‘Client expectations need to change around flexibility’

5136926303_095ef6c5c3_oEmployers must deal with the knock on effects of flexible working and manage client expectations if they are to successfully implement flexibility in their workforces, according to a report.

The report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) senior diversity network highlights the cultural change needed to make flexible working a success. Those represented in the network include Unilever, the Metropolitan Police, Ernst & Young and NHS Employers.

It said the common client expectation of being able to contact one specific person any time needs to change as workforces become more flexible. In the short-term employees will also have to learn to multi-task and cover for each other and they should be rewarded for doing so.

The report said: “The traditional model of service delivery results in an employee culture and client expectations that are hard to shift. For example, in law firms it might be the practice for individual partners to be the sole point of contact with the firm. In policing, members of the community expect to see a named community police officer on the beat.”

It said there is often risk aversion when it comes to customer demands and that businesses should balance the needs of clients with the needs of staff and long-term strategy.

The network also raised the issue of supporting line managers, whose workload will increase if they manage more people on a part-time basis.

“Managing flexible workers requires good performance management. It’s about agreeing clear targets with employees. We know line managers find performance management the hardest thing they do,” it said.

Despite the challenges, members of the network said the benefits of flexible working outweigh the disadvantages. The cost of taking on extra staff can be offset by flexible working, for example in reducing the amount of office space needed.

Flexible working should not just be a menu of options for employees but a way of driving up performance, it concluded.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/classblog/

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