Don’t just talk about it start implementing flexible working with our essential guide The many faces of flexibility Flexibility can take many forms: –
Don’t just talk about it start implementing flexible working with our essential guide
The many faces of flexibility
Flexibility can take many forms: –
Full time flexibility where staff spread their hours across the week
Part time where staff work a shorter working week/day
Job share where two or more staff share the responsibilities for one
Short term or interim contracts
Virgin, Easyjet, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Lands End Direct and First Quench are just some big names already able to boast the benefits of flexibility. But there are still plenty more out there in a prime position to reap the rewards of flexible staffing packages.
A recent poll of 300 HR professionals conducted by the Resource Connection and the Industrial Society shows that: –
The majority of HR Managers are convinced of the business benefits of flexible working but that 69% had no formal flexible working policy in place and many acknowledged their lack of necessary skills to implement flexibility successfully.
Faced with these realities, what is needed to assist these HR professionals in adopting flexible working practices?
Consider flexibility as a hard issue that should be linked directly to the organisation’s business plan and requirements.
Why your business may want to entertain flexibility
Getting the right skills for the role required might not mean having to employ someone on a full time basis
Employing a flexible executive allows businesses to staff up to suit the stage of development that the business is in at that time
If your business demands contact with international colleagues, it may serve your business well to have someone working from home from 8-11 pm
Flexibility may reduce the need for a small company to take on larger more costly premises
Flexibility is a way to entice quality staff when large salary budgets are not an option – Flexecutives value their time, which then becomes part of the package
Small companies often need experience to get a venture off the ground but may not be in a position to employ full-time staff. Flexibility provides a way through this Catch -22
Overcoming the negatives
The recent poll also revealed that HR professionals recognise that they will face a number of hurdles when they introduce flexible working into their company. Be prepared to tackle head on the most common objections, which may include: –
Concern over investment issues
Lack of commitment from flexible personnel
The ‘Executive Hour Glass’ syndrome – the business culture that rewards long hours
The trick is to identify all the possible negatives and brainstorm ways of converting them to positives.
Focus on the flexible benefits
Attracts the best people to a business
Rewards experienced and qualified staff
Retains knowledge and expertise in the business
Provides a framework in which jobs can be completed outside office hours, thereby increasing productivity
Remember that creative employment will attract the most talented individuals, which in today’s business environment virtually guarantees competitive advantage.
The way ahead
The HR department needs to encourage a shift away from the rigid work place. Flexibility can meet business needs and create a productive and supportive culture.
The starting line
Develop a working programme that matches employee AND business requirements.
Prepare a checklist and ensure that the flexibility programme: –
Mirrors the business strategy
Services customer demand
Positions your company as one that everyone wants to join and do business with
Keep in mind that it is not enough for organisations to dabble in flexibility. It needs a full-on strategic approach and changes to all aspects of human resource management policies including: –
Identifying the job
Consider the business needs and the role required
Identify the success criteria and the key deliverables
Look at when and where the role can be carried out
Investigate/understand implications for colleagues and business
Design an appropriate form of flexible work and create a business case
Making it work
Commitment from the top is vital. As champions for flexibility, Senior Managers will promote it and reinforce it through policy and practice.
Dispel the myth that flexibility is a gender issue. Plenty of single people want to change their work/life balance too.
Flexible workers are not ‘skivers’. In reality, many commuters would opt to work flexibly from 10 am to 8 pm rather than waste productive time in the rush hour.
Consultation with employees is critical and should focus on achieving a balance between employees’ and employers’ needs.
COMMUNICATE! Effective communication lies at the heart of a successful flexible work strategy. But ditch the rhetoric. Plain English will be understood by all.
Test the water. A pilot programme will provide an opportunity to promote, manage and evaluate those who have taken part.
Above all, follow your instincts on what the majority of HR Managers know to be true – that flexible working systems are good for their employees and good for their businesses.
The good news is that once you have bought into the concept of flexible working, it’s a versatile solution that can be adapted to suit any company’s requirements.
By Carol Savage managing director ofThe Resource Connection which specialises in flexible employment solutions