Why smart working is the key to SMEs attracting and retaining staff

7 Dec 2018

Image: © Tawat/Stock.adobe.com

Vodafone’s Treasa Doran explores the value of smart working for SMEs and how important it will be for staff retention in the near future.

If one thing epitomises the generational shift taking place in the Irish economy at the moment, it’s attitudes to technology.

Many of the people who own or manage small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in Ireland grew up and were educated at a time when the internet was something only found in universities or maybe in cyber-cafés. While they’re certainly tech-savvy and understand the benefit of personal technology, they don’t live digital-first lives.

But many of the people they employ do, and that’s starting to have an effect on their bottom lines.

How can employers square the circle of the different expectations that 20- and 30-something employees bring to the recruitment table with wanting to feel in control of their own operations?

Smart working

Smart working – the use of technology to facilitate flexi- and remote working – undoubtedly has advantages, but do they outweigh the potential drawbacks?

It’s a reasonable concern. Some employers have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude to people working remotely. Their worry is that moving from a situation where staff are easily observable to one where they are not will result in a drop in productivity.

But many experts believe it’s a serious mistake to underestimate the importance of this generational shift. Younger people are ageing into management positions and assuming responsibility in the workforce, and are in turn dealing with junior staff who can have quite different ideas about work-life balance and job satisfaction.

Finding and keeping these people in a difficult recruitment market can be a challenge, as it involves giving them enough of what they want to attract them while also looking after the company’s needs.

Making the most of people power

Vodafone has exhaustively researched this subject and, in our new Open Conversations report, The Future of Business in Ireland: A Conversation with SMEs, we aim to show SMEs how they can make the most of people power.

We’ve looked closely at the future of business for SMEs in Ireland and have compiled extensive research across the SME market in Ireland, taking into account the views of hundreds of business owners, business management teams and employees across many industries and sectors.

From this, we know that 60pc of SMEs plan to increase investment in the short term, with 71pc of those businesses planning to invest in staff attraction and retention. In addition, 69pc of SMEs will increase technology investment within the next one to five years.

What this tells us is that many companies are already grappling with these issues, and that making better use of technology will form part of the solutions they come up with.

Meanwhile, we also discovered that 41pc of employees have smart working options available to them. These employees are more likely to recommend their company as somewhere to work as a consequence, and are happier than they otherwise would be in their job.

An infographic displaying various statistics about the benefits of smart working.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Vodafone Ireland

Smart working is one of the most powerful practices available to help with attracting and retaining staff, particularly in areas where there is a lot of competition for the best candidates. Improved work-life balance, employee engagement and increased job satisfaction are seen as the biggest benefits of smart working, but having the technology to enable it first is considered crucial.

A full one-third of employees surveyed suggested they would move job for enhanced job flexibility, while a further half would look for smart working in a future role. 34pc are likely or very likely to move job for it – highlighting the fact that SME owners are ignoring the importance of remote and flexible work practices among their employees at their peril.

By Treasa Doran

Treasa Doran is the head of small business sales for Vodafone Ireland

The full ‘The Future of Business in Ireland: A Conversation with SMEs’ report can be downloaded here.