Far-sighted employers, seeking to improve employee experience, promote working schemes offering employees unprecedented degrees of autonomy. Many of these employers are challenging - even discarding - traditional cornerstones of people management (e.g. time-sheets, leave policies and performance reviews). Others are following to a lesser extent offering degrees of “agility” and employee empowerment.
Wherever your company is in this evolution, we are all heading in one direction…
The shifting sands of work time
Change is inevitable. During the industrial revolution, workers made the leap from an agrarian to industrial regime, establishing many of today’s management systems, leadership practices and communication processes. These rely on employees committing a fixed portion of their lives to employers; family life, commitments and leisure fit around work. To many, this is an outdated and inefficient approach, which doesn’t mirror modern values of greater equality, freedom, and flexibility.
Traditional industrial working practices were replaced long ago in some sectors by a more relaxed, “flexible” approach – albeit at the employer’s discretion. Forced by Covid to adopt flexible working, many businesses discovered it improved productivity and profitability. Enter the next big shift: “agile” working. This offers employees genuine autonomy, empowering them to judge when and for how long they need to undertake their work.
And your talent is taking notice. In order to attract the top-level employees that will boost your business, you need to address this right now. Here are nine reasons why:
1. Get ahead of your competition now in the face of a global talent shortage
Talented employees with the most sought-after skills are increasingly scarce, globally and locally. Make it harder for competitors to attract the best people. They can probably match your attractive compensation and reward packages – but it’s harder for their recruiters to match your radically more attractive working model.
2. Gain stronger retention
Make it harder for your competitors to poach your current employees. Listen to what your employees want: greater choice and more autonomy to manage their work time. We’re not just talking about half days or flexi-hours for parents; employees want complete flexibility. Acknowledge this and you will increase your retention rates. Ignore it and you will lose the talent race.
3. Presenteeism is, like, so “over”
The younger generation of employees joining your workforce are fast rejecting presenteeism, long hours and the traditional home/work life boundaries. Valuing their personal freedom, they don’t want to be tied to a fixed desk. They are used to having choices and discretion regarding working location: having grown up with the internet, they expect to communicate with colleagues whenever and wherever they choose.
4. Why are you clinging onto a low productivity model?
Are you really constraining people to work when they are at their least productive? If your norm is a job with a fixed location and fixed set of hours, in return for which you pay a salary and benefits – then this is the textbook definition of a low productivity model. It’s not very satisfying for your employees (particularly those (often creatives) who do their best work outside of traditional hours) and not very effective for you the employer.
Which is why employers are increasingly embracing “smart” working: putting employees in control of their time, trusted by their boss to decide when and where to work. This rejects the assumption that work must be done in the usual daytime shift at the usual workplace.
5. You need to be measuring OUTPUT not INPUT
If you recognise what is actually being produced, then the where and when is irrelevant. Leading employers are introducing results-only measurement systems:
6. Technology is enabling employees’ values: equality, freedom and flexibility
Virtual offices and the blooming of remote communication mean the antediluvian model of working at a fixed location for a fixed time is redundant. Changing social attitudes are impacting on traditional management practice – a snowballing trend, as technology enables and drives it.
Today’s employees reject the old ethos prioritising work. Innovation has uncoupled them from the shackles of the office cubicle – so work activities can be done wherever there is an internet connection. They don’t feel obliged to justify their need for flexi-working and they don’t expect to be required to be at fixed workstations, 9 to 5.
7. Adapt NOW to the control shift from employer to employee
Snooze, you lose! The shortage of business-boosting, competition-beating talent will only get more chronic. Differentiate yourself by offering a more attractive and sustainable work environment, demonstrating that you don’t expect employees to sacrifice freedom for career progression. Employees no longer measure satisfaction by bonus or salary packet which is why so many are jumping ship to improve work/life balance.
8. Rome wasn’t built in a day – but boy, it fell fast…
History is littered with cautionary tales of companies that complacently ignored or resisted change. Curious, then, that some are adopting a piecemeal approach to change: half-hearted flexible working schemes or allowing an element of agile working. Others are sticking strictly to the fixed working day, with the onus on “presenteeism” and a “core hours” culture. These are the environments where we find the unholy trinity of remote working fails:
Assuming that employees who don’t come into the office are not committed.
Forgetting employees who are out of sight.
Managers failing to keep properly apprised of what remote reports are up to.
9. Acknowledge that this is just the first step…
Flexible working is here to stay - but this is only the beginning of the beginning. Let us help you create HR systems today that continue to attract and retain the talented people that will keep your business competing and thriving whatever tomorrow brings.
Keep apprised of rapidly changing working models – especially those which have not been imagined yet and which will boost your business!