New Year, New Approaches to Flexibility

Image courtesy of Flickr/régine debatty

Economic recovery, changing workforce demographics and rapid advancements in technology are undeniably transforming our world of work:

  • Unemployment is decreasing.Across the nation, career opportunities are becoming more plentiful for talented professionals. High performers are “in the driver’s seat” when it comes to selecting choice assignments, contracts and full-time positions.
  • Millennials are quietly taking control of the workforce.According to Deloitte's Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report, Gen Y is predicted to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2020. Millennial workers place higher value on flexibility than previous generations. And because they're both optimistic and quite comfortable with change, they will not hesitate to leave you for an employer that offers the flexibility they crave.
  • Virtual work is seamless and efficient.Cloud-based computing, mobile and wearable technologies make it possible for employees to work virtually anytime, anywhere. For many professional positions, telecommuting is not just possible; it makes good business sense.

Are your talent management strategies designed to capitalize on these trends?

It’s a new year — the perfect time to re-evaluate your approach to workplace flexibility. Here are three ways to facilitate success, in light of the changing nature of work.

1. Shift your focus.Our increasingly mobile workforce is rapidly blurring the lines between employees’ home and work lives. “Balance is out;” work-life “integration” is the new norm. If your organization is like most, your employees routinely work outside typical business hours. To minimize the stress and overwork this can cause, give them the flexibility to meet the demands of home during their workday. Alleviate employees’ feelings of “being pulled in two directions,” and you’ll build a more loyal, engaged and focused team.

2. Train for success.Although workplace flexibility has become much more common, training in this area has not kept pace. According to WorldatWork’s Survey on Workplace Flexibility, 83 percent of employers do not train employees to be successful in flexwork. Like any other aspect of your business, a new workforce flexibility initiative requires comprehensive training to succeed.

Identify flexibility-related knowledge gaps.Building a more flexible workplace affects your culture, work environment and operational needs. Creating lasting change in any of these areas requires in-depth training, as well as ongoing support.

Before you implement, pinpoint the types of training employees and managers need. And when you launch your initiative, make sure everyone within your organization understands the business and personal benefits, the scope of your program, the changes required to make it a success and the training and resources available.

Provide separate training for managers and employees.Teach managers how to coach for performance, create better accountability frameworks (especially for employees who telecommute), and build and support more flexible teams. Employees need to learn how to use new technology, succeed with less direct supervision and work effectively with others in a dispersed work environment.

Include periodic retraining.Initial instruction is beneficial, but as your workplace flexibility initiatives evolve, additional training will be required. Re-evaluate knowledge gaps and additional training needs quarterly or annually to provide the ongoing support employees need.

3. Leverage technology.The success of your workforce flexibility initiatives hinges on your ability to us the right technology to its maximum advantage. From conference call capabilities to project management software, mobile devices to cloud computing, technology enables employees to remain connected when working remotely, and teams to effectively coordinate their activities.

When developing new plans to make your workplace more flexible, conduct a needs analysis to determine the ROI on hardware and software investments that may fuel flexibility. As you integrate new technologies, be sure to update your workplace policies to protect your organization.

Improving workplace flexibility is no longer a nice thing to do; it’s a business imperative. Resolve to address each of the priorities above, and you’ll do an even better job of attracting and retaining high performers in 2015.