How future global working patterns are impacting your people

Sep 03, 2021

Can your company capitalise on opportunities arising from changes in global working patterns to boost your ability to attract and retain the talent you need - and futureproof against those which threaten to reduce it?

Right now, businesses like yours are experiencing - or expecting - accelerating new working patterns into the workplace. During the past 18 months, many employees reassessed their priorities, prompting significant numbers to seek more flexible ways of working. At the same time, the long-running debate over the merits of a 4-day week made headlines once again, following intriguing results from a trial in Iceland.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain: global working patterns are in flux. In this blog, discover how technology available now will ensure you adapt faster to changing working patterns so you keep attracting and retaining talent - and remain ahead of your competition.

Far-reaching implications for business from the Iceland trial

Iceland’s 4-day week trial reignited the perennial polemic about whether reduced working hours are sustainable in, or compatible with, an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Historically, data consistently shows that - over the course of a year - productivity per hour increases when employees work fewer hours. The trial in Iceland confirmed this as productivity and service provision was maintained or even increased despite the reduced hours worked. Following the trial, over 86% of Iceland’s working population chose to shorten their working hours.

G. Haraldsson and J. Kelham, GOING PUBLIC: ICELAND’S JOURNEY TO A SHORTER WORKING WEEK -, 2021, Autonomy, p. 16

So the conclusions were overwhelmingly positive for businesses and workers. Reduced hours mean greater flexibility for employers to use workers’ hours more productively; and greater flexibility for employees to use their free time as they wish. The trial conditions included a focus on lean management – a production method we are highly experienced in advising clients on, helping them to optimise resources and generate greater value.

Many observers of this - and previous trials run in other countries and companies - conclude that greater flexibility benefits business owners, employers and managers through greater productivity and helping to build a stronger talent pool. Your challenge is how to harness and integrate that flexibility into your HR processes to attract and retain the talent that will drive your company forward.

The challenges of flexible working is a hot topic within the HR community. For a start, it is easier to implement in some sectors than others: for example, many office-based roles can often be performed remotely but most manufacturing and construction jobs require workers to be on-site. Employers are concerned about the impact and cost of flexible working on your company’s day-to-day functioning, the systems and methods used to measure employee time and the contract terms it necessitates.

There are multiple factors to consider and each business will need to overcome your own unique set of challenges; but if flexibility means greater productivity levels - and more motivated (and loyal) employees - then it might be a change worth making.

So how can you equip your business to navigate this brave new world of flexible working?

Having the right technology and knowhow in place will give you the strongest commercial advantage from flexible working. Here are four examples of best practice which, in our experience, will deliver you the best results – right now:

1. Ensure your flexible working policy is clearly defined

This will make it a vital plank in your recruitment campaigns, helping you secure top talent in today’s highly competitive job market. Demonstrating to potential hires that your organisation is committed to flexible working is a powerfully persuasive differentiator for desirable candidates deliberating between you or your competitors.

If your company does not already have a policy in place, the first challenge for your HR function is to implement one, defining its scope and shape, and confirming its legality. Once it is established, it must be clearly visible to all employees and regularly reviewed and updated. We have significant experience designing flexible working policies, so can help you with this process.

2. Support your people

In many organisations, managers are your first line of HR but they are often neglected when it comes to getting training to respond to widely varying flexible working questions employees may raise. Equip your managers by creating online courses for them, offering them face-to-face training or empowering your HR teams to (with literally the touch of a button) prompt managers that they need to get trained.

A Learning Management System (LMS) platform will do this for you by storing your courses, targeting and launching them at the right audience(s) and capturing training outcomes to measure and appreciate its success. If you are unsure how to create or manage this, our highly qualified consultants will be happy to help.

3. Define, manage and measure success

As with previous trials, Iceland’s clearly demonstrated that offering shorter hours doesn’t lead to decreased productivity. Often, the opposite is the case. Flexible working therefore can allow your organisation to redefine how you distinguish success, re-emphasising the importance of goal-setting, regular performance conversations and feedback. This will help your employees understand their role in achieving success and work towards the same business goals.

Using the right performance management and career development technology, track these conversations to ensure they equate to better business performance. For more details about the technology available right now to help you do this, contact us today.

4. Manage employees’ working patterns and time

The key to any successful flexible working process is understanding the working patterns and hours that your workforce has agreed to, quickly capturing and amending this data, and gathering necessary employee management information.

As an example: does your organisation have the tools to effectively manage employees and their time, including leave or holiday requirements linked to their contracts? If robust enough, your core HR tech solutions should do this for you, aligning organisational data closely to time management solutions. This will hugely reduce the manual burden on your HR teams, freeing them to focus instead on their departments’ strategic goals.

Working closely with our technology partner, SAP SuccessFactors, we help companies like yours design best practice processes which resolve these - and myriad other - HR challenges including effective time management or career sites that will attract outstanding new hires.

If you are still using older tech – or no tech at all – let us find you innovative solutions that will fast-forward your processes from reactive to proactive. With proven problem-solving expertise and cutting-edge models to draw upon, our wholly UK-based teams are available when you need us, either in person on-site or virtually.

Find out today how our fully certified and experienced teams have the solutions you need to attract, motivate and retain the people that will boost your business. Contact or email Scott Walker directly, to discuss how you can equip your business today to adapt and thrive however working patterns change tomorrow - and beyond.

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