The 10-point Best Practice Guide to Successful Implementation of Flexible Working
A STRATEGY FOR FLEXIBLE SUCCESS. THE 10-POINT BEST PRACTICE GUIDE TO IMPLEMENTING FLEXIBLE WORKING WITHIN YOUR BUSINESS
A series of recent round table discussions, involving prominent senior representatives of over 25 Sussex, Surrey and South London based businesses*, has resulted in a collection of strategies that make up the following 10-POINT BEST PRACTICE GUIDETO SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF FLEXIBLE WORKING:
1. Foster a cultural core value shift from the very top, led by example and evident in CEO’s and line managers working flexibly themselves – making it a reality to staff members on all levels of the business. The ‘leaving loudly’ approach is key here for managers as is the requirement for everyone in the business to opt-in to the flexible working cultural direction.
Appointment of internal champions at all levels (especially within executive team) to act as role models and actively promote their own flexible working arrangements and how it has filtered throughout their teams. It’s important that these champions are diverse to overcome the myth that flexible working is a perk intended only for parents and that they are equipped in holding effective conversations and negotiations on flexible working agreements.
THE EDUCATIONAL SHIFT
2. To support the educational shift of equality at work and home, concentrate on increasing the uptake of flexible working options among men by externally and internally promoting all available flexible options including taking shared parental leave – making flexible working ‘the norm’. Shifting the culture mindset to a ‘Flex for All’ perception.
Aim to secure ‘Best employer status’ acquired through actively promoting flexible working, to attract the best talent and shareholder interest. Make it part of the USP of the company, singing about it on social media, traditional marketing and recruitment tools. Be transparent on the company website and promotional materials about flexible working practices, maternity and paternal leave.
3. Be on top of the societal shift of what working life looks like for the Z generation by promoting, internally and externally, the value of flexibility and work life balance for mental and physical health. This also ensures that businesses recruiting flexibly are in a position to attract more talent.
HR & WITHIN TEAMS AT ALL LEVELS
4. Personal to each business: Produce a set of guiding principles/training tool kits that sit alongside the official company flexible working policy, but that enable and empower managers at all levels to navigate varying work patterns and different function needs. To include: a set for ad-hoc flexible working arrangements that do not require a permanent change to contracted hours (e.g. starting and leaving early on a Friday), a localised set for regional offices; a centralised set for head office and a set for all possible work patterns (shifts, core hours, remote, part-time etc.).
HR teams to be up to date with HR legislation regarding flexible working approaches, challenges and negotiations but to encourage and train individual business teams to manage their own agile working arrangements within agreements driven by team goals. These agreements, not policies, need to meet both business AND employee needs.
5. Internal PR/Communication: To ensure company-wide take-up, set-up flexible working arrangement trials in individual teams recording the commercial benefits that prove the business case and use internal communication channels to showcase. Communicate how other parts of the business have navigated their flexible working arrangements with relatable case studies. Conduct Internal PR that convinces CEO’s and executive teams that flexible arrangements improve the bottom-line.
6. Ongoing implementation/management: Foster a results-based culture that focuses on teams generating business goals and results, rather than individuals – based on their time spent at work. Training senior managers with the tools to accurately measure outcome (not hours) within their teams. Support for managers to stick to clear performance indicators and accountability for individuals within the team, regardless of what hours they are working. Setting appropriate and flexible targets that can be achieved within the hours.
Have a core workday so there is one uniform day to celebrate the week, have a wall rota/chart of where staff are each day, share news and results within huddles, produce a collaboratively agreed team charter. Encourage transparency and trust.
Include a review of each employee’s working pattern and career-life balance in regular 1-2-1 meetings, appraisals and at the end of a probation period to identify potential opportunities for flexible working or to ascertain whether the current one is working well for both parties.
INVESTING IN TECH
7. Making an investment in technology that embraces both trading progression and new ways of working. This includes tools that enable remote working (laptops are cheaper than buildings), training managers and teams on how to use agile working enabling technology such as Office 365, Open Chat.
Introducing advanced performance management tools such as ‘Open Blend’ that measures overall happiness levels of employees and what they need outside and inside the workplace to deliver team goals most effectively. This is particularly important to implement at the on-boarding stage and from the very top so that it penetrates the culture of the whole business. Offsetting the technical upgrade against productivity improvements and attrition will justify the business case for investment.
AT RECRUITMENT STAGE
8. As a default starting position for any advertised roles – all hiring managers to assess the potential for flexibility and to justify why the role will need a full-time office based working pattern. This will need to be assessed respecting the requirements of the position.
Include the Working Families ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’ strap line in every job advert as a minimum to attract the best talent as well as widening the pool of potential candidates. Ideally include examples of how the role could potentially work with flexibility or which flexible options are available as part of the role.
9. At interview stage, as standard, find out what the individual’s ideal work pattern would be, clarifying upfront what the candidate needs to be able to deliver the requirements of the role most effectively. Train managers who interview to be able to discuss flexibility in the best way for the business and the individual.
AT ON-BOARDING STAGE
10. As standard, offer flexibility from day one for every employee (rather than the statutory requirement of six months). Plus – phased returns to anyone following extended leave (illness, parental or adoption leave, research leave, sabbaticals). Having trust for an individual presumed reliable enough to be hired gets the relationship off to a winning start.
* BUSINESSES INVOLVED: 01 March, 04 July 2019, 4 October 2019:
Flexibility Matters, Propellernet, First Central Insurance, The Student Room, Man Bites Dog, Futrili, Crunch, Brighton Chamber of Commerce, Platinum Publishing, B&CE, Brandwatch, Change, Grow, Live, Leaders, Kreston Reeve, Mumbelieveable, Thales, ABS Law, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, Sweetinburgh and Windsor, Venture Business, The Light Bulb Tree, 3, Leadership Academy – NHS, Guidant Global, SRM, FSCS, Pfizer, Amazon, Baby to Boardroom, Become Communications
WHAT SOME OF OUR DISCUSSION MEMBERS HAD TO SAY ABOUT FLEXIBLE WORKING:
“At Brandwatch we take the standard approach at recruitment level to ask the hiring manager to consider whether the role they are recruiting for needs to be full-time”. Liza Champion, Brandwatch. Brighton
“As an advocate of flexible working, particularly for awesome working parents I am delighted to have been part of the round table event in Brighton. The ten-point best practice guide is a great start in leading the way to ensure flexible working is ‘the norm’ to ensure the ideal work/life balance”.Cat Harris, Baby to Boardroom
“The key to not infantise the workplace is to be reasonable adults”. Rachel Brazier, Head of HR, ABS Law
“It’s important to lead flexible working practices from the top and filter them down. If senior managers want it for themselves, then it will work”.Mark Sweetinburgh, Director of Sweetinburgh and Windsor
“If you want to hold on to talent, you have to be an organisation that works for your employees”.Jess Hornsby, HR and Change Management Business Psychologist, Thales
“Having a strong shared purpose, vision and values is crucial in ensuring flexible working is seen as a positive part of organisational culture”.Zoe Wright, Group Director of People, B&CE
“The key to making this work lies in supporting managers to overcome barriers in their trust and communication. It’s about them having different conversations and working collaboratively with their teams to design roles that work for the business and much as they do for their people”. Ursula Tavender, Director of Mumbelievable
“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
“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