The View From Behind the Workplace Flexibility Curve

If you think the purpose of an interview is to determine whether a candidate is right for your company’s open position, know that professionals are sizing up your business for just the same reasons. And culture fit is more of a consideration for candidates these days. As more professionals are growing accustomed to working when and where they are at their most productive, the reality is that if they can’t find flexibility in a role with your business, they’ll find it with another one — or start their own.

It seems to me that the candidate is taking more control over the situation. Companies and hiring managers not engaging in a conversation about customization during the interview process may be behind the curve of the workplace evolution. People want to work the way that best suits their family and work-life alignment needs. So as an organization, is it worth resisting the growing workplace flexibility trends and possibly missing out on acquiring high-level talent?

Before answering, remember that it’s not just employees and candidates who may be lost. There are many costs associated with employee turnover, such as recruiting, interviewing and income lost while the position goes unfilled. The big picture is to recognize and understand when employee preferences change on a macro level and evolve your talent strategy for the betterment of your organization. Look forward to change and take the first steps toward a more flexible workplace with these tips:

Frame the dialogue around work-life alignment, not work-life balance: There doesn’t appear to be much consensus on what “normal” work-life balance is because the term has a different meaning for each employee. Because balance implies all aspects of life are in equilibrium — which is next to impossible — introducing the idea of work-life balance may give your team unrealistic expectations. Instead, think alignment and allow employees to create a plan conducive to their own success. It’s all about discovering what drives productivity so that your team can work the way that best benefits themselves and the organization.

Promote your company’s culture of flexibility externally: Reflect flexibility in job descriptions to promote compliance with alternative work options. Let your company’s culture, vibe and attitudes on the subject come through the message you’re conveying. And remember that flexibility is not just a women’s issue. While the term is commonly associated with working mothers, in reality more and more professionals — men and women, new and more seasoned professionals — are seeking flexible work options. Ensure that your job descriptions are extending beyond new parents and are appropriate for all professionals.

Endure the trial and error: Like exercising or losing weight, it takes time to see results. We’ve seen it happen before — without the proper implementation, entire businesses suffer when attempting to offer flexibility and as a result end up ceasing all efforts. While not every employee will be a strong flexible worker, it’s important to endure the trial and error rather than shutting down the entire flexwork program if a few members of your staff fail to succeed in alternative work options. Instead consider other options and allow those who thrive in the arrangement to continue to do so.

Flexible workplace benefits keep employees satisfied and engaged. High rates of satisfaction in turn yield higher rates of production and smaller costly turnover percentages. Has this notion of a more customized work environment reached your halls? What programs have been implemented to address these shifting employee preferences? Where are you finding the most success? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.