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Remote Culture 11 min read

Seven Strategies to Retain Remote Talent

Ayesha Renyard photo

Ayesha Renyard

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Published 22 Sep 2021

The pandemic has created a lot of turbulence in the job market. 

At the height of the pandemic, many people were being laid off—which allowed business owners to call the shots. Unemployed folks were desperate for any source of income, taking pay cuts or accepting work in a different field. And those unhappy at their workplace stuck around—because hey, at least they had a job.

With more and more companies transitioning to remote work, the tables have turned. Top talent now have an international pool of employers to choose from, giving them the upper hand. 

To attract quality workers, you need a remote strategy that stands out from the rest. And to retain them, you need to be able to execute your strategy well. (“Walk the walk,” as they say.)

As a fully remote company ourselves, we know a thing or two about building a digital workplace that’s appealing to employers and employees alike—and we’re here to share the secrets with you. As part of our Remote Culture Series, here are seven strategies for retaining remote talent. 

1. Create a Seamless Onboarding Process

First impressions are everything. Most businesses overlook that the probation period is also a time for new employees to evaluate their new employer. To avoid losing top talent within the first few months, you need to make a solid first impression—your onboarding process needs to be seamless. 

What can you do to create a positive onboarding experience?

  • Make new employees feel welcome—from introductions to team building activities
  • Provide training on all the company tools, programs, and platforms 
  • Prepare company documentation that’s organized and easily accessible
  • Communicate clear job expectations and set goals 
  • Have consistent check-ins, invite questions, and provide support where needed 

As valuable as these skilled workers are to you, you also need to demonstrate your value to them. Providing support and clear communication virtually is much more challenging than in-office. But if you can nail it down right from the get-go, you demonstrate your investment in their growth, and they’ll be more likely to stick around. 

Source: Talent Lyft

Key takeaway: 

Do: Communicate openly and often, especially during the first few months. Consistent one-on-one check-ins with their managers will help them feel supported. 

Don’t: Overwhelm your new employees with too much information at once. Allow them to take their time with onboarding. 

2. Help Optimize Their Remote Workspace

Companies that win over top remote talent make a conscious effort to help optimize their workspaces. Here are some common ways to set up your new employees for success: 

  • Supply a laptop with company systems installed
  • Lend out additional equipment, such as computer monitors and laptop stands 
  • Provide an ergonomic desk and chair if needed

Many remote-first companies also offer employees a one-time budget to spend on their remote office because everyone’s needs are likely very different. While one may be in the market for an ergonomic chair, another may need proper lighting or a stronger Wi-Fi connection. What matters is that they use this money to create a space that’ll boost productivity. 

Key takeaway: 

Do: Continually revisit and fine-tune your policy. What your employees need today may be different from what they need tomorrow. 

Don’t: Be rigid. Remote work looks different to everyone, so be open with how you can lend support. 

3. Get Input on How to Communicate 

According to research by Buffer, communication is a top challenge for remote workers in 2021. We’re not surprised—it’s tricky to find just the right balance. On the one hand, we hear about Zoom fatigue and too many video calls. On the other hand, we hear about a lack of connection and transparency. So, where’s the middle ground?

The answer is: it depends. 

What works for one company may not work for another. What works for one employee may not work for another. The best way to navigate this challenge is to ask your employees what works best for them. Make this an individual and team-wide conversation—and find common ground. 

Source: Standups.io

Here are some questions you should ask them: 

  • Which platform works best for informal communication?
  • What is an appropriate time to expect a response? 
  • What’s the sweet spot for video calls? 
  • How would you like to receive company-wide updates? 
  • How do you prefer to receive feedback?

Remember, this is a learning experience. To keep remote talent happy, keep your ears open on how you can improve your communication strategy.

Key takeaway: 

Do: Consider adopting asynchronous communication—communication without the expectation of an immediate response. With employees spanning five time zones, it’s been imperative to our success here at Galactic Fed. 

Don’t: Blindly adopt communication platforms and channels. Offer variety to suit your employees’ needs, but make sure there’s alignment regarding their purposes. 

4. Foster Connection and Culture 

There’s a misconception that remote workplaces can’t foster connection and culture. (No more watercooler conversations? Free luncheons? Friday happy hour? I guess that means no more culture.) 

That’s company culture as many know it. So when companies transitioned to remote work, many lost their culture—and understandably, many lost their top performers. 

