Employees Won’t Back Off Their Desire for Flexibility at Work

Flexibility at Work

Employees continue to prioritize flexible work arrangements and expect the movement toward more flexibility to last, according to new research from Paychex. Flexibility is “the common denominator” in how employees want to work now, Paychex said. It’s also something they expect from employers in the future.

Younger workers are behind the demand, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following workforce trends. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce and members of Generation Z have exerted increasing influence since they began working around 2009.

New report from @Paychex: Employees keep up the pressure for more flexibility at work. Employers are going along, but slowly. #HR #HRTech #FutureofWork Share on X

Since then, more employers have begun to offer more flexible schedules and remote work. They’ve also experimented with approaches designed to attract young workers but turned out to be dismal failures, most notably the open office.

Generational Expectations

Millennial and Generation Z practically live on their mobile devices, so more companies provide mobile-first HR tools. Five years ago, Paychex said, 14 percent of workers used both mobile devices and desktops to handle HR tasks. Today, the number’s 43 percent. On the flip side, 51 percent of employees use desktops for HR tasks, down from 74 percent.

In terms of scheduling, nearly three-quarters, or 73 percent, of employees prefer at least some flexibility, whether it’s a compressed work week, hours based on their personal circumstances  or complete flexibility so as their work gets done. Overall, companies aren’t in sync yet, though they may be at a tipping point. Some 51 percent currently offer some type of flexible schedule, compared to 49 percent that stick to set schedules.

In a similar vein, workers want more choices when it comes to where they work. Not even a third, 31 percent, prefer to work at their company’s office each day. More than half, 58 percent, would rather work from home some or all of the time.

Flexibility at Work and a Product Gap

Such trends offer employers “tremendous opportunities,” said Paychex CEO Martin Mucci. That’s true, but we’ll add a caveat: For employers to successfully take advantage of these trends, they need to really mean it. They can’t offer only technology that aligns the way people work with the way they live. They also must make sure users can depend on comprehensive training and support.

Employers must offer #HRtech that not only aligns with how people work, but makes sure users can depend on comprehensive training and support. #HRTech #HR Share on X

We think that’s worth noting because recent conversations with customers—from both HR departments and the workforce at large—revealed an undercurrent of frustration with how vendors and employers sometimes take the notion of self-service too far. Users are frustrated by the difficulty they face in receiving guidance on using a tool—how to locate the right form, for example, or address a product’s behavior on one operating system versus another.

Vendors seem to understand that dynamic, to an extent. Ultimate Software’s most recent round of product announcements, for example, focused on the user experience, improved performance, engagement and retention. Meanwhile, SAP added three employee-experience products to SuccessFactors, all the result of its purchase of Qualtrics. Earlier this month, Phenom People launched a “Talent Experience Management” platform. And so on, and so on.

The bump in the road here seems to be employers’ reluctance to invest in training and support that goes beyond “good enough.” At UNLEASH America 2019, both employers and vendors agreed that vendors can only take education and support so far. There comes a point where the employer must either invest in more training, maintaining more active support resources or some combination of both.

Filling that gap will undoubtedly become an increasingly important component of the HR technology purchasing decision. Already, some HR IT people are pressing vendors to include training and better online support in their deals. Most customers don’t expect vendors to provide user support beyond the HR department, but that could change as smaller companies continue to sign up with vendors who not so long ago targeted only larger businesses.

This means customers may have another point of leverage when they’re negotiating for a new product or service. At the same time, another area of opportunity could open up for vendors.

You can download the report here.

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Image: iStock

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