By Olivia O’Neill, Director at the Godfrey Group
In order to stay competitive, small financial and accounting businesses need to get better at attracting and securing the best talent for their growth and capacity.
Australians are not only changing the ways in which they search for jobs, but also their views on what a job should look like in order to suit their lifestyle and working needs. Often job satisfaction is defined by a better work-life balance, rather than a bigger salary, and this can mean a more flexible role with varied working hours, options to work from home, purchased leave, and more.
Yet small businesses are in danger of falling behind by failing to understand what their candidates want. They aren’t thinking outside the box and offering the flexibility that could provide them with the competitive advantage to stand them head and shoulders above the rest.
The changing needs of the workforce
To secure the best talent, it’s important to look at a person’s individual lifestyle and what works for them. While you may not be able to match the money offered by a larger business, you likely have more flexibility when it comes to working hours, locations and styles. So, it’s a surprise when small businesses aren’t willing to be creative or innovative when structuring a role.
Instead of recognising that people can be more productive when they work from home, free of the distraction, small business tend to keep people on traditional 9-5 office hours. Instead of reshaping a role by looking at it differently – adding in interesting elements, additional responsibilities, unique ways of working – they wait (in some cases, for up to 18 months) for a particular person with a prescribed set of skills.
In doing so, they are potentially missing out on the basis that an individual doesn’t tick that one box or perhaps doesn’t see the role as a ‘forever’ position.
Thinking outside the box
Small businesses can win the battle to attract the best talent in the marketplace by thinking outside the box and offering innovative working practices.
Many financial and accounting practices won’t consider flexible working hours based on the view that if they offer the arrangement to one person, then the rest of the team will follow. But with some people commuting two hours each way to work every day to fulfil a role with little face-to-face client contact, wouldn’t it be a great draw card if some flexibility was permitted, particularly for younger people?
When it comes to home-working arrangements, studies show that people are more productive when they work from home, the dollar cost would remain the same, and it’s not hard to measure whether output drops as a result of the new set-up. Businesses need to make themselves aware of the facts and act on them.
Telling, and forcing, people to stay in roles for years on end can be counter-productive. Why not make the role more challenging as time goes on and help them grow to be the best person they can be? Think creatively about solutions so that you can hire the best talent available at the time to enable your business to grow.
Small businesses tend to attract those people at a more settled point in their career. By creating a slightly different arrangement for each person, you could secure their longevity in the role. How about offering the yoga enthusiast a chance to take a class at lunchtime and then work later in the afternoon? Or letting the long-distance commuter occasionally work from home?
Meanwhile, some roles can be extremely ‘candidate short’, so you have to weigh up finding someone who is a great cultural fit with excellent skills and even better potential to invest in versus taking your time to wait for that perfect match and keeping your business in a constant state of pressure during this time.
When people don’t feel confined in their work life, they tend to be happier and healthier employees. In today’s workplace, cultivating an environment where your employees can thrive is key and making sure that perceived opportunities in a larger business are countered by your varied roles and flexible work practices is critical.
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