Explorer 500_woman_kitchen_11JUL15Forecasts are like the weather. They can change rapidly. But right now there are signals that small business is planning for growth in 2017. Small business insurance provider Insureon surveyed over 1,000 small-business owners in November to find out about their plans for growth next year. Among respondents, 82% said that they plan “at least one type of growth next year” and some are planning to grow in even more than one way.

  • 58% expect to buy new equipment or furniture
  • 34% plan to sell a new product
  • 33% plan to hire an employee
  • 30% will offer a new service
  • 23% will move to a new location

On the hiring front, small business plans to add staff is more positive news for the economy on the job front. The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that November’s jobless rate fell to 4.6%. That is a level not seen since August of 2007.

Flexible work on the rise

Relative to hiring, there’s a good chance that a significant number of these positions will involve flexible work arrangements. Among companies surveyed in research conducted by WorldatWork and FlexJobs, 80% now offer some kind of flexible work arrangements although only 37% have a formal, written philosophy or policy.

Flexible working increasingly is a must have for the growing millennial workforce. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey of over 7,700 millennials representing 29 countries found that when salary or other financial benefits are removed from the equation, good work/life balance is at the top of the list of criteria for evaluating job opportunities in most markets. Flexibility, which includes remote working and flexible hours, is third after opportunities to progress.

Expand Talent Pool with Flexible Work

Finding and securing top talent is a key reason many small businesses are offering flexible work options. Plantronics survey of a few years ago found that 64% of small business owners report that offering flexible, mobile and remote work options assisted them in hiring and retaining key employees.

But there are other ways that enabling flexible work benefits small businesses, according to Monster, the global online employment solutions company. In “Use Flexible Work Options to Fill Your Skills Gap,” Monsters points out that ability to hire outside of a company’s geographic area widens the employment pool; and this can be particularly important when there is a need for specialized talent. It also may be that needed workers are located out of the country. Before adding foreign workers to the payroll, companies need to make sure they understand the tax, legal and accounting requirements in those countries, Monster advises.

Support Flexible Workers

Today’s technology makes it easy to support flexible workers wherever they are with access to each other and company resources.

Cloud computing: There is no longer a need for software to reside on the desktop with cloud computing. Service providers host applications on remote servers, which employees access over the Internet now redefined as “the cloud.” These remote servers can run anything from email to customer relationship management software (CRM) and store all company documents. Employees simply log into a web-based service to access the applications they need.

Unified Communications (UC): Unified Communications consolidates all of the different types of communication devices– desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets – into one integrated data and voice network so they can talk to each other digitally. With UC, users can experience calls along with other collaboration tools such as e-mail, instant messaging (IM), web and video conferencing and fax through the convenience of one interface.

Headsets: Employees often have no control over noise around them when they work remotely. Noise-canceling headsets make sure employees can hear and be heard wherever they are.

Small businesses planning to hire in 2017 will want to up their game with flexible work options.