Dear Workforce How Do We Improve Retention of Remote Workers

By Staff Report

Jan. 12, 2007

Dear Keeping Them Happy:

Retaining good workers is always a challenge in today’s competitive environment, but keeping workers who are geographically dispersed adds even more complexity. You should consider this three-step approach:

1. Make direct supervisors responsible for achieving retention goals. Smart organizations are shifting retention responsibility to leaders. Numerous pieces of research tell us that employees join for reasons of pay, benefits, duties or schedules. But how long they stay with a company most often is directly tied to relationships with their immediate supervisors. These organizations set retention goals with supervisors, track retention at the supervisor level, and then provide rewards and/or consequences to supervisors based on goal achievement. For example, tying 30 percent of a performance bonus to retention tends to motivate supervisors to work harder at keeping key people.

2. Provide supervisors with retention training and coaching so they can achieve their retention goals. What is the No. 1 quality that employees want in their leaders–the quality that will cause them to remain with your organization longer? The answer: They want a supervisor they trust.Building and maintaining trust with remote workers can be especially difficult because of the absence of daily personal contact. As a result, organizations must be especially keen to hire and promote “trust-builders” to supervisory positions. Then they must provide training to help them meet commitments, tell the truth, share credit but not blame, apologize and admit mistakes, and conduct other trust-building behaviors.

3. Ensure leaders on all levels have retention discussions with remote employees. Traditional supervisory updates are about production and other job tasks. Organizations can improve retention with remote employees by teaching leaders to initiate specific retention discussions, such as:

  • Tell me about a past leader whom you trusted. What did that leader do to earn your trust?
  • Tell me also about a past leader who broke trust so I don’t repeat that same behavior.
  • What can I do to make this a better place for you to work?
  • Can I count on you to tell me if something troubles you so much that you would consider leaving, so I can try to fix it?
  • Can I also count on you to ask any of your peers to come to me with their concerns, rather having you and I both lose the contributions of that person?

Make your leaders/supervisors accountable for retention and equip them with the skills or training they’ll need. It is the best strategy for retaining a geographically dispersed workforce.

SOURCE: Dick Finnegan,TalentKeepers, Maitland, Florida, March 29, 2006.

LEARN MORE: Please read a related Workforce Management article titled Personalizing Motivation.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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