However, for some employees, this period will come to an abrupt end sometime after six months to a year of work. Workers find their jobs aren’t what they expected, or that leadership isn’t concerned with their goals, or other engagement drivers are lacking. When this happens, team members may experience burnout, a dip in engagement or feelings of disillusionment, and a desire to look for greener pastures.
Workplace flexibility may be an ideal driver with which to promote employee retention after the honeymoon ends. A 2011 study from office product company Staples Advantage found that 40 percent of employees would be willing to give up a portion of their salary for flexibility.
“By offering greater flexibility on when and where to work, organizations can improve engagement as employees find it easier to balance their personal and professional commitments,” said Murat Philippe, director of workforce consulting services at consultancy Avatar Solutions.
Employees have personal commitments that can overlap with traditional 9-to-5 work hours. Flexible work options allow employees to strike a balance and feel that they do not have to choose between a job and another valued activity. Further, flexibility can provide stress relief or mental distraction, reducing burnout and disengagement.
For example, at crop nutrient producer Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., flexible work arrangements have increased the already high engagement and retention levels among its 6,000 employees.
Potash conducted an employee survey and feedback sessions to better understand needs. Lee Knafelc, vice president of human resources and administration, and his team discovered that employees desired more flexibility to balance their professional and personal lives. Taking this information back to leadership, Knafelc and his colleagues convinced the organization to develop flexible work arrangements.
“We didn’t institute a finite policy for flexibility in all departments, but rather outlined guidelines so departments could do it their own way,” Knafelc said.
His team understood that flexibility would look different by department and location, but simply enacting flexible work arrangements engaged employees, made them feel like their opinions mattered and helped retain talent.
The following do’s and don’ts can help organizations looking to implement flexible work arrangements:
• Do ask employees how they envision flexible work policies at the organization. The front-line teams are often the best experts on how flexibility would work.
• Do provide guidelines, rather than strict policies.
• Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Remember, each employee’s personal circumstances vary.
• Do reduce the stigma related to flexibility by ensuring leadership uses the flexible work arrangements as well.
• Don’t micromanage. Encourage freedom among employees to take ownership of their own schedules.
• Don’t forget to check in. As flexibility becomes part of your organizational culture, check in to see how it is going and if improvements can be made.
The honeymoon period doesn’t have to end with an exodus of employees. Retaining top talent can be as simple as being a bit more flexible.
Melissa Herrett is a project manager for consultancy Avatar Solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.