80% of organizations claim to offer flexibility to at least some portion of their employees, as surveyed by WorldatWork. But only 38% of those employers have a formal policy for flexibility.
These statistics mean that, more likely than not, organizations are proclaiming “flexible work” as a recruitment method without following through on their promises.
Stacey Ferreira, founder of Forge, said: “A lot of companies will say in their job descriptions that they offer ‘flexible hours’… but saying you offer flexible hours is as nebulous as saying you have a great company culture. No one actually knows what it means, and most companies aren’t really doing anything today to make flexible hours a official.”
Basically, flexibility has become a buzzword for employee recruiting and engagement… but often it remains a concept rather than a reality for many organizations. Organizations advertise flexible work without truly employing it.
And this is not because flexibility is without proven merits. In fact, many employers agree that flexible work arrangements are important to success in today’s business world. Nearly 42% of managers believe flexibility is essential to organizational success. Organizations today acknowledge and appreciate the many benefits of flexible work for employees and employers alike.
So why are so many organizations still hesitant to embrace a formal flex-work program? And how can your business truly employ a culture of flexibility that will appeal to your workers?
Why Is Flexibility Still Absent?
There are three major reasons that companies have yet to fully embrace flexible work policies.
1. Lack of understanding
People unfortunately still don’t fully understand the meaning flexible work or how it can benefit their business. Many managers want to offer flexible work to their employees but aren’t sure how. “Flexible work” is a term that has become as vague and ambiguous as “company culture.” This idea of flex-work isn’t specific, so employers often throw out informal plans for allowing employees to “swap shifts” or text each other to cover a shift for one another, naively hoping that will solve the problems of “work-life balance.”
In reality, flexible work is a much more complex system. Why? Because saying you “offer flexibility” without building the infrastructure within your business to support flexibility is a sure way to hurt your business long-term. Offering true flexibility is a process, not just an overnight “policy update” email.
2. Most companies are reactive instead of proactive
Image you’re running a pizza shop. You have 10 employees today and really need to hire two more. You put out a job post, hire your two and then stop the hiring process. Two weeks later, another employee quits. You post another job post and begin interviewing candidates again. This process repeats week after week, each time with you feeling like you’re behind and never fully staffed.
If this is you, you might cite “worrying that your employees won’t show up at all” as the key reason you won’t offer flexibility. What happens when you’re already understaffed if you give your employees the ability to pick their own hours?
The answer is simple: you should be thinking about your talent a different way. Rather than being reactive to employees leaving, you should be proactive by setting interview times each week for new candidates (regardless of if you “need” new hires or not) and constantly expand your labor pool by hiring the best people.
Once you hire 20 employees to your labor pool, you can offer flexibility to your employees, not sweat when an employee leaves and save money on the last-minute hiring cost that, on average, costs companies $3,328 per employee.
3. Stigma around offering flexibility
In companies that offer flexibility without formalizing flex work arrangements, there is still a major stigma around those individuals who opt into the flexible work program. The Georgetown Law paper discussed how nearly 40% of workers believe they would be less likely to advance in their career if they used flexible scheduling. Worse yet, nearly 78% of employees fear they would be perceived as less committed to their jobs if they used flexible work arrangements.
This flex-work stigma actually stops people from taking their flexible work options altogether. In fact, some research has shown that offering unlimited vacation actually makes people take fewer days off because they don’t know what is considered acceptable.
Learn more about the “flexibility stigma” with Tara Siegel Bernard’s “The Unspoken Stigma of Workplace Flexibility” article in the New York Times.
It’s time to drop these unfounded concerns and harness the true power of flexibility.
How Do You Create A Culture Of Flexibility?
Your employees want flexible work. Nearly 80% of all U.S. workers would like more flexible work options. Flex work is necessary for your business to keep up in a changing economy.
So how can you ensure you do more than offer flexibility? How do you truly provide flexible work arrangements that will provide for your employees? How can you leverage flexibility to increase rates of recruiting, retention, engagement, and productivity?
Create a culture of flexibility.
“Culture” is an ambiguous term (almost as ambiguous as “flexible work”). Ultimately, your organization’s culture is what your employees say it is. Your people are the essence of your brand.
And if your workers want flexible work, then your culture should be one of flexibility.
The steps of creating a flexible culture:
1. Find out what your employees want.
Get the input from your organization’s people firsthand. What type of flexible work options will be best for your employees? You will likely want to offer a variety of flex arrangements to meet the variety of needs of your workers. The more types of flex work you offer, the deeper flexibility becomes engrained in your culture.
2. Promote flexible work.
Ensure your employees, managers, and leaders understand the value of flexible work arrangements. These new processes must be accepted top-down and bottom-up in order to fully become a day-to-day part of the organization’s fabric. Begin the discussion with your organization with the Forge blog resources, like “The Unparalleled Growth of Flex Work Arrangements” and “Understaffed? Give Your Employees More Flexibility.”
3. Build a formalized process of flexibility.
Offering flexible work is not enough. When you begin to implement formal HR processes, you’ll begin to see the stigma of flexible work melt away. These should include processes for requesting and approving flexible work arrangements, pay and benefits, and agreed upon productivity measures. This will ensure that both the employee and their manager are pleased with the flexible work “contract.”
4. Quantify your ROI.
According to WorldatWork, only 3% of organizations make an attempt to quantify their return on investment for their flexibility programs. In this way, managers get stuck in the old mindset that flexible work isn’t productive—because they don’t have any proof to say otherwise. If you want to prove to your shareholders, managers, and employees the benefit of flexible work, you need to track the numbers.
5. Use flex technology.
Technology has made it easier than ever to implement flexible work. In fact, a number of technologies will actually help you build a formalized process and quantify your ROI for you.
For example, Forge offers self-scheduling to employees. This is the strongest form of flexibility, because it allows employees to build their own work-life balance. They choose the hours they want to work based on their schedule. This ensures boosted productivity and profits with reduced turnover and absenteeism.
But you don’t have to take our word for it. Forge quantifies your ROI for you every single day. You are able to measure and track employee’s progress with star ratings, and you can monitor your talent pool in real-time.
Let Forge technology prove the benefits of flexibility.
Join Forge now to build a formal, successful flexible work arrangement. Your employees will thank you, and your increased bottom line will prove it.