Despite UK workers having had the right to request flexible working for almost two decades, it seems that only 27% of the population actually take their employers up on it.
The government defines flexible working as a “way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.” Of course, some of the components of flexible working don’t suit all employment types, but most businesses will actively be thinking about what solutions they can offer to facilitate flexible working.
The concept of flexible / agile working certainly isn’t hot off the press. It’s been a buzzword for HR and Recruitment professionals for a long time… However, with the talent landscape being more competitive than ever, a clear focus on using flexible / agile working to retain staff, enhance engagement, attract talent and drive productivity is undoubtedly a top priority for most businesses. Couple this with the increase in companies competing on cost; it could mean less office space and more virtual interaction, impacting a whole range of HR processes.
RBS is a business that have long-adopted a flexible approach to work, and following a Think Tank held with their HR Business Consultant (Matt Sanderson) we share the seven questions an HR Leader should ask themselves when implementing an agile working methodology.
1. Does your business offer the right environment to promote a flexible working ethos?
Gone are the days of a traditional static desks, desktop computers and desk phones. If you expect your employees to embrace agile working, then the environment you create for them needs to reflect flexibility and freedom. Offering ‘break-out’ zones, collaboration areas and quieter pods for working helps ensure there’s something for everyone.
2. Do your Leadership team and line managers buy-in to the concept of agile working and are they equipped to manage these types of employees?
Securing the buy-in of your Leadership team with any initiative is always critical to success. Afterall, they need to believe in the reasons for the change and be able to role model the behaviour to help embed it into the business. Additionally, your line managers need to be equipped to manage employees remotely and ensure that they’re still able to support their teams to achieve their objectives. What training and upskilling does your business need to provide to make sure your line managers are operating effectively?
3. Are there any potential risks or problems associated with implementing a flexible working methodology in your business?
Identifying potential challenges ahead of an initiative roll-out is crucial. For instance:
- Does flexible working throw up any communication and data security issues for your business? What can be done to overcome these obstacles?
- Do employees feel comfortable to absorb the costs associated with home-working (e.g. house costs, internet, mobile phones etc)? What allowances can be made in these circumstances?
- Will flexible working be suited to all regions from a cultural perspective? Some countries are more open to an agile approach to work, whereas others are likely to be more resistant to change…
4. Does your existing culture lend itself to an agile working approach?
For flexible working to be a success, the business needs to be output focused. A business with a presenteeism culture will obviously struggle to make flexible working effective in their environment! When it comes to measuring the success of staff, focus needs to be applied to monitoring impact and output, which can only be done by setting clear objectives and deliverables.
5. Have you amended your hiring process to ensure you’re recruiting employees suited to a flexible working environment?
Understanding the qualities and attributes of candidates that are suited to working in a flexible way is key! Whether it’s a desire to self-develop, take charge or it’s possessing a natural curiosity and willingness to learn, these drivers and qualities need to be built into your hiring process to ensure you’re recruiting people that are going to be suited to a flexible working environment.
6. What measures can you take to protect your existing culture and sense of ‘team collaboration’?
One of the obvious downsides of flexible working is that your teams don’t work as closely from a proximity perspective. It’s, therefore, really important to try and embed a strong sense of belonging to ensure your teams are as engaged as possible. The on-boarding phase of an employee’s journey is a critical time to establish this commitment and map out a bunch of interventions to help align them to the business and its values. Additionally, a lot of businesses report success by encouraging staff to be in the office on a specific day to help with team bonding and inclusion. Company wide updates and team lunches / socials are also good ways to promote team spirit and collaboration.
7. What tools and technology help ensure the success of flexible working?
The tools below were all discussed during the HR Leadership Think Tank as effective ways to enhance flexible working:
- Team WhatsApp groups can prove highly successful for ensuring that remote teams remain connected and provide a useful channel for discussion
- E-learning tools and apps are a great way to drive L&D initiatives, allowing employees to develop their skills when not physically present in the office
- The Zoom platform is brilliant for team interactions and creates a seamless video conferencing experience when people are working remotely
- Slack channels are also great for facilitating discussion amongst teams. Additionally, getting your C-suite population involved helps drive engagement and creates a buzz when the wider business see that the platform’s being used by the senior population
- The Sunlight app (a tool that works well in parallel with Slack) can help your company foster a learning culture by granting your team access to any book, event or course in the world.