Using Flexible Scheduling to Attract and Retain Top Talent

by Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, Lehman College – October 30, 2018
Using Flexible Scheduling to Attract and Retain Top Talent

One of the most pressing concerns that regularly makes an appearance in conversations around firm planning, succession and engaging with the future of the profession is the reality that attracting and retaining talent is arguably more difficult than ever before. While small firms may find it hard to compete with larger firms on salaries and benefits, flexible scheduling is something just about every firm can provide.

Here are a few flexible scheduling options that can be implemented by small firms to attract and retain employee talent:

  1. Consider remote work options. The ability to work remotely is something that has long been a staple of the profession, from auditors working on client files to tax preparers uploading information on behalf of clients. That said, the trend toward greater remote working has seemingly suffered setbacks in recent years, even among technology firms whose products make remote working possible (see Yahoo and IBM). That said, the ability to work from home, or any other location, is a logical way to attract technologically oriented individuals as well as access talent regardless of where those individuals happen to be located.
  2. Think about a shortened work week. Everyone likes a long weekend, but there is increasing evidence that implementing a four-day work week can actually increase productivity as well as employee morale. In addition to the scientific evidence pointing to the benefits of a shorter and more-focused working week, there is also a practical consideration every partner or firm leader should take into consideration. Every firm has ebbs and flows of work, but, generally speaking, there are always days that could be factored in as candidates for a three-day weekend. This doesn’t have to be every Friday, but even a once-or-twice-a-month shortened workweek will appeal to individuals looking for flexibility for employers. Flexibility appeals to everyone, from partners down to the newest staff hire.
  3. Have the work reflect your business. The work coming in to most firms does tend to come in waves, and after every wave there is a trough of quieter time at the organization. Why not take advantage of these slower times to give staff some extra flexibility? This is not to say that there is no work to do — there is always work to do and items to address — but acknowledging the fact that not every day is equally as hectic can go a long way toward improving employee morale. Staff know when the busier times at the firm are, as they are on the front lines of providing services to clients, both internal and external. Having flexible working schedules, or shorter working weeks requiring in-the-office presence that are tied to how the business operates makes sense and can help engender goodwill among all different levels of employees.

Flexible scheduling certainly is not a cure all or a magic solution that will address the talent attraction and retention issues, but it should be something every small firm considers. Flexibility has been integrated into virtually every aspect of the business landscape; accounting firms need to be proactive in integrating this into their business models. Taking an objective look at how the firm operates, considering how to best attract and retain individuals who are seeking increased flexibility, and customizing the approach to best fit the firm is something every leadership team should seriously consider.


Sean D. Stein Smith

Sean D. Stein Smith

Sean Stein Smith is a professor at the City University of New York – Lehman College. Sean also is the chairperson of the NJCPA's Emerging Technologies Interest Group (#NJCPATech). He serves on the Advisory Board of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance, where he co-chairs the Accounting Work Group. Sean is on the Advisory Board of Gilded, a TechStars ’19 company. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the American Institute of Economic Research.

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