Businesses are still feeling the impact of the pandemic on their workforce and the labor market, three years after the fact. In a world that forced us all to go remote – and offered a certain level of flexibility as we navigated work from home with our ongoing personal responsibilities – continuing to be able to offer flexibility is a boon to your business. In this blog, we will talk about how organizational flexibility helps businesses retain workers and cast a wider net for talent, all because you’ve moved away from requiring people to report to the office between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm.
What is Organizational Flexibility?
Organizational flexibility is a business’s ability to be nimble in its approach to how and where its employees are expected to work. In an employment landscape that is constantly shifting, companies can’t afford to be rigid. Over the past three years, employees have demonstrated their ability to be productive while working from anywhere and during uncommon hours. There’s an increased benefit to companies continuing to offer flexibility as they look toward the future.
Why Organizational Flexibility is Important Now More Than Ever
Research shows flexible working hours contribute to greater productivity. Flexible work schedules and remote work options allow employees to achieve goals on schedules more conducive to their natural rhythms. Being flexible also allows employees to have ownership over their time. And honestly, I know I’m in a better mood at work and more productive when I’m not forced to sit through two hours of traffic both ways.
Additionally, in a complex and competitive job market, organizational flexibility vis a vis offering remote work opens up your talent pipeline. You have greater access to more job seekers through your willingness to throw a wider net for talent. The pandemic required us to deliver new and creative solutions to common workplace challenges, and by expanding your talent search geography, you’ve discovered a new approach to a common HR problem. To note, employees report they are willing to take a pay cut for the ability to work remotely. Offering remote work is a good recruitment strategy and good for business.
3 Tips on Creating Organizational Flexibility
1. Develop a Culture Based on Deliverables, Not Presence
Some of the biggest detractors of remote work argue they need to physically observe their employees doing work to believe they are accomplishing their job responsibilities. Flexible organizations are more willing to evaluate an employee’s productivity on their deliverables, not on if they’re seen working on a task at a desk by their manager. If work is getting done by deadlines and stakeholders are happy with the work product, it shouldn’t matter when the work is getting done and if the employee is meeting objectives in a cubicle or from their dining room table.
2. Train Managers in Supervising a Remote Workforce
A few years ago, we conducted a Gallup survey for a client who was taking their initial steps in developing a return to office policy. Upon reviewing the results, it became abundantly clear there was a generational divide between the Boomers/Gen X employees and the Millennial/Gen Z employees about return to office attitudes. The majority of managers and people leaders in the organization were older, so they had never been in a situation where they had to supervise a remote workforce. Conversely, their direct reports were younger and thus wanted a remote or hybrid work option. Engaging in the shift from a presence-based to a deliverables-based culture, where you are accountable for a remote workforce, requires a specific skill set. All of a sudden, experienced management staff found themselves in a situation where they needed to learn something new in order to navigate a shift in the way they worked and managed their teams. The only way a commitment to organizational flexibility can be successful is if all stakeholders are bought-in and are skilled to navigate a significant change in how they supervise their direct reports and evaluate performance towards objectives.
3. Write Clear Job Descriptions and Establish Clear KPIs
If you’re going to offer flexible scheduling, support remote work options and evaluate your workforce based on deliverables, it’s essential every person is crystal clear on their job duties and key performance indicators (KPIs). The company has a responsibility to develop performance management processes and infrastructure to evaluate individuals’ performance based on their output, not on presence. And to note, if you’ve committed to organizational flexibility, the goal of performance metrics is not to evaluate someone’s ability to work remotely, but on their ability to do the job you hired them for. It’s common for managers to be unable to look past the fact someone isn’t in the office, so they consistently evaluate them based on that fact, not on their actual performance.
To best support employees and ensure alignment between manager and direct report, job descriptions need to accurately match what the person is doing. If someone is given the freedom to work independently towards business objectives, their job description should reflect what they are actually expected to do. It’s unfair to an employee to feel like they are killing the remote work game, only to be evaluated, and their manager points out all these things they aren’t accomplishing when those expectations aren’t outlined anywhere. Very similarly, if an employee is given control over their schedule, setting clear performance metrics, milestones, deadlines, and set goalposts to aim for, even if it isn’t during standard working hours.
How an HR Consultant Can Help With Organizational Flexibility
Red Clover, as a hybrid company that offers flexible scheduling, is acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities that come with organizational flexibility. We work with a number of successful, fully remote companies and have helped small businesses navigate the pivot to remote or hybrid work. We take our proven ability to help companies navigate change to develop flexible work policies that work for them and their employees. Reach out to start a discussion on how we can drive progressive and innovative change in your business!