Many companies are using “work from home” as a perk or a way of retaining their best people. But is working remotely setting them up to be picked off by the competition? It could be. Given that the replacement costs of recruiting, training, and making up for lost productivity can be three times someone’s salary, this is not a minor consideration.
Speaking to several recruiters over the years, we’ve learned that there are three main reasons remote workers are susceptible to being recruited elsewhere:
The work is transactional.
When we see each other every day, we build friendships, or at least strong working relationships that connect us to our work, to the organization as a whole, and to the people on our team. If we work alone on individual tasks all day we don’t build those ties that can make us choose one job over another.
People leave for the same reasons they always have- the boss.
The old expressions we’ve use many times is “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” If you have a good relationship with your manager, odds are you’re more willing to stick things out and less likely to look elsewhere. The good news is that this is still true. The bad news is that working remotely (even part of the time) can make for weaker links between you and your boss, and on a bad day can make working somewhere else reallllllly tempting.
The barriers to leaving are no longer there.
Tempted to look for a different job? What’s stopping you? When we get hired for a job in a traditional workplace, we arrange our lives to fit the circumstances. If we have to think about a longer commute, or changing child care arrangements, or the time you have to be in the office, and the cute restaurant next door where we get great tacos, we might think twice about changing jobs. When nothing changes about the way you work other than the network you dial into, there is less stopping you from seeking greener pastures.
So what are some things long-distance leaders can do to reduce the odds of people job-hopping or leaving you and your project in the lurch?
Take the time to build real bonds between the organization, the team and yourself.
People develop an emotional attachment to their work and the people they spend time with. If this is based solely on a paycheck and tasks, this attachment is weak and easily broken. Are you ensuring that people understand the mission and purpose of their work? Do they feel like part of the larger organization? Do they know, like and trust you and the people they work with?
Be the boss they want to work for.
This can take many forms. Do you understand the work styles of the individual team members and their preferences? Is your communication with them purely about work, or are you connecting on an emotional level? Do they feel valued and included? Do you know what they want from you? Have you asked? Remember you are the number one reason someone will want to leave, but you can also be the only thing keeping them here.
Know what they want from work besides a paycheck…and try to give it to them.
If the barriers to leaving a job are no longer very imposing, you need to shift from preventing their leaving to enticing them to stay. We know people want work that is challenging but not impossible, offers opportunities to learn, has a path for advancement (if people are interested, and not everyone is) and can be (wait for it….) fun. What thought have you put into why people want to work with you, and how you can make it as appealing as possible?
If retaining good people is important to you and your company, then paying particular attention to those most susceptible to enticements from the outside makes a lot of sense.
If you’d like to take preventive action and develop your skills as a remote leader and coach, our course on Effective Remote Coaching and Feedback is perfect. Of course, it’s available remotely, so no need to incur extra travel costs to improve yourself as a leader.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.