Enbracing the challenge of Flexible Working
Flexible working is now the most coveted part of a benefits programme, a fact that the most switched on companies have known for some time, and which various studies have confirmed.
If you want to attract and retain talented people, it is essential, especially with increasingly multi generational workforces. For Gen Z, flexible working is absolutely the new norm; they cannot conceive of working in anything other than a flexible way.
However, companies face a number of challenges in implementing it. How do you maintain overall operational rigour, while allowing people to work flexibly? This can be especially challenging for business leaders drawn from the Gen X or Baby Boomers who may not yet be fully convinced of the benefits.
Some things are an integral part of working, such as formal management meetings and collaborative project work, and can be more difficult to organise when people are working flexibly. It is harder to assess performance when you don’t have someone in front of you all the time, and the implementation of change programmes becomes more complicated. There also has to be an element of fairness, not just from a legal standpoint, but also in the way that the business is run.
The key to overcoming all of these challenges can be summed up in two words: effective communication. And the really surprising thing about it is that companies already have a state of the art, operationally fast and efficient communications infrastructure in place, most just aren’t aware of it.
At Personal Group, when we deliver and create benefits and engagement programmes, our focus is on mobile. There is a simple but very powerful reason for that, which applies equally to flexible working, and is because the majority of web search activity and transactions are now being done on the move, with smartphones the most popular way of accessing that information. And these days, nearly everyone has a smartphone. By incorporating this into their engagement strategy, forward thinking companies can implement flexible working much more easily, and connect their office -based and remote workers seamlessly and cost effectively.
As recently as five years ago, a company that wanted to deploy a communications network with video conferencing and instant messaging capability would be looking at a significant hardware consultancy and training cost. They would have to buy computers for everyone, pay for servers, and invest in training staff to use the technology. Not any more. Thanks to smartphones, all of that is available at a cost that starts from zero.
The recent launch of Apple’s new iPhone7s plus, with its camera performance equivalent to an SLR camera is a wake up call. That phone is in fact a powerful computer in its own right, and smart thinking reward professionals will take advantage of the fact that their employees are already buying their own kit, because most have a smartphone.
Communication with flexible workers is transformed from relatively dull telephone calls to dynamic Facetime and Skype conversations. New products and materials can be shown and shared, not as one-dimensional images, but as the real thing. Training can be delivered in real time through mobile devices. This can take place across teams and departments, across offices and homes, and across cities and countries; the barriers to flexible working are coming down, and it can all be done at zero cost.
A lot of companies talk about putting technology at the heart of their overall strategy. Using smartphone infrastructure shows your employees just how seriously your company is taking it.
If you want to showcase their organisation’s forward thinking approach, why not think about your employee value proposition and consider offering a smartphone to all members of staff, with the cost forming part of the recruitment fee.
Workplace flexibility driven by smartphones could be extended further, to wellbeing strategies for example. A wealth of benefits can be delivered using the power of smartphones, from providing access to virtual GP referrals to avoid the lengthy waits for regular GP appointments, to gym classes that might be taking place 200 miles away, but can be delivered and participated in via a smart device.
Finally, we know that flexibility in your job is an integral part of feeling happy at work. We also know that happiness is essential for engagement, which in turn drives productivity. If engagement means unlocking that discretionary effort, then a flexible working strategy that harnesses the power of the smartphone and a readymade workplace communications infrastructure is absolutely critical.