Best Practice in Flexible Working Discussion Group – Flexpo, 1 October 2019

Flexpo Discussion Group

MAIN OBJECTIVE

To reveal key points and peer learnings around the challenges and benefits of flexible working implementation in order to develop a 10-point flexible working implementation plan and best practice guidelines.

INTRODUCTION

All attendees (see list attached) have experience within their varying size organisations of flexible working and/or recruiting for flexible working. All recognise the benefits and are very passionate about them, but, at the same time are aware of the challenges that are affecting full take-up within all departments across their businesses.

OUR SURVEY SAYS

Survey results from attendees of the roundtable revealed the following points of discussion, summarised below.

89% surveyed offered flexible working options to their employees in varying forms.

  • Part-Time, Flexible Hours, Flexible Full-Time, Flexible Part-Time, & Working from Home, are the options offered by the majority surveyed and this trend is mirrored within national statistics sourced from Timewise, the CIPD Flexible Working Megatrends report and ONS.
  • Core Hours, Compressed Hours and Job Shares are options that are offered the least by those surveyed (respectively: 35%, 52% and 47%).
  • In response to whether flexible working is offered at recruitment/interview stage, the survey revealed an 82% YES, with it being offered in slightly more cases on day one as opposed to within the recruitment advertising or interview stages (78% yes)

SOME INTERESTING STATISTICS (Source: Timewise Survey):

  • 87% of all full-time employees either work flexibly already or want to
  • 70% say an organisation offering flexible working is more attractive to them.
  • 88% of employees based in the south would prefer to start and finish later

 

GROUP DISCUSSIONS

Attendees were split into three groups to consider how flexible working can best work and the main requirements for successful implementation within the following three different business areas or levels:

 

1: TEAMS

2: HR

3: NEW STARTERS/INTERVIEWS/HIRING

 

Each group was also asked to consider how flexible working would impact these business areas, considering: culture, the bottom line, wellbeing, systems/technology and value & vision:

 

1: TEAMS

REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION:

  • There is an unspoken assumption that team members will mirror how their leaders approach work, so senior managers need to be clear on the culture as they are modelling it. It’s therefore a requirement for managers of flexible working teams to work flexibly themselves. The ‘leaving loudly’ approach is key.
  • A shifted mindset that focusses on teams generating business output rather than individuals. The resource needed is agreed to in a collaborative way, producing, for example, a team charter.
  • Have two clear goals in mind – what does the team as a whole need to achieve and what does the individual need to achieve.
  • A team environment of transparency and trust. A safe place that discussions can be had without fear of judgement, so guidelines, parameters and structures can be put in place to achieve a collaboratively agreed way of working for all.
  • Within industries where it’s traditionally hard to introduce certain types of flexible working, such as part time, core hours etc, (Construction and Sales), look at alternative methods: Job Shares for example.
  • Teams to be given clear performance indicators and clear accountability. Managers to be supported with the tools to accurately measure these as well as tools to track resource demand.
  • A team culture that breeds a flexible work approach that’s not something which can be opted out of. How the individual is positioned and how they communicate needs to be within the parameters of this culture.
  • Training for managers to be able to apply appropriate deliverables to individuals, based on the hours they work and team goals. Empowering managers to create micro-cultures and tailored individual deliverables will ensure team engagement.
  • Alongside Flexible Working Request HR guidelines, managers to use their discretion for their own team members. For example, if the request is to simply leave early on a Friday and come in early on a Monday, this can be sorted out within teams.
  • Shift the culture mindset to a ‘Flex for All’ perception. That flexible hours are not just for those with children.

 

2: HR

REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION:

  • It is the HR Department’s responsibility to protect the company, yet this sometimes results in them feeling hamstrung by statutory flexible working policies. To avoid the restrictions this may bring, HR to enable individual teams to manage flex within agreements rather than policies. HR to arm managers with appropriate guideline tools and training that is, most importantly, simple.
  • The training tools would include; ways to manage flexible teams with visual management, such as team huddles and wall rotas, and materials on how to use agile working enabling technology.
  • HR to equip senior managers with the training to be able to write an agile working policy driven by the individual requirements of the team. For example, the reduction of desk space may lead to a need for remote working.
  • HR as a department need to be an enabler, not a blocker and proactively give teams the training to implement flexible working agreements within their teams themselves. This training needs to be over a long term and be significantly invested in for it to effectively penetrate culture.
  • A simple switch to thinking about how to manage and measure performance: Measuring ‘outcome’ on a quarterly basis, rather than simply ‘output’ will allow for performance to be more accurately measured against hours and what needs to be delivered.
  • Low trust slows things down in an organisation. High trust speeds things up as it reduces the need for layers of sign-off.
  • HR teams to model flexible working to the rest of the business, showcasing how effective it is. Teams can then use their experiences and outcomes as a blueprint.

