Voices

Three ways your firm can embrace the future of work in the tight labor market

The future of work is as important as ever, but the expression is now a bit of a misnomer because new technology and a new generation of employees have made that long-discussed future a reality.

It’s time for business owners and HR managers in every industry, including accounting, to act based on the workforce trends we’re experiencing today in an effort to keep their current employees engaged and to attract quality talent in an increasingly competitive labor market.

On top of a changing workplace, accounting firms today face challenging hiring conditions. The labor market is tight and the current pool of candidates is small, but those candidates expect a modern, flexible and technology-focused workplace. Small and midsized firms may consider this challenging. As the owner of a small firm, you may not think you have the resources to compete against the big guys. The truth is, there are many things that businesses of every size can do to create a workplace that attracts and retains quality employees. Here are just a few:

1. Embrace flexible scheduling. The traditional 9-5 workforce is no more. Thanks to technology and an emphasis on work/life balance over the last several years, the idea of virtual or remote workers is no longer taboo. Paychex surveyed HR leaders in small and midsized organizations in each of the last two years and found that the top nontraditional benefit being offered is flexible scheduling. Workers who aren’t afforded this level of flexibility may seek work elsewhere — or perhaps consider joining the gig economy boom.

2. Empower your employees. Think about the last time you boarded a flight, made a restaurant reservation, or even ordered coffee. If you’re like me, there’s a pretty good chance you did most — if not all — of that on your mobile device. The same goes for work tasks. Today’s employees expect the same level of DIY access to complete common HR tasks on their own as they do in their personal lives. That means being given the ability and permission to initiate actions such as changing an address, checking a time-off balance, requesting time-off, viewing a paystub, or adjusting a 401(k) balance independently.

3. Invest in a business collaboration tool. The ways we communicate today are vastly different than even a decade ago. The truth is that we’re doing more typing than talking both at work and at home, but as the workforce becomes more digital, “real” conversations can now happen in real-time via chat, video conference, and more, all in a single application. With affordable and easy-to-use platforms like Workplace by Facebook, Slack and others, the time to invest is now, before email becomes obsolete and a now-alternate communication tool is the primary means of workplace collaboration. The result will be a more engaged, transparent and open workforce that supports productivity, efficiency and growth.

All of these factors have become increasingly important as millennials have risen in the workforce, entering leadership positions and contributing significantly to the strategy and vision of companies across the globe. According to Paychex data, millennials now represent the largest segment of the workforce and other studies suggest they will make up more than half of the workforce by 2020. As tech-dependent as that generation is, Generation Z was practically born with iPhones in their hands. We’re just starting to see this latest generation seeking full-time employment and their presence in the organization will be felt sooner than you may think. Rather than expecting flexible scheduling, employee self-service, and social collaboration at work, Gen Z will demand such things because they don’t know life to be any different.

Firms large and small share more in common than you think, but topping the list is a shared goal of business growth. That simply can’t happen without productive, efficient and engaged employees who have all of the skills, tools and permissions to work how they want, when they want and where they want. Employers not willing to meet those needs today risk being left behind tomorrow.