The Covid-19 pandemic caused a lot of business owners to reassess their businesses and resources. (“Pivot” was the popular term). This type of analysis was critical to weather the storm and take advantage of opportunities in a changing business environment. For many business owners I know, this review reinforced, or made clear, that their employees are their most valuable resource. The right people can help your business survive all kinds of crises…and the wrong people can drag it down, wasting time and energy that’s needed to keep the business going strong.
To keep their businesses strong, owners are becoming very motivated to understand what their employees really want and to do their best to provide it. And it’s no surprise that the pandemic has also caused employees to reassess their priorities. They have emerged with new expectations and goals. Many employees are reconsidering their values and some are making major changes in their personal lives. Smart business owners will pay attention to these shifts to attract and retain the best people for their companies.
Employees are leaving town
A new workforce survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers says 22% of American workers plan to move more than 50 miles away from a “core office location.” This is in addition to the 12% who have already made this move! As you might expect, this group is skewed toward those who work remotely and can move without affecting their work, as well as those who’ve been laid off or furloughed and may be seeking new work elsewhere.
What’s causing this shift? The survey speculates that many families are seeking a lower cost of living in a new location. Long-term unemployment is at a 60-year high, and nearly 3 million women have dropped out of the workforce. And it’s also possible that people now view cities as higher-risk for Covid-19 than more rural areas.
But what if my business can’t operate with remote workers?
Does this mean all employers need to adapt to fully remote workforces? Not necessarily. Many businesses provide in-person services or products – think groceries, landscaping, realtors, and many more. And many workers still want to interact in-person with co-workers, supervisors, and subordinates at least some of the time.
But it does mean employers should be sensitive to the new stresses their workers may be facing. Consider how to make work as flexible as possible, whether that means flex, remote, or hybrid schedules, or more family leave to take care of the kids, or even some creative opportunities to earn more by contributing more to the company’s success.
Take advantage of this relocation trend
On the flip side, there’s a benefit for many companies who can take advantage of hiring the large pool of people who are willing to work remotely from all over the country. You may be able to restructure some jobs or work processes to allow remote work, and access a much larger pool of candidates that way. For example, the bookkeeper for a landscaping business could be remote, with a few adaptations. And for those positions that require in-person work, don’t forget to advertise widely to capture the candidates who are willing to move for the right work opportunity. Just remember that it will take proactive, sustained effort to ensure remote and in-person workers get to know each other and work together successfully.
Money isn’t everything
Many employers think that traditional benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, are the main draw for recruiting new employees. But employees are also looking for quality of life – and that means benefits such as paid time off to volunteer, flexible work hours, and more sick and vacation time, plus a company culture that encourages them to actually use these benefits. A significant portion of employees surveyed said they valued these benefits so much that they would give up some part of their future earnings in return for them.
Educational benefits are highly valued these days, and flexibility applies here too. Employees want to have the option to choose which skills to learn. And they’re more aware than ever of the value of “soft skills” such as problem-solving and adaptability. Employees understand the link between skills, productivity, and employability, and appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills to become even more valuable at work.
These results don’t mean that you have to offer every one of these particular benefits. It’s simply an indicator that your overall compensation package can be more creative, potentially offering increased value to your employees without hugely increasing your costs.
Your people are your most important business resource. Post-Covid, their expectations and goals have changed significantly. In order to thrive moving forward, business owners will need to consider these changed motivations to recruit and retain quality employees.