Get staff buy-in to flexible working

In a recent Management Today survey on flexible working, the overriding message was that most people see it as a benefit only for colleagues with children, and feel resentful. Flexible working can be successful only when it is available to everyone.

Staff are customers too

Employees need to make a dramatic cultural shift when adopting flexible practices. Treat employees as you would customers: for example, adopt the four Ps of classic marketing.

Here the Product is the job, the Place is the workplace, the Price is the contract and the fourth “P” – Promotion – is how you communicate it. Launch the new way of working by explaining to employees why the business has decided to take this path. What are the benefits to the company and the strategic drivers, and how will it add value to the organisation?

“You have to get ‘buy-in’: these are the people who will deliver your strategy”, says Nigel Connolly, head of HR at EasyJet. “The way we’ve done it is to ensure there is strong communication. We even have an organisational development department which acts as the holder of the company culture.” In addition, staff can verbally feed through any comments through culture committees and discuss issues with our managing director. “Regular staff surveys test how people are feeling, while internal newsletters, intranet and the Internet site enable us to communicate our values,” he added.

Make it clear

When people are re-assessing their contracts they need to think about the guidelines. It helps direct staff into assisting the business case for flexibility. A simple handbook is an easy way to explain what can and can’t be done.

An official launch can get everyone aligned with the strategic goal. A workshop with a question and answer session gives everyone the chance to share worries and understand what it means for them and the company. Getting people together in their departments to discuss how they will function as a team really makes the new work ethic live.

Get feedback

First Quench learnt a lesson when an area manager returned from maternity leave for three days a week. Shop managers found it just didn’t work. If there was a problem on Thursday, it wouldn’t get fixed until the next Monday. A jobshare arrangement was made, with two maternity returners doing three days each.

Share success stories

The best way to make anything new live is, of course, to lead by example. Show it’s the way things are done round here. Use your internal communication tools to share success stories, from the business’s perspective as well as that of the employees.

Make sure it’s a balanced viewpoint, or it won’t be trusted. Bulletin boards are useful for people to share their views, and the traditional newsletter is a great way to profile people and their jobs.

By Carol Savage, Managing director, The Resource Connection

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