Flexible Future - making flexible working, work for your business
The flexible working train has well and truly arrived at the station.
Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen many changes within the recruitment industry, but one of the biggest surrounds flexible working.
Gone are the days of a candidate happily accepting a role (or even an interview) based in the office 9-5, 5 days a week. They want, or rather expect, flexible working arrangements as standard & this means that if you want to both attract & keep top talent, you’d better make sure your business has it on offer!
Whatever the reason an individual wants a flexible role (work-life balance, mental health, childcare needs, reduction in commuting time - or let’s face it any one of the multitude of reasons out there) it's here to stay, so you’d better be ready.
Simply put, flexible working is any working pattern that differs from the traditional working week.
The mutual benefit to both employer and employee on implementing such working practices are clear.
The Vodafone Global Survey 2016 reported that 61% of businesses saw an increase in company profit, 83% saw productivity improvements and 76% saw an increase in staff morale. You can’t argue with that!
- 87% of employees want to work flexibly
- Nearly 1/3rd of full-time workers have left a job in the past 12 months for lack of flexibility
- 92% of Millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when looking for a job
- Half of employees would sacrifice 1/5th of their salary if they could work a four-day week
- 3/4 of employees would be in favour of a shorter week even if they had to compress their current number of working hours into fewer days..
Sources: timewise.co.uk, Know Your Money, Forbes, Capability Jane
Flexible working is arguably the greatest employee benefit on offer right now ...& can even trump higher salary!
Why you should start implementing flexible working
24/7 Business Operations & Competitive Edge
- Businesses who can operate outside usual hours - any time, any where - will win in the long run! We live in a 24/7 society so having the ability to deal with the unexpected & adapt more quickly to changes in workflow and demand will be advantageous. And don't forget the potential reduction in overheads!
Attracting & Retaining Top Talent
- You can attract top talent by offering flex solutions (as well as hire the best person for the job) regardless of where they are based.
- Recruiting is an expensive business so once you’ve invested in finding the right employee, ultimately you want to keep them - employees with agile working conditions are less likely to leave.
"This way of working has naturally developed amongst smaller, more agile businesses. Greater flexibility is enabling these organisations to grow at scale at their own pace, whilst also offering superior work-life balance.. and attract talent from bigger businesses. If you get it right, it can be a winning strategy."
So, how can you build a highly productive virtual team?
Structured objectives, goals and expectation of results
- Setting priorities, as you would in an office environment, is no less important in a virtual one. In fact, one may argue it’s even more important. Having a solid working structure in place ensures a team knows exactly what they are expected to deliver, by when and how regardless of their location.
Structured digital workplace
- Create the right environment for your team to flourish. It’s essential that you have a suitable data management system in place which allows the team to see who’s actioning what, general progress & each others' schedules. The last thing you need in any virtual team is a disgruntled employee feeling like they’re putting all the work in whilst ‘Sam’ is never at his/her desk. Equally you do not want members of your team feeling like they are being spied on. Trust is essential - without it, flex working doesn't work!
Solid & streamlined communication & guidance
- Have transparency from the beginning. It’s easy to lose clarity when you aren’t seeing your teammates face to face so make sure you understand how your team works and the best method/s of communicating with them. Whatever your set-up, it must work for the team as a whole.
- It's important to choose your communication method carefully - think through how you will discuss issues, run 1:1 discussions and manage cultural / language differences (phone conference, video conference, webinars etc).
- The ability and desire to share expertise & information amongst team members will build trust and essentially create a more productive team. Invest in team building - individuals who get to know each other & develop positive working relationships will be more productive.
Open Lines of Communication
- Motivational & developmental communication is a must. Check-in with each member of your team regularly so they know you’re there. Go through any achievements and provide any help/expertise which may be missing.
- Be present. Be specific.
- Increase accountability & enhance performance.
Get to know your team
- Knowing your team member’s likes/dislikes and understanding their motivations and goals will help you drive both the project & team member's development.
- It's essential that no team member feels isolated
"Employees can apply for flexible working if they've worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks"
Notes from Patrick Tame, CEO
Forbes notes that only 10% of UK advertised jobs mention flex working. In the Digital Marketing & E-commerce recruitment landscape we think it's equally as low - this seems counterintuitive.
Flexible working is all part of where the world is moving - businesses need to be ready and open to negotiation. Get it right and you could have an awesome team of individuals working for your organisation. Happy people = productive people!
- Ensure you have a flexible working policy in place.
- See flex working as a benefit you're able to offer to all employees.
- Put tools in place to facilitate positive flex working, enabling teams to work efficiently & effectively.
- Work on your culture. Cultivate an open and trusting work environment which leads itself to flexible working practices.
"My advice is simple. In order to be on the consideration list of the top 20% talent in the market, be flexible.. & fast! You can be certain your competition will be!"
So... what about if you're a candidate looking for a flexible role?
Most digital marketing & e-commerce jobs that we deal with are not advertised as 'flexible' - this does not mean it's out of the question - just that it becomes part of the wider negotiation.
- Do your research. What is the company's flex working policy? Do they have one?
- Know how you are going to pitch yourself - are you willing to take a lower salary or even a demotion in order to receive the flexibility you're after?
- Be honest with an employer from the start. Employers will always appreciate transparency.
- Don't forget that flexibility goes both ways.
"Slowly introduced & nurtured, the suggestion [of flex working] will often take root & receive a fertile response."
In brief, work culture is evolving.. & rightly so. People are thinking differently about how, when & where they work - many of them want to work flexibly and as you've already read, there are huge benefits on both sides. Like anything, it's about balance and ensuring the right processes and tech are in place to make it work for all. Whether you're a business or looking for a job yourself, it's time to get your ducks in a row!
If you have any questions, comments or would like a pdf version of this artical, please do get in touch.