As America begins its seventh month of operating amid coronavirus, companies are safeguarding their employee retention budgets, opting to cut costs elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal reported.
When reexamining their budgets, companies overwhelmingly are prioritizing staff retention despite the economic downturn. Fearing the departure of top performers, CFOs are shielding employee retention programs from broad cost-cutting efforts. "Job losses or salary freezes can result in lower morale and prompt employees to look for a new position despite the uncertainty," the Journal wrote.
These concerns have led companies to react in accordance. The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 8.4% in August, down from its 14.7% peak in April. As stay-at-home mandates lift and in-person restrictions loosen across the country, hiring has boomeranged, including at industry giants Instacart, Amazon and Walmart.
Companies are offering nonfinancial perks such as flexible hours and material benefits such as bonuses to incentivize employees to remain onboard. Oakland, California-based cosmetics company e.l.f. Beauty mailed its staff safety kits with gloves and disinfectant wipes and provided $1,000 bonuses, company CFO Mandy Fields told the Journal.
Additionally, the company extended its summer Fridays policy, wherein employees log off at 2 p.m., through the end of the year. "People are working many more hours than they typically work because there's no commute," Fields said. "When we get through this COVID time, people will remember how you treated them."
E.l.f.'s recent investments in employees have lessened its retention concerns, Fields told the Journal, but declined to disclose how much the company spent on these efforts. E.l.f. continues looking for costs it can cut, but hasn't reduced its employee count or frozen salaries.
In a panel on employee retention during the CFO Live virtual conference last month, CFOs shared their methods of retaining employees.
Despite the substantial changes in the workplace, Ann Anthony, CFO of energy storage startup Key Capture Energy, said she continues holding weekly one-on-ones with her direct reports and superiors.
"I typically use, with success, both for my upward and downward one-on-ones, a running list of what we're working on, how we're progressing toward it, and how I can help my teammates move past obstacles," Anthony said.
Kelly Garnes, CFO of Gill St. Bernard's School, a private preparatory school in Gladstone, New Jersey, also relies on regular check-ins and stresses the importance of keeping her camera on and avoiding rescheduling, whenever possible. "If my camera's not on, or I keep changing our meeting time, what does that say about how I value you, on my team?" she asked. "It could say, maybe, not so much."
Garnes noted the highly active hiring market as being a potential draw for employees who may be feeling underappreciated.
"We see people looking for work, and to lose someone on your team right now is highly disruptive," Garnes said. "There are recruiters looking for people, and wanting them to know they'd feel valued at a new company. Though we're in a virtual environment, we all have to take extra effort to make sure team members feel we value their efforts. When you start to take it lightly, they can tell."
Dipti Arora, head of financial planning and analysis at cybersecurity provider A10 Networks, agreed, adding that at A10, her key for retention is asking whether each member of her team "actually feels valuable."
Salaries for finance professionals have remained roughly flat in the past 12 months, a Robert Half study found, according to the Journal. But almost three in four senior managers said they've maintained, or increased, new hire pay since the start of the pandemic.
This stability "reflects a desire to fill in-demand roles in information technology and data science," said Paul McDonald, a Robert Half senior executive director.