Call it the Time Machine Effect: If employees feel like they’ve gone back in time when they look at the technology their firm gives them, their firm is going to have a harder time keeping them on board.

The younger generations in the workforce are, by and large, used to having the latest technology in their pockets, and will look askance at a firm that is behind the times -- say, one that doesn’t support remote work, or only offers desktop computers, or that doesn’t have strong WiFi in its offices.

Knowing that outdated tech is a turnoff to potential recruits, and that keeping current with new tech is a strong retention tactic, the Best Firms to Work For make serious efforts (and significant investments) to make sure they’re not on the wrong end of the time machine.

Philadelphia-based Best Firm Brinker Simpson & Co. learned this lesson firsthand: As part of their annual review, staff are asked to name three things they would change about the firm, and when technology turned up again and again as an employee concern, the partner group created a technology committee, empowered it with major investments, and changed the firm from a tech laggard to a tech leader.

Among the tools that the Best Firms commonly offer staff are:

  • At least two monitors;
  • Laptop computers, as opposed to desktops;
  • Firm-supplied smartphones;
  • Paperless or less-paper offices; and,
  • The ability to work remotely.

Many of those are tied to firms’ efforts to support work-life balance and give staff more flexibility, but they’re also important for customer service and general productivity, as San Jose, Calif.-based Best Firm Johanson & Yau pointed out: “We employ the latest computer and other technology available to maintain continuous communication among employees and clients.” All of their management team are provided with smartphones, and the firm is considering expanding that benefit to all of its accountants.

The staff of Rockville, Md.-based Santos, Postal &  Co.
The staff of Rockville, Md.-based Santos, Postal & Co.

Similarly, at Rockville, Md.-based Santos, Postal & Co., the firm “provides the absolute best technology available on the market, both software and hardware,” it reported. “All employees have two or three monitors, the most current PDAs, etc.”

In the end, it’s not about having any particular technology; rather, the important thing is to make a commitment to continually seeking out the latest tools to make your staff more productive in their work and their lives.

For more ways to create a top workplace, see 20 Days: Building a Better Firm.

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Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood is editor-in-chief of Accounting Today and Tax Pro Today, and has covered the tax and accounting field for over 20 years.