Strategies to Retain Northland Employees During COVID-19

Build a winning employee retention strategy up north 

If you do hiring in this region, you know it can be difficult to convince employees to stick around through our sometimes challenging Northland weather. 

And right now, the pandemic adds an extra layer of complexity on top of an already tight job market. Here are a few eye-opening stats:

  • Unemployment was 3.3% before the pandemic. As of July 2021, it was only slightly elevated at 3.9%.
  • As of June 2021, 85,000 Minnesotans who were employed before the pandemic had yet to rejoin the workforce.

With the expiration of the American Rescue Plan’s extra $300/week benefit, will we see a rise in job applications?

It’s still too soon to say, but here are a few interesting stats:

  • NPR reports on a study which compared employment in states that cut off unemployment benefits early and states that continued to offer extra benefits. Results so far indicate that the number of job seekers who returned to work was only 4% higher in states that cut off extra benefits early.

  • On, candidate signups doubled in August/September compared to June/July 2021. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen record numbers of job listings alongside sluggish candidate signups.

A great recent article from CareerForce reminds us that our region faced an extremely tight job market before the pandemic due to a number of contributing factors that aren’t going away anytime soon. These include child care shortages, Baby Boomer retirements, and a skills gap between jobseeker qualification and available jobs.

In an ongoing tight job market, one of your best strategies is to focus on keeping the employees you already have and retaining your successful new hires.

How can you increase employee loyalty in the COVID-19 job market? As a Northland employer, you’ve got a number of unique options.

A helpful article from Entrepreneur suggests that an effective employee retention plan doesn’t have to depend on “golden handcuff” incentives such as wages, benefits, and other perks. Instead, draw on your business’s unique strengths to build employee loyalty.

Entrepreneur recommends that a solid employee retention plan should cover the following points:

  • Performance: Set measurable objectives and reward employees for meeting goals in a way that recognizes how their talents and capabilities are benefiting the business.
  • Loyalty: Make clear to employees exactly how they are needed and appreciated. Be sure that employees have a crystal clear understanding of the company vision. A shared vision ties employee success to the company’s success.
  • Competitive Advantage: Why should employees stay with you and not go to a competitor? Identify and emphasize the qualities that are unique to your organization.

You can read more about what goes into a stellar employee retention strategy here. These tips will stand the test of time, regardless of job market conditions. The question is, what can Northland employers do right now to keep employees on board during COVID-19?

Harness the Push Toward Remote Work

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worth exploring another way to build employee loyalty: offering flexible and remote work options.

In response to a recent FlexJobs survey, 81% of workers said they would be more loyal to their employer if the company offered flexible work options.

Various studies have found that working from home has its advantages for both employers and employees: 

  • Many remote workers report greater flexibility, better life work balance, fewer distractions, and more control over their work
  • Some employers report higher productivity

Remote work has competitive advantages which make it an appealing option, especially during a pandemic which makes people less willing to work in environments which require person-to-person contact. Here are a few stats to illustrate the explosion of remote work: 

  • The number of remote workers rose 87% from before the pandemic
  • 65% of respondents in one survey report wanting to be full-time remote employees post-pandemic
  • According to Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work report, remote workers earn $100,000+ per year more than 2X as often as on-site workers.

If you want to convince your employees to stay onboard and not turn to the global gig economy for virtual options, then offering employees flexible options for working remotely, whether part-time or full-time, can be a powerful tool to boost employee loyalty.

Leverage the #NorthByChoice Lifestyle

As an employer in the Northland, you have one major competitive advantage that sets you apart from employers located anywhere else on earth: the #NorthByChoice lifestyle. 

It’s easy to take for granted the many perks that make the Northland an incredible place to live and work. Fresh air, clean water, direct access to the great outdoors — the list goes on and on. 

Combined, these upsides equate to a benefits package all their own. Get inspiration on how to weave these perks into your employee hiring and retention process here, and check out the following links: 

For more resources on hiring and retaining employees up north, visit!

You can also find our full stack of employer resources here.

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