How Employers Handle COVID-19 Can Affect Employee Attrition

Attrition will likely increase across the workforce due to the pandemic. Learn how to retain your employees and have a happy and healthy workplace.

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What small businesses need to know about how COVID-19 affects employee attrition — and what steps they can take

Employee attrition generally refers to the natural loss or resignation of employees through retirement, elimination of their position (layoffs), resignation, or other such means. Some businesses have a higher turnover rate than others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted (and will continue to impact) attrition rates. Hospitals are facing unprecedented turnover, teachers are scared to come back to school, and the travel, retail, and hospitality industries are slashing their workforces.

Here’s what small businesses should know about the pandemic and employee attrition.

COVID-19 is already changing attrition trends

If you’re like a lot of small businesses, you most likely temporarily shut down your business in some capacity in response to COVID-19 — or perhaps you cut hours and positions.

For example, just because you’re opening up and trying to rehire employees doesn’t mean they feel safe enough to return. Some of your workers may simply be too afraid to go back to a position where they regularly interact with a lot of people; others might be immunocompromised or live with a high-risk person. Maybe your worker has actually tested positive for the coronavirus and can’t return at the moment.

There’s also the issue of the $600 weekly bonus to unemployment benefits that will end in July. Although most Americans receiving unemployment benefits don’t consider this a “de-incentive” to return to work (as some have claimed), there’s no denying that it’s doing its job. It’s helping Americans pay their bills and survive even while they’re out of work.

It’s too soon to tell if the end of this benefit will encourage more unemployed workers to return to positions. However, it certainly could play a role in attrition trends.

Some of your workers may simply be too afraid to go back to a position where they regularly interact with a lot of people; others might be immunocompromised or live with a high-risk person.

COVID-19 has changed how we view “work”

Businesses that have the capacity to work remotely didn’t necessarily shutter their doors — instead, they simply moved everyone to telecommuting positions. There are inherent pros and cons of working from home. Some people can’t stand it, while others have found they’re thriving.

If you want to bring your workers back into a physical office, you might find that you’ll get pushback. These are the workers who discovered during COVID-19 that they have more time, energy, and perhaps passion when working remotely. They no longer have commutes, and they have the flexibility they’ve never experienced before. Also they may have realized that working at a brick-and-mortar establishment just isn’t for them.

COVID-19 has changed how we view all facets of our life, including work. Whether your employees have been laid off and collecting unemployment or working remotely, they have experienced what it’s like to have a different type of life. They might not all be crazy about returning to the old ways.

Of course, there are also pending attrition trends for essential workers. If you operate a grocery store and have counted on essential employees not only for your (and their!) livelihood but also to help keep your community safe and well, don’t be surprised if your standard attrition trends change. You may have already noticed an incredible increase in turnover. You may have seen resignations skyrocket and an intense amount of workplace stress.

Essential workers are reevaluating their jobs and careers during COVID-19, and this will surely affect attrition.

How to keep good workers

Today’s workers want more than a steady paycheck. They want to feel appreciated and that their employer actually cares for them.

There’s no one-size-fits-all master plan to recruiting and keeping good workers at any time, and certainly not during a pandemic. However, what you can do is keep them safe and sustain open lines of communication. Today’s workers want more than a steady paycheck. They want to feel appreciated and that their employer actually cares for them. There’s no better time to highlight this than during a pandemic.

How you handle COVID-19 can play a big role in attrition trends. Be flexible, create and enforce safety standards for both employees and customers, and put employee health and safety first. However, it can be very difficult to figure out the best way to do this. Every business is unique. Working with an HR company to help achieve your goals of a happy and healthy workforce, even in stressful times, is the best approach for unbiased expertise on managing in these delicate times.

Attrition will likely increase in the vast majority of industries and sectors now and in the coming months. You can slow it down and prioritize keeping good employees by adopting new employee-centric guidelines and practices that put their well-being first.

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