Flexing in the face of flux

Ian Symes, general manager for Right Management UK & Ireland, explains the wider benefits of flexibility and says now is the time for businesses to act.

2240937109_bd8d8e4e09_oIn just five years’ time, the majority of the workforce is expected to be flexible. Our recent research, The Flux Report, found that nearly 80% of HR decision makers see employees having multiple simultaneous careers by 2018. There’s still definitely a steep learning curve ahead for many businesses, but organisations are already introducing improved flexible working arrangements, which is good news. After all, if businesses are going to make the most of improved economic conditions, they need to put people at the heart of their plans and provide employees with the working structures that they need in an ever-changing environment.

So exactly how can flexible working benefit your business?

A more diverse workforce

Later this year, the right to request flexible working will be opened up to all employees, which is extremely important and beneficial to business success. In the past, we saw this this flexibility primarily being associated with older workers and mothers who were balancing family commitments with work. However, we’re now seeing that those organisations that have already made flexible working available to all employees have achieved not only a boost to their productivity, but also a more diverse workforce.

Increased productivity

Giving employees the chance to work more flexibly helps to demonstrate value and commitment to staff and promote a healthy work/life balance. This enables employees to feel more energised and motivated, boosting efficiency. Introducing temporary/flexible resources to your teams can also have a profound influence on other employees’ productivity. When some workers are only in the office a couple of days a week, their team members have to make sure that they make the most of this valuable time and focus on getting tasks done efficiently and in a certain timeframe.

Keeping key skills in the business

Flexible working is also beneficial in terms of staff retention. From our own experience, flexibility is seen as an employee benefit that is truly valuable not only to existing staff, but also to potential candidates. This is seen in our own research and is being reported by other companies too. In fact, according to research from global workplace provider Regus, 73% of employees believe that flexible working is a perk that attracts top talent, and 62% of employees said they would have stayed longer in their last position had flexible working been an option.

Retaining staff is key in turbulent times, especially when it means saving on the cost of hiring new recruits. For example, we know that some older workers require flexible hours or a shorter working week. Being flexible with these requirements means that organisations can achieve a huge level of commitment and loyalty from a highly skilled workforce up to and beyond retirement age.

Benefiting the bottom line

Another business benefit of flexible working is that it can have a direct impact on the bottom line. Businesses that provide flexible options to all staff can save not only on salary costs, but also on office rental prices, as desk space can often be shared. Giving staff the opportunity to work from home can cut this cost even further. We know that taking advantage of growing trends will benefit businesses in the long run. For example, we found in our Flux Report research that by 2018 many HR decision-makers expect that work will simply be done anywhere at any time, based entirely on individual needs.

Having a truly flexible and resilient workforce will require investment in staff development and is expected to accelerate new ways of working. The next five years are a critical time for organisations to embrace workforce transformation, including co-working spaces and flexible working. We know that the future is flexible, but organisations need to be ready for this.

Ian Symes, Right Management. Credit: Professional Images

Main image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twilightjones/

Categories: Comment, Research

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