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Here at Bean Ninjas, we’re big advocates of remote work. We’ve been a remote-first business since we launched in 2015.

In the span of one quarter, The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growing remote work trend by at least 5 years.

While working remotely in a pandemic is very different from what “normal” remote working looks like, more people are seeing the benefits even in less than ideal conditions. These benefits include no commute, ability to work from anywhere with a WiFi connection, and more time to spend with family and friends. 

And, remote working arrangements work for employers, too. A PGI study reports that the average business owner saves $11,000 per year per employee by letting them work from home. No real estate costs or utility costs, no supplies/furniture, fewer unscheduled absences… The savings add up quickly.

But those savings can be wiped out by high turnover. Employee turnover costs employers 16% to 213% of an employee’s salary.

If you run a remote team, take steps to retain your employees so you can realize their value as long as possible.

In this post, we’re sharing 5 strategies every business should take to prevent turnover, backed by our experience running a fully remote team at Bean Ninjas.

1. Recruit the Right People

The first step to retaining your remote employees is to hire the right people in the first place. 

In fact, you can address most of your employee challenges with a quality recruitment plan.

What are the top traits you look for in new hires?

For example, here are the four of the top traits we look for when hiring new employees at Bean Ninjas. 

  • Self-motivated 
  • Great communication skills 
  • Ability to produce quality work without direct supervision.
  • Align with our company values 

For example, one of our company values at Bean Ninjas is: ‘Always growing.’

So, when we’re interviewing candidates, we specifically ask questions to see if candidates have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. 

You can’t force people to change who they are, so it’s important to hire people who already fit with your existing vision and team. You may come across candidates who look good on paper (experience, education, technical skills, etc.), but if they have a fixed mindset, the chances are they will struggle in the role. 

Trying to force someone to live by your values is a waste of everyone’s time. You won’t be able to keep them happy long-term. Eventually their work satisfaction will drop and they will either quit or you’ll have to part ways.

Note: It may seem like people value high salaries over everything else, but that’s not the case. In fact, the link between pay and job satisfaction is quite weak. Instead of struggling to pay your team as much as you can, shift the value of your work environment to other things, like flexibility, autonomy, and personal/professional development. Next, find people who value the things you offer.  There are plenty of talented people out there who value more control of their schedule, the ability to make their own decisions, and the chance to improve themselves more than salary. Sure, they may leave you someday, but they’ll stick around a lot longer than someone who’s just hunting a bigger paycheck.

Recruiting for shared values will help to retain your remote team members. Click To Tweet

2. Standardize Your Onboarding

The first days and weeks of an employee’s time with your company are the most important. 

Why?

Because 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days and nearly 33% of employees look for a new job within six months of being hired.

There’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with a new job. Your employees want to do well, but they aren’t sure how. They don’t know the people they work with, they don’t know how to be productive, and they don’t know how to please you.

If you don’t get over these hurdles quickly, your new workers may not become engaged with the company. It’ll become just another job they have to get through, and eventually they’ll leave to find something more fulfilling.

These problems are even tougher to overcome for remote workers who lack feedback that comes through in-person interactions. They’ll struggle to become engaged if you leave them to figure things out on their own, so you need a strong onboarding process.

Companies with a standard onboarding process see a 50% greater new hire retention.

Increase Remote Team Member Retention Statistics

So, what goes into a great onboarding process?

At Bean Ninjas, we take steps to bring new employees into our team and culture by setting up regular video meetings with their supervisor and a “buddy”. A buddy is a colleague (rather than a supervisor) who is there to welcome them to the team and help them to feel comfortable.

Bean Ninjas Onboarding Framework
The summary page of our Staff Onboarding Guide

For example, here is a screenshot of our onboarding guidelines document.

Bean Ninjas Onboarding Guidelines
Extract from our onboarding guidelines

Our onboarding process also includes a series of technical tasks, like sharing passwords (via Lastpass), inviting new workers to tools, instructing employees to fill out certain documents, introducing them to clients, and linking them to procedures that matter to their role.  

