Don’t Let Job Figures Downplay the Importance of Employee Retention

Borderless networks benefit—and help retain—mobile workers

Last week’s disappointing 10.2% unemployment figures may have pushed employee-retention strategies a bit further down the priority list. That’s a mistake.

One of the key lessons of this severe economic downturn is the value of people. How many of you have had to let really valuable people go for no other reason than the business downturn? And how many have had to readjust lifestyles after pay cuts?

Chances are, the people who are left at your company (not to mention many who were forced to leave) are pretty valuable. Creating an environment that fosters loyalty and longevity is vital because when the job market starts to turn, you don’t know how it might affect your most valuable resources—your employees.

Fortunately, there are some key benefits you can offer them now to increase the chances they’ll stay with you long after the economy has rebounded. Telecommuting and mobile networking are two key benefits enabled by borderless networks that give employees a more flexible work-life balance—and often reduce IT and facilities costs.

Nearly 85% of companies say they are increasing support this year for telecommuting. The potential savings on facilities costs clearly is a driver; businesses can save up to $20,000 per year per employee by moving them from an urban location to a home office. A more important driver, given the topic at hand, is the ability to improve employee retention.

Employees know telecommuting either full- or part-time is a nice gig. Let’s face it: Working from the comforts of home in comfortable clothes on a cold, snowy day has its benefits! What’s more, because many workers have been given pay cuts, saving on commuting or dry-cleaning costs helps their personal budgets. But perhaps the biggest benefit is the improved quality of life—more time to spend with family or friends, rather than commuting.

Telecommuting often goes hand-in-hand with mobile workers, whether they are building inspectors traveling around a county, or salespeople traveling around the globe. Location becomes totally irrelevant to the job at hand. With the right equipment, services, and security, there is no reason many workers can’t do their job from a car, airplane, home office, or beach.

From an IT perspective, each person is a “micro-branch.” Micro branches require a fairly consistent IT set-up that includes broadband access from the home with a wireless router, mobile broadband access, laptop, mobile phone, collaborative applications, and secure communications typically using SSL VPNs. Some also add optimization clients to improve performance, Voice over IP to integrate with a softphone, or video gear for desktop or room-based video conferencing. On average, companies spend about $6,000 per year for an average set-up, more for the add-ons.

Once the IT staff develops the corporate standard for different types of telecommuters, they can implement a cookie-cutter approach to get the micro branches access to their centralized applications and data. Through hosted or managed services, or Internet VPNs, they can connect to business partners as well.

By extending this flexibility and freedom to employees now, they will grow comfortable with the telecommuting world before the job market rebounds and your competitors try to hire them away. Fostering this loyalty and lifestyle today will improve your employee retention and stability in the future, ultimately enabling you to be more competitive.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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