No matter what circumstances surround us in the world, one of the secrets to a company’s success always lies in both attracting and keeping talent that differentiates the business. Nurturing your relationships with employees, supporting their career paths, and investing in their futures within the organization should always be primary concerns.

But in an environment transformed by a global virus, the measures companies must take to protect against the churn and loss of quality talent are changing. Employees face disruption and an array of new opportunities may be opening up to them — including more remote WFH options as well as greater flexibility in job location.

As 2020 gives way to 2021, how can business leaders and hiring managers retain their workforces and sustain the loyalty of their most valued assets? At Sococo, we aim to guide you through the best ways to navigate these new challenges across many industries and verticals, from Silicon Valley and tech-driven companies to finance, marketing, education, and beyond.

Rethink Employee Engagement & Perks for the Virtual World

Set yourself apart from competitors in a corporate landscape that’s experiencing a seismic shift. Location has long been king for certain industries — for example, the Bay Area and Seattle, which are known as the pricey playground of established tech conglomerates and well-financed start-ups. But now, that playing field is opening up to individuals who may have previously been unwilling to move to the West Coast, or may be eager to move away in search of lower living expenses.

This translates into potential opportunities (scoping the globe for the best candidates) as well as potential downsides (a company like Google or Amazon could more easily poach talent across time zones).

As TechRepublic notes, “This problem will be particularly acute for big-fish-in-small-pond companies that were leading employers in smaller cities.” Employee perks need to be reevaluated in a WFH environment. Free snacks and ping pong tables in the break room are gone. But companies can introduce stipends for home office workspaces, subscriptions to food delivery services like DoorDash or UberEats, and flexible PTO — as well as hosting virtual events to boost camaraderie within the virtual office.

Streamline Communications with a Remote Staff

Just because you can’t technically drop by someone’s office or cubicle doesn’t mean you can’t still efficiently connect with your team. You just may need to rethink your set-up.

Communication is key in all relationships, and particularly a working environment. Make it easy for your staff to provide input and feedback so that you’re leveraging their best ideas and you’re not overlooking any concerns or potential risks.

Remote employees — particularly those accustomed to a more traditional office space — may feel disconnected from colleagues. By creating a virtual environment that shares some parallels with the one found in a brick-and-mortar space, you’re keeping the workflow as normal as possible and helping maintain a familiar comfort level.

Give public shout-outs for a job well done. Encourage small talk. You can appoint a virtual space for the “Water Cooler” with a platform like Sococo, as well and encourage staff to chat and bond with fun virtual events, birthday celebrations, and holiday parties.

Help Employees Succeed with Tools Suited to the Task

We’re all navigating the world of 2020 together. And the best way you can encourage your teams to succeed is by furnishing them with the best tools available.

Use integrations to get the most out of remote communication apps like Zoom. Channel the spontaneity of in-person collaboration with virtual office software. Maintain open feedback loops with your employees to get a clear, and continually accurate, understanding of what’s working for them and what’s not. It’s amazing (and often underrated) just how much the tools we use everyday at our jobs can affect our feelings about doing the work.

Consider Compensation Changes if Staff Can Work from Anywhere

There’s no ignoring or downplaying this critical aspect of employee retention. While employee experiences matter a lot, we all know that people care about how much they get paid. It’s vital not only to their livelihood and taking care of their families, but also to their career development and long-term growth.

As work shifts and increasingly goes remote, there may come a time when you want to reevaluate how much of your compensatory system revolves around cost of living based on geography.

This gets complicated and can hinge on many factors. As Bethanye Blount writes for Fast Company, “More than ever, it’s critical for companies to understand how their compensation philosophy supports their organizational goals.”

Many businesses have publicly declared that they will now be going full-time remote and shuttering the office space indefinitely. But what then? What should become of salaries that may be higher for employees in cities with exorbitantly higher costs of living (particularly if those same employees have decided to move to smaller cities and towns)? Their cost of living may now be greatly reduced. Do you still need to pay them the same?

At some point, you’ll have to decide what’s fair and what makes the most sense to your business — all while aiming to keep the best staff for the job. Will you reset remote employee pay to local market shares, as Facebook has said they will do? Or do you follow the Basecamp and HelpScout model and pay everyone the same, no matter where they choose to live? Each approach has risks and benefits.

Blount, the Founder and CEO of compensation platform Compaas, advises business leaders to consider the entire picture. After all, compensation isn’t singular to salary/wages alone — it includes stock options, 401K opportunities, bonus programs, and an array of special perks. She adds, “Make sure you’re still investing in the right people. Companies always want to keep their stars, and most will pay premium rates to do so. But just because someone was a must-have a few years ago, are they still the ones to take you forward? Now is the time to dig into why your stars get special consideration, and make sure they’re still earning it.”

If you do decide to go all-in for a remote workforce, remember that when it comes to business expenses, it’s certainly also true that forgoing a pricey office lease will ease a major financial burden. This is particularly true now that everyone must potentially factor in the added price tag of retrofitting physical offices with extra sanitation procedures, daily temperature checks, and other precautionary health and safety measures.

By saving on commercial rent, you may find it feasible to continue paying all employees and top-tier candidates at the same level as before. Talents who feel that they are being undervalued — or that they can do better elsewhere — will likely leave. Asking someone to take a pay cut, even if it’s reasonable based on cost-of-living dynamics, can engender bad will and endanger employee/employer relationships.

Losing your best workers, not to mention the best jobseekers, is an expense you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

An Online Office Can Keep Your Employees Feeling Included

Whether the future of your business is physical, virtual, or — like so many others — a hybrid model blending the two, there are ways to keep employees engaged and loyal. But there are many dimensions to think through on this front, and overlooking any of them could put retention at risk.

When it comes to creating an inclusive and connected virtual work environment, we can help. Learn more about building your own Sococo online office. Try Sococo with a free trial.