Firms ‘out of step’ with employees on agility


Businesses are out of step with employee expectations on agile working, according to a joint report by the CIPD and the Agile Future Forum.

Surveying HR leaders and employees, the report HR: Getting smart about agile working found that over a third of employees would like to change their working arrangements, the majority of whom (43%) would choose to change the start or finish time of their day. In addition 45% of employees take phone calls or respond to emails outside of working hours – with over a third choosing to do so rather than feeling pressured.

However, evidence suggests employers are struggling to make use of changing behaviour around work, with 59% citing cost management as a barrier to investing in new ways of working. Lack of trust is also significant, particularly in the public sector. The survey found that 22% of public and 15% of private sector HR leaders feel negative attitudes from line managers is an issue, with a further 19% pointing to senior leader negativity (13% in the private sector) as well.

This suspicion is likely to limit the take up of new practices, said the report, and efforts to boost agility are often fragmented. Yet it said organisations need to grapple effectively with changing workplace needs. Just over a quarter of employees said work is central to their lives (28%) down from 48% in 2005.

Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research adviser at the CIPD, said: “If organisations want to get the best out of their people they have to get smarter about understanding how, when and where individuals want to work. Our research provides clear evidence that many businesses are out of step with employee expectations, although by meeting employee expectations, they stand to have greater employee engagement, a more productive workforce and stronger organisational performance. To achieve this though, organisations must question assumptions about people management practices and processes, and establish working solutions that are of value both to individuals and to the business.”

The report found that 62% of organisations (73% of large organisations) consider flexible working reactively – when a worker asks for it. Less than half of HR leaders said that flexible options are open to all employees.

Fiona Cannon, director at the Agile Future Forum, is profiled in the latest issue of Flexible Boss. She said: “The way we work – where, when, how and in what role – has been changing and the speed of this change is accelerating. The traditional model of work used by most UK organisations needs to change too. The Agile Future Forum (AFF) was founded by business leaders who, by adopting agile working practices, have seen additional financial value across sectors equivalent to 3-7% of workforce costs and sales uplift of up to 11% as well as providing personal benefits for their employees.”

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Categories: News, Research

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