Shankar, a professional with 8 years of experience, joined XYZ company amid the pandemic and started working remotely. His experience level and role were similar to that of Arjun, his team member, who has been with the organisation for the past 6 years. A few months into the job, Shankar raised concern with his HR manager that his colleagues weren’t approaching him for work and all the projects were going to Arjun. Feeling isolated from his colleagues and worried about his career growth, he put down his papers.
The company lost a deserving employee to an unfortunate but avoidable situation. Work can happen remotely, however, team building, bonding, and instilling a sense of belonging among employees are the biggest challenges that organisations face today. Post the initial turbulence caused by the COVID-19 crisis, companies are actively hiring remotely to ensure business continuity. The initial period of remote work culture witnessed a spike in employee productivity, followed by a rise in attrition. While employees are driven by career growth, great managers and teams, healthy work culture, and the right compensation, it is not enough to retain them in today’s remote work era.
A traditional work model allows for easy interaction with new employees. In the remote work model, the warmth of human interactions among team members has given way to agenda-driven online meetings. Most meetings are peripheral and do not offer room for employees to open up to others. It was no different in Shankar’s case. The virtual interactions didn’t help him connect with his colleagues personally, resulting in the unfortunate event of Shankar resigning from his job.
People tend to approach colleagues that they are familiar with, and as a result, new employees get impacted the most. Organisations have to be mindful that employees tend to give preferential treatment to colleagues that they know and trust. Overlooking this bias may result in newer employees leaving the organisation. To address this issue, companies need to encourage employees to value competency over familiarity. It is one of the biggest issues for organisations as feelings of disconnect among employees can lead to massive retention issues over the long term.
Another concern that the work from home model raises is creating a conducive work environment. Instilling a sense of belonging within new employees, inculcating the organisation's values, culture, and building chemistry among teams/team members are challenges to be addressed.
While the remote work model offers many benefits for both organisations and employees, it has its drawbacks as well. Some of the significant disadvantages include lack of avenues to foster bonding and build trust among team members, lateral learning, understanding company culture, and the lack of informal corridor dialogues that help them have their finger on the firm's pulse.
With the vaccination drive in full swing, companies are either reopening or planning to reopen their offices to employees. While some organisations are contemplating continuing the remote work model, others expect their employees to be present in person. Here are a few initiatives that companies can take to improve employee retention rates:
Adopting a hybrid work model
Remote work and traditional work from office models have their pros and cons. The ideal approach would be to adopt a hybrid model that brings together the best of both models. While remote work ensures employee productivity and convenience, working from the office fosters human interaction, team bonding, and lateral learning.
Organisations need to ensure that new employees spend time at the office with their manager and team members during the first few months of employment. This helps the employee to imbibe the company culture, learn from their colleagues and build rapport with them. Practicing this goes a long way in employee retention and satisfaction in the long term. It also paves the way for successful collaborations among team members when working remotely.
Integration of technology
Organisations that leverage both technology and the traditional work from the office thoughtfully will be successful in the future. It is unrealistic for an organisation to remain relevant in today's dynamic business ecosystem without leveraging technology. As businesses go beyond borders and become a part of the global ecosystem, adopting technology to its full potential and, in some cases, inventing new uses for it, is going to be the only way to stay competitive.
Empathising with the situation
Prioritising the wellbeing of employees and making them feel valued builds trust and consequently improves employee retention. Understanding and acknowledgement go a long way in securing a mutually beneficial relationship between the employee and the employer. Companies should rethink their strategy to support employees and create new tools to optimise productivity.
One way to make employees feel valued is to increase the frequency of formal feedback sessions where they get to air their concerns. Organisations should encourage employees to talk and share during informal meetings as well as skip level discussions
By giving rise to the need for remote work, the COVID-19 crisis has democratised the way we work and has united the world. Every country has its own corporate culture, the pandemic has brought about a tectonic shift in the global way of doing things and has acted as a leveller for work culture, across industries and levels.
We are at a decisive point, and the changes that companies make over the next two to three years will shape the corporate work culture for the coming decades. This situation presents a great opportunity to accelerate and incorporate a cultural change and transformation to create further resilience for the future.