2014 Workforce Trends Will Affect Businesses of all Sizes

In October this article ran on Forbes depicting the workforce trends we will see in 2014. I think it’s a pretty good list. Since a good majority of my clients are small businesses, I often think about how things will affect them. They have less ability to adjust or react than larger organizations and often have to think of things a little differently. Today, I’m going to take three of those trends and talk about how small businesses can react and even create a strategy around these trends.

Reputation become more important for both professionals and companies

I like this one. For a few years now employment brand has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Now we are seeing why it is so important. Individuals want to be associated with a strong brand either as a customer or an employee. The reputation of the company and its leaders will come into play in decision making now more than ever.

Small businesses may not have the marketing budget to advertise their employment brand, but they can make very smart decisions early on that ensure their reputation precedes them. The biggest thing they can do is make smart hiring decisions. I suggest deciding which positions are key positions from an industry standpoint. The CEO is obviously important, but what other positions would change the reputation of the company if a well known industry leader held them? The simple act of hiring someone who brings a credible reputation with them can change how people see your company.

Culture is another piece that makes reputation stand out. When talking to a client recently about culture they brought up Zappos and the amazing culture that everyone talks about. He asked how he could possibly compete with that with his employee base of 23. He can’t. What he can do is take some of the Zappos culture and scale it for his business. Please do not misunderstand, I’m not saying he can replicate it. But he can think about some of the things that make Zappos culture so successful and see how he can fit them to his business.

Freelancing becomes a normal way of life

One of the things that fascinate me about small businesses is that they either operate completely under the old school method of everyone has to be an employee, on the premises with little flexibility or they are completely opposite and nearly everyone works from home and over half are not “true” employees. The trend is definitely swinging in the favor of contractors, freelancers, consultants and part-time workers.

A few weeks ago I heard Jason Fried speak about his company and how they are nearly all virtual, all over the world. He talked a lot about trust and how important that is in a remote environment. I find that at the heart of every conversation I have with leaders who do not want to let go of the idea that everyone needs to be in the building, trust is the real issue. They blame it on communication or the ability to service customers but all of that can really be debunked fairly easily. It’s really about trust or their inability to trust their workers to be as productive.

This is a workforce trend that small businesses are going to have to rethink. While there are obviously situations where employees need to be in the building, offering more flexibility in this area is going to become increasingly more important. Among the many reasons and benefits, my first point about hiring an individual with a strong reputation is a strong contender for number one. Imagine how large your hiring pool opens up if you do not care where the person works.

The great thing about remote working is that if it isn’t working, it can always be revoked. You’ve heard of Marissa Mayer right?

More companies provide wellness programs

While speaking with a colleague the other day who handles benefits for companies of all sizes the conversation, of course, turned to the Affordable Care Act. It’s obviously been keeping him pretty busy. We both agreed that there is so much still unseen with how all of this plays out, but one thing he said made total sense to me. He said that one of the good things that should come out of it is a push for wellness. We will see companies focusing more on wellness as costs rise. This is certainly not a bad thing.

The great thing about wellness is that you can put programs in place fairly quickly and without a huge budget. Many weight loss companies, like Weight Watchers will help you set up a company program for minimal cost, if any. You can run your own version of “biggest loser” contests or have healthy snacks available for employees to chose from rather than the vending machine. Local gyms may offer group discounts or even have classes at your location if that is an option. Your benefits providers will have tons of ideas here so tap them as a resource and get ahead of this trend early.

Staying on top of and ahead of workforce trends is important for small businesses to continue to thrive and compete in this market. I believe small businesses can do anything large businesses can do just on a different scale. Now that 2013 is coming to a close, it is time to start thinking about how you will cope with these trends in the very near future.

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