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Top 7 Ways to Retain Your Employees During COVID-19 (Or Literally Any Other Time)

While the challenges of working through a global pandemic continue, many organizations have started to go back to "business as usual" when it comes to their operations. There's also a misconception that employees aren't going anywhere. I've heard the phrase "most people just feel lucky to have a job right now" thrown around a number times over the last few months. But, I've also seen a ton of job postings on LinkedIn. The reality is that good people will leave for the right opportunity regardless of external factors.


Now, I'm a big proponent of supporting people's aspirations no matter where it takes them; however, there's a lot of people that want to stay in their current workplace and are looking for reasons to do so.



It is time to step back and consider a combination of macro-level changes and individual engagement points with colleagues to keep your top performers engaged and to keep your workforce connected. Side bonus: this is all just the right thing to do, anyway.

  1. Listen to them. It is very easy to make decisions that affect your employees without them. One way around that? Simply ask them. Try 1:1 conversations or conduct focus groups with your HR partners. If your workforce is too massive to do either, send a survey. Do not make assumptions.

  2. Put them first. Be unequivocally clear in both your actions and your words that their health and safety is the number 1 priority. Full stop.

  3. Provide tools for managers. Organization-wide messaging from leadership is key for setting the "tone from the top" but managers often have the biggest impact on the day-to-day experiences of employees because of their direct engagement. Provide resources for managers including key messaging, information about company policies that promote flexibility and employee support and examples of inclusive leadership.

  4. Review your benefits. Are they as inclusive as they can be? If you're not sure, hire a benefits specialist to review them. What can you offer to employees that is specific to this time? [Hint: you will have more data to help inform this piece after completing #1]. Consider childcare/eldercare supports, longer leave, more vacation days… be creative and don't feel constrained by what you currently offer. These are the changes that can make or break an employee's experience of working for you during the pandemic.

  5. Do not create a one size fits all plan to return to the office. To the extent possible, take into account job type and individual interest. Err on the side of providing employees with the control over their timeline for returning to in person operations.

  6. Create a bit of fun. To the extent that it is completely optional, provide opportunities for employees to connect with one another and feel excited about work as a whole. Invite employees to send in photos and share them on your intranet site or in newsletters. Set up an employee campaign where you invite colleagues to pitch ideas around a specific topic or issue that your organization or industry is facing.

  7. Be open. Be real. Be human. If you've never shown vulnerability, either as an individual leader or as an organization, now is the time. People want honesty and transparency even if it's a bit messy because that's what's real. And, remember: "We are all in the same boat, but not the same storm." - origin unknown.

Not surprisingly, most of these retention approaches are simply good practice no matter what year it is. It is easy to overcomplicate the concept of retaining strong talent. When it comes down to it, most people want to know that you genuinely have their interests at heart and that you care about them as a person, not just as an employee. It's as simple - and as challenging - as that.

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