As a remote-first company since its inception, we’re telling you it’s important (and absolutely possible) to pivot your strategy and create a strong culture remotely. Having a corporate culture that attracts top talent can lead to 33% more revenue. You just have to think outside the box. (But keep within the computer screen, if you know what I’m saying.)

Here are some tried-and-true ideas to build connection based on our own successes: 

  • Create Slack channels to uncover shared interests. Food, books, fitness, travel, cute dog photos—these are all topics that people can bond over (especially that last one). 
  • Create a public platform for teammates to recognize each other’s work. It feels good to be acknowledged. These small gestures keep employees happy and increase connection. 
  • Fund an organized class together, such as a painting or cooking class. Virtual activities that require some moving around are far less awkward than forced conversation over a Zoom happy hour. 
  • Organize friendly competitions to encourage engagement. In the past, we’ve created quizzes based on fun facts about our employees. We also held a photo competition, which entailed weekly submissions based on different themes.  

Key takeaway: 

Do: Remote company culture is totally achievable. Even the smallest gestures go a long way. But we recommend committing to organized activities at least once a quarter. 

Don’t: Choose activities that could make people uncomfortable or anxious. Instead, choose easy-to-participate games so everyone can have fun. 

5. Be Flexible 

Did you know that the biggest perk of remote work—according to remote workers—is flexibility? You get to work from anywhere, with flexible hours, as long as the job gets done. (I can vouch for this perk.)

Source: Buffer

Yes, the days of clocking in and out of the office are over. And if you’re worried that means your employees are sitting in their pajamas watching television all day, then you need to hear this stat: 

Compared to March and April 2019, productivity levels have increased 47% this year

This is why we believe async communication is so important. It truly embodies flexible remote work—and we can see that’s very important to remote workers. 

But we understand that work still needs to get done—and it’s hard to collaborate when people work different schedules. To mitigate this, we recommend adopting a project management tool to keep everyone on track with deadlines, no matter their work hours.

Key takeaway: 

Do: Trust your employees that they’ll get the job done when they need to get it done. Micromanaging will not help you retain remote talent. 

Don’t: Leave fuzzy, grey areas. Communicate when team calls are mandatory and when they’re optional, so there’s no confusion. 

6. Promote a Healthy Work/Life Balance 

While flexible work hours are a major plus, remote workers cite the inability to unplug as one of their biggest challenges. 

Source: Buffer

It makes sense. Because the workplace is often the home, lines certainly get blurred. 

The inability to unplug doesn’t just stem from overbearing employers. As employees, we’re all guilty of checking our work email after hours. 

So, as the employer, you need to set the tone. Block off lunch hours in your team’s calendar—and encourage those 15-minute coffee breaks or walks. Make sure everyone books their vacation time. Burnout is a real thing.

Key takeaway: 

Do: Set scheduled messages if you’re working after hours, so your employees see them when they sign on the next day. If they see emails coming in at 9 PM on a Saturday, they may feel pressure to respond. 

Don’t: Turn a blind eye if you see an employee consistently working overtime. It could indicate that their workload is too much, which could cause them to leave your company down the line. 

7. Ask for Feedback Often 

Many businesses are doing this whole remote thing for the first time. So it’s okay if you don’t have everything ironed out. The important thing is to ask for feedback from your employees and adjust your strategies accordingly. 

Using an employee engagement platform, you can:

  • Conduct company-wide engagement surveys 
  • Request anonymous reviews of management 
  • Ask for personal performance assessments 

You can also ask for feedback during one-on-ones with managers or even team-wide calls. Here are some key topics that you should be requesting feedback on: 

  • Company processes, tools, platforms
  • Management and leadership styles
  • Communication (channels, frequency, etc.)
  • Training and professional development
  • Team-building activities and culture
  • Workload and work-life balance

Source: HiFives

Every quarter, it’s good to revisit these areas with the team and gauge their satisfaction. To retain top talent, you need to be attentive to any challenges that arise. 

Key takeaway: 

Do: Keep these conversations casual to encourage participation. Accompanying the call with a virtual whiteboard can make these sessions fun and engaging. 

Don’t: Put people on the spot. Whether it’s through an employee engagement platform or on a call, give people time to reflect and respond when they feel comfortable. 

Need More Tips for Leading a Remote Company?

Running a remote company ain’t easy—we know that from experience. But with years under our belt, we’re here to pay it forward. Check out these blog posts for more tips: 

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Ayesha Renyard photo

Ayesha Renyard

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

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