance, and that flexibility in their hours will be a key factor in assessing whether their continue in their current role.
Employees are asking for a greater for more focus on wellness, work-life balance, greater control over their meetings scheduled and investment into technology to improve their hybrid work experience. An overall trend is coming to light that employees are unwilling to return to in-person work in the conventional structure, even going as far to secure other remote employment should they be required to return in person.
SUGGESTED TO-DO’s FOR EMPLOYERS
There are several approaches that employers can take to maintaining their workforce. A common theme you will find is making retention approaches truly employee centric. Learn more below.
- Different Issues for Different Industries
As hinted at above, employers must engage in an independent analysis of their workforce, as well as the industry this workforce operates in. Simply put, there are different employee retention issues across industries, each unique to the impact that COVID-19 had on their respective economic fields.
There were industries that boomed during the pandemic, who’s services were highly demanded. These employees may be concerned with compensation, for example, as their demands skyrocketed to keep up with increased demand.
On the other hand, there were industries that suffered immensely, with government shutdowns leading to prolonger lay off periods for employees.
- Identify what employees you wish to retain
Employers should take time to consider which employees they would like to focus retention efforts on. There is no one size fits all strategy to employee retention, so it is better to focus efforts on core groups that will give employers the most value and advantages in the long-term.
Considering this, employers should ensure that any terminations are compliant with the appropriate employment standards legislation. If not, these terminations could lead to expensive wrongful dismissal claims.
- Learn about your workforce
Employee retention is heavily determined by an employer’s knowledge of their workforce, and their ability to meet their needs appropriately. Employers should capitalize on the movement that comes with the assessment of their workforce, and potential terminations or resignations. Employers can consider conducting exit interviews with employees, as those leaving the organization may have valuable insight and the ability to be honest about what would have benefitted their time with the employer.
Employers should ensure that have appropriate severance packages in these situations, should they be required.
- Be aware as to what is going on in your industry
Just as there are different issues for different industries as set out above, there are also different measures being taken industry by industry to address employee retention. Employers should ensure that they are keeping a finger on the pulse of other comparable employers. If there are employers who are, for example, moving to an entirely remote structure while another is remaining hybrid, an employer not following suit could be concerned for employees who now have an opportunity to meet their professional needs externally.
- Considering remote work
Remote work is one of the most visible results of the pandemic on the working world. In short, it seems as though employers are going to have to assess how to make remote, or hybrid, working structures a part of their workplace practices.
Things Employers should factor in:
- What does hybrid work really mean? Employers should consider whether the term “hybrid” is meaningful if employees are still required to be in-person more than 3 days a week.
- What will the hybrid work schedule look like for employees? Employers should consider tailoring these schedules to not only fit the business needs, but also the employees need.
Tips for remote work:
Have clear remote work policies.
Once you have determined what your workplace needs to be sustainable, use these findings to develop clear policies for your employees. Employers should be clear on how remote work policy functions, and what is means for their employees. This policy and this knowledge should be actively distributed to employees.
To bolster employee retention, employers can consider including the following in their remote work policies:
- A requirement to disconnect, such as a length of time per day where employees are not permitted to be online in an employment capacity;
- Built in expectations about hours of work;
- Confidentiality parameters;
- Addressing ergonomics concerns, such as a desk chair stipend;
- Addressing equipment usage such as laptops, and setting out for employees exactly what devices are to be used for work purposes;
- Addressing employee monitoring, explaining what sort of monitoring the employer engages with, and helping to establish the employee’s expectation for privacy;
- Addressing what is paid for the employees (i.e., is the employer paying for employee’s home internet?)
- Explain what location the work must be performed in (i.e., are employees to work out of coffee shops?)
- Explain any personal requirements – for example, employees are required to attend the office, but only for a bi-weekly meeting; and lastly
- Employers should ensure to explain exactly how long this policy is in place for.
Bill 88: Working for Workers Act touches on many of these issues, and can be learned more about here.
A common theme you may see above is the focus on transparency with employees. This transparency is pivotal – generally speaking, people like clarity. These clear expectations will allow for employees to make informed decisions about maintaining or beginning employment with an employer, increasing the likelihood for workplace satisfaction.
- Other alternative work structures or benefits
Aside from remote work, there are additional workplace undertakings that employers can take on that can drastically improve employee retention.
One consideration for the appropriate employer could be the four-day work week. While a newer concept, this innovative structure could certainly function as a motivator for employees to remain with an employer. While not every business structure is able to sustain these type of operating hours, we do see organizations such as law firms implement this through half days in the summer, with the rest of the working days absorbing that time lost.
Another consideration that aligns with desires of employees is a focus on health and wellness. As explained above, surveys are finding that employees are increasingly focused on the role their job takes in their wellness. To capitalize on this and satisfy their employees, employers can consider wellness initiatives such as group benefits, or contributing to a comfortable and efficient home office set up.
In line with the wellness focus, employers should consider reflecting their employees’ perspectives into their workplace ethos and practices. This can be done in a variety of ways, including gender neutral language practices, or other demonstrations of how you would deal with issues that are important to employees in the workplace.
- Compensation and Advancement
While the pandemic has shown that compensation is not the sole factor in driving employee retention, compensation and advancement continue to be a rope that ties employees to their roles. To benefit most from this, employers should consider the roles both advancement and compensation play in retention.
Employers should be highlighting to employees, whether there is opportunity for employee advancement, and that employees are not compelled to remain in the same role for years. Employers should focus on promoting internally and investing in the careers of their employees to increase loyalty that is required for long-term retention.
While compensation is a classic employee retention technique, the great resignation and survey results as described above demonstrate that financial incentives are simply not enough to keep employees. Employers should ensure that salaries are not the only focus for employee satisfaction.
While compensation may not be an employees only motivator, employers can certainly leverage with different compensation strategies to garner the most value from their wages paid. One way to do this with employees could be deferred bonuses. With an attached timeline, employees may be more inclined to remain in a workplace to access this extra sum of money.
SUGGESTED DON’Ts FOR EMPLOYERS
While the following might be tempting from an employer standpoint, these are strategies that will not serve employees or employers alike when creating a healthy and dynamic workplace and business model.
- Have employees sign fixed term contracts
While it may seem as though it would be effective to secure an employee for a particular period time, this strategy does not allow for the growth of a healthy committed workforce. Employees are still permitted to resign from these contracts, contravening the goal of retaining employees long term.
- Attempting to fine an employee for resigning
Employees are permitted to resign from their roles. An employer attempting to prevent an employee from doing so does not benefit an employer’s business, nor does it honor their employees’ rights.
- Require an unreasonably long resignation period
A resignation period requirement is standard in an employment agreement. With that being said, employers should consider whether an unreasonably long resignation period will benefit their employee retention in a meaningful way. While the employee is remaining for the time being, their employment dedication may no longer be as present.
CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION
We encourage you to contact, Toronto employment lawyers, Sultan Lawyers, for a free call back or flat-rate consultation to better understand your rights and the options available to you in relation to employee retention practices. Please contact us by telephone at (416) 214-5111 or via email at email@example.com.
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