Employee retention

Foster employee loyalty: 5 ways to increase retention in a remote workplace

Here are 5 ways to strengthen employee loyalty and increase retention when your workplace shifts to remote.

Kate Brown

November 15, 2022

A 2022 study by Metlife found that 70% of employees plan to stick with their current employer for at least the next 12 months. 

That may sound like a healthy percentage, sure, but in 2018 that number stood at 80%. And while the drop-off might not seem overly dramatic (particularly considering the seismic shift the employment landscape has seen in recent years), it does point to the increasing challenge many businesses face in keeping their employees loyal.

Of course, there are likely many contributors to this overall decrease in employee loyalty, but the speedy and increasing adoption of remote working is almost certainly one. 

Remote work has changed perceptions of employee loyalty

When most businesses operated a largely office-based culture, job searches were usually limited by geography, but now that more businesses are embracing flexible working (in some cases enabling a ‘work from anywhere’ mentality), location is rarely a barrier to the next opportunity. 

Inevitably, that creates a candidate-led market where employers can struggle to retain their top talent amid a myriad of attractive options. 

The rise of flexible working environments

The increasing demand for flexible working has also shifted employees’ expectations of their employers: in a 2021 survey, for example, almost half of UK workers said they’d consider leaving their jobs if their employers failed to offer flexible working. 

Flexibility can mean any number of things (flexibility over location, hours, or both, or the opportunity to work asynchronously), but increasingly a degree of flexibility is being treated as a minimum expectation — not merely a perk. Here, too, there’s potential for employee loyalty to be impacted since workers might be tempted to jump ship for a seemingly more flexible role. 

5 tips to foster employee loyalty and increase retention

While remote work might make hanging on to the best talent more difficult, how can ‘flexible’ employers (those who offer fully remote work or even a hybrid setup) promote employee loyalty? Here are five of our top tips.

1. Provide genuine flexibility

Remote work is typically a key facet of any flexible working environment, but allowing remote work alone doesn’t necessarily constitute flexibility. For example,

  • Do you trust your employees enough to let them work to their own schedules? 
  • Do you provide the operational and personal support necessary to enable them to work flexibly? 

The last thing you want as an employer is to be accused of ‘flex-washing.’ 

Whether you deliberately overpromise and underdeliver on flexibility or do so unwittingly, an employer who claims to support flexible working while, in reality, doing little to accommodate it is likely to experience a higher-than-healthy employee turnover. 

If you make promises about your commitment to flexibility, be sure you can deliver on them: employees who feel exploited will inevitably look elsewhere for a genuinely flexible employer

If you’re willing, you might even introduce asynchronous working, which enables you to hire international talent remotely without disparate time zones causing too much bother. 

You’d need to consider the legal implications of doing so, of course, as navigating overseas regulations can be complex (third-party solutions such as the employer of record service by Remote can mitigate this), but if you could make suitable arrangements, then it could be a huge boon to your workforce. 

2. Prioritize employee development

Keeping employees engaged with your business for the long term is all about enabling them to envisage a future with your company. 

If they see little room for progression, they’ll likely see the role as a stepping stone to bigger things — and you’re unlikely to keep them for much longer than a year, as they’ll move on as soon as they feel they’re ready to ‘step up.’ 

Conversely, if they’re confident they'll have the opportunity to develop with your company—whether through internal upskilling or mentoring opportunities— you’re more likely to attract (and retain) ambitious, career-minded folk than lose them to a competitor or cause them to see the role as a temporary gig. 

Of course, this can feel more challenging in a remote environment since a perceived lack of visibility might be associated with more limited opportunities for career development: a 2022 survey of Gen Z employees support this, with 77% of respondents fearing that remote work is restricting their progression. 

With that in mind, it’s even more important to ensure remote employees feel they have the same access to development opportunities as they would if they were physically present. 

Ways to prioritize employee development in a remote workplace include: 

  • Establishing a mentoring program: Putting a mentoring framework in place is a great way to help your employees develop their skills. By matching a mentor to a mentee based on their goals and their existing knowledge, you can create a ‘coaching culture’ that fosters growth. 
  • Providing access to training: Whether your employee is looking to master a new skill for their current role or they’re looking to ‘level up’ for their next one, it’s important to provide them development opportunities to learn at every stage of their career.
  • Setting clear, tangible goals: With no measurable objectives (or at least, very tentative or completely unachievable ones), it’s difficult for an employee to know how to develop. From the outset, set clear yet realistic goals and review their progress at regular intervals. 
  • Requesting feedback: Since it can be harder in a remote setting to get a sense of how an employee is feeling, it’s important to encourage their feedback. Whether it’s anonymous or via a face-to-face meeting, encourage your employees to tell you whether they feel their development is being properly supported. 
  • Encouraging innovation: Employees will only develop as long as you give them the freedom to do so; giving them a platform to share ideas and challenge the status quo will empower them to take charge of their own careers and develop at pace. 

