2020 was a year like no other. At times, our businesses, communities and families experienced uncertainty, fear and anxiety. But we faced the impact of COVID-19 with the determination and hope that has prepared us to resume work and life in the new normal. Now, as we enter what we hope will be a healthier and safer 2021, economic and financial experts agree that the economy will rebound. So how do we remain resilient in the post-pandemic era?
The answer is easy but requires diligence and perseverance to achieve: Retain top talent in an increasingly competitive landscape with new rules and a new normal.
Two Key Factors in 2020: Unwavering Competition for Talent and Employee Burnout
As many businesses adapt, reopen and recover, two key factors are shaping retention in Finance and Accounting.
First, while 2020 unemployment rates soared for many sectors, most Finance and Accounting teams experienced little disruption. Initial reaction to the pandemic brought about some staffing cuts and RIFs in Q2, but those were quickly replaced as businesses pivoted to meet changing needs. Overall, the Finance and Accounting employment market remained strong, and top talent was difficult to resource as companies continued to compete for the best and the brightest in the field.
Second, work from home (WFH) wasn’t overly difficult to initiate, but it took a toll on company culture and employee morale. Most businesses were quick to implement secure WFH technology and workplace modifications while maintaining employee productivity. However, the isolation of remote work with no interactions — face-to-face meetings, hanging out in the lunchroom, attending company events and participating in team-building experiences — led to feelings of loneliness, burnout and a loss of connection to company mission and vision.
SHRM reported that workplaces will feel the aftershocks of isolation and burnout long after the pandemic is over.
Entering a strong economic recovery period with a constrained talent pool and new levels of employee burnout, which may result in top talent looking for greener pastures, requires a strategic approach to retention in 2021.
In this blog, we look at two top retention strategies for today’s market. Next week, we’ll round out the list with three additional ways to boost your retention.
The correlation between holistic employee wellbeing and engagement
Employee wellbeing is more than physical health; a robust approach includes mental and emotional wellness, too. During the past year, ARG saw firsthand how the pandemic impacted employee wellbeing. Business leaders were given the opportunity to exercise empathy and truly understand the personal situations of their employees: managing children’s remote learning at home, caring for elder parents, balancing WFH with household responsibilities, falling ill and losing loved ones.
As stewards of the employee experience and wellbeing, we learned how to listen more, become more flexible and be more human — traits identified in a recent Gallop employee engagement meta-analysis, “to maximize employee performance, leaders should care how well their employees’ psychological needs are being met and how they are evaluating and experiencing their lives, whether at work or at home.”
To keep this momentum in 2021, executives and HR managers also need to understand how engagement and recognition play a significant role in wellbeing. Now is the time to extend our empathy and show continuous gratitude for individual employee contributions as we navigate the new normal. According to Gallup, “Workplace burnout is reduced to near zero among engaged, high-wellbeing employees who also work in a culture that honors individual strengths.”
If leaders have learned anything from 2020, it is that employee wellbeing is an essential factor in business survival. If your employees aren’t healthy your business won’t succeed.
Pro-tip: 2020 also put a spotlight on how highly employees value benefits. If possible, include holistic wellbeing programs in your benefits plan that include physical, mental and emotional health.
“Flexwork” helps accommodate new fluctuations in managing home life
Many companies are taking different approaches to office building reentry. Some are extending WFH policies through 2021. Others are staggering work schedules, offering “extra” office hours that allow employees to work earlier or later in the day. (This also helps reduce time spent commuting during peak hours.) Many have adopted flexwork options that blend time in the office with time working remotely, such as three days onsite and two offsite.
A number of business were already moving toward a flexwork culture prior to the pandemic, with Forbes reporting 5 million Americans working from home at least half-time in the last decade, an increase of 173%.
Pro-tip: As you research all the options, flexwork might be a good interim compromise for employees managing schedules that fluctuate due to children’s remote learning and/or spouse’s work schedules (especially if their partner is employed in an essential services industry). Flexwork can be perceived and promoted as another 2021 benefit as part of your empathetic company culture.
Next week, we’ll continue the conversation with three additional retention strategies.