What will flexible working look like for organisations after Covid-19?
Since joining WaterAid as Global Talent Manager in 2018, I have personally benefitted from flexible working. I work part-time — 3 days a week — and worked mostly from home long before Covid-19 came into our lives. This kind of arrangement has generally been considered the exception rather than the rule. But Covid-19 is a game changer and in the new normal, employees will have far greater expectations of their organisations to accommodate their flexible working needs to enable them to achieve an effective work-life balance.
The latest research from Gallup on employee effectiveness and home working shows that in a full 5 day working week, the optimum flexible working arrangement is 3-4 days based at home. Working either a single day or 5 full days from home is not effective. In some cases it can even be detrimental. In a full working week, working 3-4 days from home allows for 1-2 days in an office environment where it’s important to proactively engage with colleagues face-to-face and, if you are a line manager, to interact with your staff members.
Millennials are leading the way on flexible working
With millennials now representing the largest demographic in the workforce, many organisations will have already been reviewing their approach to flexible working and their career proposition. However lockdown has forced us all to adapt our working routine and gone some way to proving that working effectively from home can work. We know that millennials, along with some other career archetypes, have desires beyond salary. Items such as:
believing in the purpose of the organisation;
development opportunities and quality managers, all feature high on the list.
It’s up to organisations now to look at these areas as the key topics to attract, develop and retain the best talent. For organisations making the transition to operating more flexible working arrangements, there are several key factors to consider. I will cover these over the next few paragraphs along with some of my recommendations.
Understand the demographic and career archetypes
Firstly, your organisation will need to understand the demographic and career archetypes that exist amongst your employees. There are diagnostic tools available to support this activity, but in summary you want to be asking questions such as:
are skills and careers an integral part of your strategic thinking and workforce planning;
is your career proposition easily explained by your managers and understood by employees;
does your career framework connect seamlessly across the organisation and allow for enhancing knowledge and progression and;
are there suitable tools in place to support quality conversations and career moves.
Develop career streams tailored to talent strategy
Once you understand the engagement and performance drivers of your employees, develop tailored streams of a career deal aligned to the overall talent strategy. Within the plethora of resources available to organisations, coaching and mentoring should feature predominantly. In a recent Mercer report, mentoring is considered a key component to:
attracting talent; developing leaders for succession;
identifying high potentials;
building skills across the workforce;
supporting employee career growth and increasing employee engagement.
Coaching managers in how to have coaching conversations rather than traditional performance conversations will also help create the quality managers employees want to work for. Secondly, what you construct as a career proposition needs to match the reality. This is about organisational culture and walking the talk. Organisations that don’t deliver on the promises made will develop a bad reputation, see existing talent leave and find they have to o!er far higher salaries to attract new employees. Achieving recognition in the Great Place to Work awards is worthwhile activity and provides a good benchmark for employee engagement. In addition, monitoring employee feedback and reviews on Glassdoor is also useful. Every organisation will be able to identify what makes their career proposition unique, it’s then a matter of delivering on it.
Create a digital workplace to allow flexible working
Finally, key to flexible working and remote working has been the investment made by organisations in creating a digital workplace. No longer are organisations reliant on company networks and servers. Cloud architecture and integrated systems allow employees to access files 24/7 from anywhere in the world. It has been an enabler to flexible and remote working. Yet the digital revolution still has a long way to go.
Flexible working is fast becoming a competitive advantage. As we re-emerge from Covid-19, there is a great opportunity for organisations to re-visit their talent strategy and consider their career proposition. Ask yourselves, what do our employees want and what is our unique and genuine offer to employees that will us to attract, develop and retain the best talent. Employees are likely to be far more demanding having experienced new routines, however I hope, new flexible ways of working will be one of the unexpected, but positive outcomes of Covid-19.