In addition, it is key to build out different processes for specific role. After all, how you onboard a project manager is very different from onboarding a marketing manager or an accountant. 

Most importantly, our onboarding process is outlined in concrete steps with clear deliverables. Each step is assigned to someone in our company. This ensures the process occurs the same way every time we hire someone new.

What are the biggest mistakes that remote teams make when onboarding new team members? 

Here are three of the biggest mistakes that remote teams face when they start building out their new hire onboarding processes. 

  1. Relying on strategies that work better in person – For example, you can’t rely on new hires to meet all of their coworkers spontaneously in the hallway or break room. Instead,
  2. Trying to make it work with a person who isn’t suited for remote work – Working remotely is a skillset and some people aren’t suited to it. This should be considered in the hiring process as a great candidate who doesn’t work effectively remotely might not be a good fit for your remote role
  3. Leaving company culture to develop itself – Building company culture remotely needs a more proactive and intentional approach.

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3. Create a Healthy Remote Team Culture

Culture is an important part of every business, but it’s especially critical for companies that hire remote employees.

Healthy culture creates higher employee engagement, higher productivity, lower stress, and lower turnover – all things that help to retain employees. 

But it’s a challenge to create a healthy culture in a remote environment where your team rarely (if ever) meets face-to-face. You lack the spontaneous opportunities to chat, the run-ins in the kitchen, and the shared lunches.

According to Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work Report, remote teams miss most (if not all) of a company’s engaging activities.

Remote Team Members Statistics

Here are some tactics we use at Bean Ninjas to foster a thriving team culture that go beyond the standard watercooler and non-work Slack channels (that we and most remote teams have).  

Everyone on our Leadership Team records regular update videos that incorporate team highlights, announcements, and stories that live our company values. 

We also have a culture committee, who plans different team-building activities – like our Lunch and Learn Series and Book Club.

4. Encourage Facetime With Your Remote Team Members

In addition, you have to work harder to create opportunities for culture to grow.

At Bean Ninjas, we prioritize face-to-face meetings. We like to have video meetings even when email chains are sufficient. This facetime helps us connect with one another.

We also create a welcoming atmosphere in our Slack chat and Zoom meetings. We encourage playful banter and celebrate birthdays. We’re 100% transparent with our team about the state of the company, the direction we’re going, and their performance. This means our culture lacks politics and blame, which is a breath of fresh air for everyone.

Wayne and Meryl at a company retreat

Where possible we arrange for team members to meet. International trips can get expensive, but we make these a priority, because we believe spending time together in person is so important in building relationships.

We also consider fun when we make decisions. We try to avoid creating dull and monotonous tasks (they can usually be automated anyway) and look for ways to build fun into everyday things. For instance, we recently held our end-of-financial-year planning meeting in a fun, tropical location.

Another important part of culture is development and training. If you recruited the right people who you think will stay with you for a while, it’s worthwhile to invest in their development. Not only do they become more valuable to you, they also become more invested in your company.

How you help your team develop depends on your values. If you recruit properly, your values and your team’s values should match, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find ways to develop them. The skills they want to learn will likely be applicable to their jobs. 

5. Coach and develop your team

Coaching a remote team

Finally, if you want to retain A-players, you need to provide opportunities for them to grow and advance within the company.

For example, we built out our Emerging Leaders Program to help team members – who want to advance into leadership roles in the company. It is a mix of DIY online learning, group coaching calls, and individual mentoring. 

We focus on all of the key components of great leadership, including but not limited to:

  • Communication 
  • Negotiation 
  • Project management 
  • Creating and maintaining processes 
  • Delivering constructive feedback 
  • Motivating and coaching team members 

Going Forward

Even when the pandemic ends, remote working will still be around. The more proactive you can be at building a thriving remote culture, the more likely you’ll be able to hire and retain the top remote employees.

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