According to Gallup, more people are working remotely than ever before. Why is this arrangement slowly becoming the new norm?

For remote team members, the benefits are obvious: No commute, more time for leisure, and employment opportunities all over the world.

Remote working environments 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. Here are three strategies every business should take to prevent turnover, backed by our experience running a fully remote team at Bean Ninjas.

Download this free guide to learn how to overcome the most common remote workplace obstacles.

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.)

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 don’t value the things you value, your relationship and their work will suffer.

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 leave.

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.

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

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 complete 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 some day, but they’ll stick around a lot longer than someone who’s just hunting a bigger paycheck.

When we hire remote workers, we use a set of screening questions to help us uncover whether a candidate values the same things we do and will be successful working remotely. We also look for self-motivation, discipline, and the ability to produce quality work without direct supervision.

We try to quickly identify whether someone is cut out for the remote work lifestyle. If we suspect they won’t, we quickly move to another candidate.

That said, while salaries aren’t the only thing people value, it’s important to pay fairly. If you offer salaries below the market rate, you’ll get what you pay for: People who aren’t capable or willing to do the job well.

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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.

69% of employees are likely to stay with a company for three years if they have a great onboarding experience. Companies with a standard onboarding process see 50% greater new hire retention.

Remote Team Members

(See the full infographic on employee onboarding by Urbanbound here. It’s worth a read!)

What goes into an onboarding process?

Remote Team Members

The summary page of our Staff Onboarding Guide

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.

Remote Team Members

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.  

If the remote worker lives nearby, we schedule a lunch date so they can meet someone in-person. We also mail a physical copy of our company values so they have something real on their desk that represents the company.

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.

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3. Create a Healthy 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 2017 Report, remote teams miss most (if not all) of a company’s engaging activities.

Remote Team Members

Encouraging Facetime With Your Remote Team Members

Culture doesn’t grow organically. In a remote workplace, you have to work harder to build those bonds and 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. The face time 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.

Remote Team Members

Bean Ninjas team members spending time together at a Xero Product Update

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 recruited 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.  

Free download: How to Overcome the Most Common Remote Work Obstacles

Going Forward

The remote working trend is here to stay. In fact, as our economy, lifestyles, and technology evolve, we expect more people to adopt remote working lifestyles and unique employment arrangements. Whether you’re looking for ways to optimize your remote team or getting ready to build one, these strategies will help you retain your employees.

Meryl Johnston

Meryl Johnston

Co-founder at Bean Ninjas
Meryl is a Chartered Accountant, entrepreneur and surfer!

Prior to Bean Ninjas she ran a cloud accounting consulting firm, worked in both commercial accounting roles, as an auditor (BDO), and as a lecturer in accounting and audit.
Meryl Johnston
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