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Flexing up to the future

first_img Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Flexing up to the futureOn 14 Mar 2000 in Personnel Today Flexibility is not just a buzzword of thenew millennium – the UK’s most talented, experienced employees want it and companieswant the UK’s most talented, experienced workforce. But your board needsconvincing that flexibility is the way forward and they need evidence of thebenefits. Carol Savage, managing director of flexible work consultancy TheResource Connection, begins a regular column by showing the way to shaping amore flexible future for your organisation.Three-quarters of UK employers believe that flexible work programmes bringcompetitive advantage, and two-thirds are experiencing an increased demand forflexible work. Yet nothing moves forward. Why?The Employers Study, carried out by Resource Connection and the IndustrialSociety, points to two possible reasons. First, HR professionals who know thata flexible work policy is important find themselves banging their heads againsta brick wall of “status quo culture” in the boardroom. Even those who manage to break through the corporate mindset are oftendaunted by the prospect of putting their plans into effect. Second, devising apolicy that is fair to everyone is a logistical nightmare for many and otherssimply lack the resources to get a programme off the ground.It remains that flexible policies need to be implemented, yet our ownresearch shows that flexible options currently on offer are not being taken upbecause the prevailing culture dictates that by doing so, these individuals arecommitting professional suicide. But while changing that culture is always”someone else’s problem”, HR professionals now have a realopportunity to drive strategic and cultural change and make tailor-made workingpackages the norm in British business.Over the next few months, this column will be giving you the informationneeded to effect change – successful case histories of both large and smallorganisations; demonstrable proof that flexibility improves the bottom line;practical advice on how to formulate, test and implement a flexible workpolicy; how to sell it to the board; how to accentuate the positives andcounteract the negatives and, most important, how to evaluate the system onceit is up and running, improve it and fine-tune it.As a starting point, it is worth defining terms. Far from being simply an HRissue, true flexibility is a pioneering concept which can provide all-roundbusiness, financial and practical benefits company-wide. It is about new waysof working for all reasons and at all levels, expanding minds to differentoptions for the mutual benefit of employer and employee; it is not just aboutpart-time and flexi hours, although these should not be discounted as elementsof a flexible mix.Going back to the survey, 60 per cent of respondents do not believe that allroles can be done on a flexible basis. Yet there is no reason why all levels ofresponsibility cannot carry some form of flexibility, providing in each casethat the needs of the business are met. With a little imagination and a lot ofperseverance in setting benchmarks for evaluating employee output and therewards are significant: attracting and retaining key staff, improved moraleand motivation, lower absenteeism, greater commitment and productivity,reduction in stress, positive PR – and maximising office space.When it comes to the benefits of flexible work policies, the argument hasalready been won in the HR department, and increasing evidence points to thecontribution the work-life balance makes to the bottom line. In his book The100 Best Companies To Work For, US management consultant Robert Leveringcorrelates best practice with return on investment, and in his most recentpublication, A Great Place To Work, he shows that if you had invested £1,000 inany of the 100 companies identified as having the best work practice policiesthree years ago, you would now be enjoying £8,000 in shareholder value, versusan average £3,000 shareholder from other top US companies from the same £1,000investment.The purpose of this column is to provide a forum for shared learning from arange of companies at different stages and with different objectives. Those whocall me, write to me or e-mail me with their experiences, observations andissues will derive most benefit from it. There is a flexible future ahead andyou are in the best position to make a case for it, and so contribute to yourcompany’s competitive edge.Carol Savage can be contacted at The Resource Connection, 14 Floral Street,London WC2, Tel 020-7379 3021, or e-mail her at [email protected] Day in the LifeThe lack of a positive response from employers to Carol Savage’s need tojuggle work and family life led her to set up her own company so she could workflexibly and offer opportunity for others to do the same. Carol’s typical working day starts at 6.30am when she is woken by her twochildren. The next two hours are spent getting herself and them ready fornursery and the childminder. She catches a 9.09 train and arrives at her officein central London at 9.45. The rest of the day is devoted to meetings. At 4.45pm she heads home, and picks up her two boys at 5.30. She thendevotes her time to them up until bedtime at 8pm. From 8 to 8.30pm she eats a meal with her husband. Then three nights a weekit is into her home office to write emails and reports until midnight. On Fridays she works half a day at home and spends the afternoon with herchildren.She also often works on Sunday morning while her husband spends time withtheir two boys. This way Carol manages to work more than 40 hours a week andcope with a busy family life. “Working flexibly full time takes stamina. You do not get much time foryourself,” says Carol.She suggests it is vital that you at least spend one night a week out withyour partner to keep your relationship healthy. The Resource Connection specialises in placing professionals into flexibleworking roles and providing consultancy advice to help companies introduce newways of working. www.resourceconnection.co.uk Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more