Introducing flexible working

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?


Flexibility Pays

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

Improves efficiency

Reduces cost

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: –


Working contracts

Performance evaluation

Reward Systems


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 of The Resource Connection which specialises in flexible employment solutions




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