The future of work is here. Is HR ready?

23 Aug

The future of work is here. Is HR ready?

While meeting with a client recently, she said something that’s stuck with me. “We need to stop talking about the future of work and start actually taking action,” she said, “because it’s here.” She’s right.

We’re at an inflection point with a labor market that’s as tight as it’s been since the Great Recession and a pool of employees who expect employers to be modern, flexible and technology-focused. Some employers may consider this challenging, especially for small and mid-size organizations that may not think they have the resources to compete against the Fortune 500.

But, that is a myth. Whether you have 10, 200, 2,000 employees or more, you can win today’s battle for top talent. Here’s how:

Embrace flexible scheduling. The traditional 9-5 workforce is no more. Thanks to technology and an emphasis on work-life balance, the idea of virtual or remote workers is no longer taboo. In fact, Paychex surveyed mid-market HR leaders in each of the last two years and found that the top non-traditional benefit being offered is flexible scheduling. Sure, employees still love things like free food, gym access, and help with daycare costs but flexible scheduling is by far the most popular benefit being offered today. Workers who aren’t afforded this level of flexibility may seek work elsewhere — or perhaps consider joining the gig economy boom.

Empower your employees. Think about the last time you boarded a flight, moved money around in your bank accounts, or even ordered coffee. There’s a very 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. This is good news for HR and benefits professionals, as it means you are spending less time on administrative work and more time on strategic activities that will have real business impact, like ensuring you have an engaged workforce aligned with your growth strategies.

Invest in a business collaboration tool. We communicate differently today than we did a decade ago. The truth is that we’re doing more typing than talking — and that goes for both home and work. That said, power of having a real conversation remains strong. As the workforce becomes more digital, those conversations can now happen in real-time via chat, video conference and more, all in a single application. Simply put, e-mail will become obsolete in the next 10 to 15 years and organizations need to have adopted an alternate communication tool well before that happens. With affordable and easy-to-use platforms like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and others, the time to invest is now. The result will be a more engaged, transparent, and open workforce that supports productivity, efficiency, and growth.

Celebrate millennials and prepare for Gen Z. According to our data, millennials represent the largest segment of the workforce and other studies project they will make-up more than half by 2020. Millennials are now in leadership positions and many are contributing significantly to the strategy and vision of companies across the globe. As tech-dependent as that generation is, Generation Z was practically born with iPhones in their hands. We’re starting to see these young, tech-dependent go-getters seeking employment and their presence in the organization will be felt sooner than you may think.

Points 1-3 of this article are table-stakes for the long-term success of any organization — and all three will become even more paramount when it comes to meeting the needs of a Gen Z workforce. Rather than expecting flexible scheduling, employee self-service, and social collaboration at work, they will demand such things because they don’t know life any different.

If organizations are going to meet the future of work now, HR and benefits leaders are in a unique and powerful position to help drive that change. Large and small organizations 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.