 

3: NEW STARTERS/INTERVIEWS/HIRING

REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION:

  • Train managers or HR interviewers to be able to discuss flexibility at interview stage in the best way for the business and the individual. Clarify upfront what the candidate needs to be able to deliver the requirements of the role most effectively.
  • Eradicate self-bias by erasing the word ‘only’ from the language used when discussing flexible working. Example; the candidate can only work 9-3.
  • Allow for free-flow communication by assuming ‘Flex for All’ – going beyond families. What flexibility is needed does not necessarily need to be known.
  • Introduce ‘The Open Blend Method’ (what makes you happy?) at onboarding stage and once per month throughout, so that managers can work to the strengths of their staff members and understand what makes them ultimately happy. Transforming managers into coaches will allow them to understand what is needed for their individual team members to deliver their jobs most effectively.
  • Clarifying the expectations of the role, with deliverables matching the flexible work pattern. For example, if a job pattern is part-time, the job expectations and deliverables need to adapt to represent the hours.
  • A role should be advertised as flexible from the start, before the offer stage. This avoids the tendency for flexible working opportunities to go under the radar.
  • Introduction of the right tech from the very start – Office 365, Open Chat.

COLLABORATIVE DISCUSSION:

Attendees collaboratively discussed how best to obtain C-SUITE/SMT buy-in and concluded with the main following outcomes:

  • An interesting point was raised, that our customers are now able to shop at their convenience 24/7. Their needs have been met. So, why can the same not be said for employees?
  • The C-SUITE team may advocate flexible working, but they need to truly believe it to model it. The executive committee to be ‘open-blended’ themselves to understand it from their perspective to be able to authentically filter the culture down.
  • An investment in technology to enable flexible working requirements to be viewed as an upgrade that is needed anyway for any progressive business to be more efficient.
  • Offsetting the technical upgrade investment against productivity improvements and attrition will be something that captures the attention of the c-suite as it effects the bottom line.
  • By keeping flexible working implementation simple with easy to follow guidelines and demonstrations on how it has already physically worked (i.e. starting with the HR departments) is key.
  • Training managers from the top down to embrace a new way of managing performance and having different conversations with their staff (open blend happiness) will result in business efficiencies as well as better customer service.
  • A business may have flexible leadership, but the principles can get stuck in middle management, so again making sure the modelling filters down and training is provided for them to be on board is essential.
  • Highlighting that not offering flexibility into roles means the talent pool is and will shrink.
  • Implement trials within senior manager roles. Make them, for example, job-shares or flexible full-time roles and then case study them, analyse productivity and satisfaction levels and communicate internally.
  • A major mindset shift is required from: basing a salary on hours and output, to basing a salary on outcome.
  • C-suite and stakeholders need to understand that if they recruit flexibly, they have access to more talent (Example: Social Workers). Also – it’s possible that they will lose out on the talent of generation X.

 

Quotes from the day:

“it’s nice to see the conversation happening around flexible working, but we need to see action to be able to truly feel the benefits” Linda Thwaite, SRM

“We believe that in the near future everyone will be working a four-day week, so the question is how to trailblaze this and start working more productively now”. Jenny Davidson, 3

“HR departments can champion flex by doing it themselves and supporting managers to do it themselves too”. Vicky Sharp, St Mary University.

“If we don’t embrace flexible working within our cultures, we will lose out on the talent of generation X who will not find our businesses attractive. Their way of working is different, and businesses need to adapt”. Dagmar Alberts, Pfizer

“The trust aspect of flexible working is heavily weighted, but it needs to work both ways. If your manager does not trust you, you will not trust them”. Noor Umar, Undergraduate Diversity and Inclusion, Pfizer.

 

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