3. Offer the right support

There’s a misconception that remote work is easy (too easy, if you ask someone like Elon Musk), but the reality is it often comes with a whole host of challenges. 

It’s important to recognize that working this way doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Perhaps your employee might be in their first remote role, or it’s taking them a while to adapt to working differently. 

Ensure you not only enable your staff to work remotely but support them in doing so. 

As the CEO of Airbnb recognizes, too often employers focus on productivity being the biggest challenge facing remote workers, when in fact, they should be considering factors such as loneliness. 

Particularly for those who live alone, working remotely 100% of the time can be pretty isolating — especially when their role requires a high level of self-sufficiency — and they’re unlikely to feel any loyalty to a company that ‘forgets’ them.

The right operational (as well as emotional) support is essential to workplace well-being. Ensuring they have everything they need to work productively (and happily) in a remote setting is likely to keep employees around for longer. Whether that’s:

  • accommodating their childcare needs or 
  • ensuring they have an ergonomically-sound home office setup, 

Create a checklist at the onboarding stage and ensure you deliver everything they need. Fail to provide the right support, and don’t be surprised when you receive their resignation letter. 

4. Recognize accomplishments

One of the challenges employees face in a remote work environment is making themselves seen. Because they’re not physically in the presence of their colleagues and their superiors, it can feel like their achievements go unnoticed much of the time. 

That’s not likely to encourage loyalty — since it may lead to disillusionment and resentment — so it’s important to ensure all your employees are getting the recognition they deserve — whether they work remotely all the time or they occasionally attend the office. 

Ways to encourage employee recognition in a remote workplace include:

  • Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition. Receiving thanks or praise from peers is often especially rewarding, so try to encourage your teams to recognize each other’s achievements. Officevibe’s Good Vibes feature is a great way of showering praise on a colleague who has gone above and beyond. 
  • Employee spotlighting. Whenever you have the platform (in a company-wide or team-wide meeting, for example), use it as an opportunity to share your employees’ achievements with the wider business. 
  • Offering rewards. Non-cash rewards are a great way to recognize your top performers, whether you introduce an ‘employee of the month’ scheme and offer a prize to the winner, or simply dish out rewards for great performance when merited. 
  • Just saying thanks. A simple thank you goes a long way, and sometimes that’s all it takes to show someone you appreciate them. If one of your employees has done an especially good job, don’t forget to thank them for their hard work. 

5. Avoid micromanagement

In any remote work environment, trust is an essential component. When employees were expected to attend physical offices most of the time, they were visible — managers could measure productivity by how many hours their employees spent at their desks, safe in the knowledge they weren’t ‘slacking off’. 

But that’s not as straightforward in a remote environment, of course — there’s a delicate balance between monitoring productivity and ensuring privacy to be navigated, but a remote work environment can’t survive without the existence of trust between employer and employee.

Many employers understand this, but there are those who have struggled with the idea that remote work and productivity aren’t mutually exclusive. 

For those, their aversion to remote work might manifest itself as micromanagement: unwilling to trust that their employees are being productive while working remotely, a typical micromanager might engage in any of the following:

  • Lacking trust in their employees to carry out their roles effectively without their input or supervision.
  • Requesting constant updates on the progress of tasks and projects.
  • Telling an employee precisely how to carry out a specific task or action (despite the fact they’re perfectly capable of completing it without assistance).
  • Failing to ‘step away’ from tasks and projects, and not being willing to delegate responsibilities.
  • Regularly ‘checking up’ on people by firing off constant emails or booking hastily-arranged meetings.

Micromanagement in any working environment is generally unwelcome, but in a remote setup, it speaks to a severe lack of trust and is likely to drive away talented employees. 

When it comes to employee loyalty, ensuring your staff remain productive without having to resort to micromanagement is the key — don’t be afraid to delegate, but put the onus on your team to approach you when they have an update or are in need of support. 

In conclusion

While it could conceivably be argued that remote working is one the main reasons for a drop-off in employee loyalty (owing largely to the myriad opportunities open to candidates and their increasing demand for fully flexible employment), that doesn’t mean remote work and employee loyalty can’t go together. 

It can be more challenging in a remote environment to create long-term bonds between companies and their employees, sure, but by offering the kind of genuine flexibility that employees want and expect, ensuring they have access to development opportunities, providing the right support, recognizing their accomplishments, and trusting in their ability to work productively from anywhere, you can encourage your employees to stick with you for years to come.

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