From the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine (njcpa.org/newjerseycpa)
By Diane Opuda, CPA, RotenbergMeril
As the way in which we work continues to evolve, employers that stay ahead of the curve and keep up with the changing demands of employees are more likely to attract and retain talent. Professionals today consider many more factors than just salary and potential career growth when they decide who to work for and whether it’s time to make a move. Talented professionals are demanding more from their employers, but many of these new demands can be easily met, even for smaller employers. That’s because it’s often just a matter of changing an attitude or policy, rather than making a costly new investment. So, what is the most important intangible factor of employee satisfaction? Flexibility! In its many forms, flexibility is what will help today’s employers reduce turnover, improve morale and attract skilled individuals.
Implement flexible scheduling
One of the easiest changes an employer can make is implementing a flexible schedule. In the context of a professional office, allowing employees to complete their required hours on a flexible basis is a necessity in today’s competitive environment. The idea of work-life balance is a concept most people in today’s employment market consider very important, and there are many simple ways an employer can significantly improve the feeling of work-life balance in their employees. For example, employees who have difficult commutes could save hours of travel time per week if they had the option to come in an hour earlier or later. Similarly, some employees have difficulty getting kids to or from school or daycare while still meeting their employer’s traditional workday start and end times. For them, being able to vary their work hours is of significant value.
If an employee wants to attend a child’s event at school or take care of a personal errand during the day, let them do so with the understanding they will make up the time that week and still get their work done. If your company is using laptops, allow employees to work from home occasionally if they need to wait for a repairperson or look after a sick child. A big mistake employers make that leads to dissatisfaction by their employees is to demand too much control over the employee’s time or schedule. Requiring them, for example, to clock in and out and enforcing strict arrival and break times is counterproductive.
Flexibility of the employee’s agenda is also important. An employee who understands their tasks and deadlines and what is necessary to complete them will often dislike a manager telling them how to do their job when they aren’t asking for help. Being respectful of different work styles and an employee’s ability to manage their own agenda allows self-motivated people to build confidence and perform at a higher level. Micromanaging an employee sends a message that you do not trust the employee’s own judgement or skills, and this will certainly lead to resentment and dissatisfaction.
Improve the work environment
Allowing flexibility of the employee’s physical environment is another way an employer can vastly improve how an employee feels and performs without making a huge change or investing a great deal of money. Creating a comfortable environment is important because people are more productive when they feel comfortable. This can be achieved in many ways. For example, allow employees to control the air temperature of their workspace whenever possible. For employees who are not client-facing or do not see clients or customers on a daily basis, allow dress that is casual but neat, including jeans. Demonstrate that you are concerned for your employees’ well-being by using modern office equipment such as standing desks and ergonomic keyboards. Making an effort to improve the employee’s perception of their value to the company through simple changes to the physical environment can go a long way toward improving employee satisfaction.
An old-fashioned attitude toward managing employees is to treat them like children, requiring strict rules and oversight under the assumption that, without them, employees will take advantage of their freedom and underperform. The modern employer understands that when people are given trust through flexibility, they will act responsibly and not only work harder, but feel happier in their employment. In turn, the employer will benefit from improved recruitment and retention rates.
Diane Opuda, CPA, is a manager at RotenbergMeril. She is a member of the NJCPA and can be reached at email@example.com.