04 November 2016

Employee engagement and workplace flexibility: How do we do it right?


“Unfortunately this role requires full time hours”. I’m sure working mums have heard this phrase many times when enquiring about the level of flexibility available for a job vacancy.

What if an experienced female professional is capable of achieving within part-time hours the results a junior can only accomplish with full-time hours—or can’t even achieve at all?

Women face the ‘work hours’ obstacle when they return from maternity leave, or seek a balance between fulfilling careers and active parenting.

Studies by Ernst & Young report that women working part-time are more productive than the rest of the working population—and suggest that if more part-time work options are provided, $1.4 billion in lost wages could be recovered without suffering from substantial productivity loss.

In interviewing 22 mega-achieving women soon after they gave up big salaries, senior positions and dedicated career paths to stay at home with their young children, and nine years later, the New York Times reporting mixed results.

Many women were still happy with their choice, and able to return to the workforce, largely due to their high quality education, qualifications and broad social networks. However, they did so into far less powerful and lower paid positions.

Other women didn’t make the transition back so easily. They lost their sense of self and self-confidence. Without high quality education, qualifications and broad social networks, their career opportunities were drastically reduced, even though they were at the top of their game before they left.
This raises a host of questions.

  • Where did all of that talent and knowledge go?
  • What kind of talent gap was left where those women once stood?
  • Have women been penalised for putting their families first?

Could more flexible working arrangements have meant:

  • That women don’t have to choose between having a baby and having a career?
  • That women don’t have to take on lesser paid positions or lesser responsibility, just to be able to spend more time with their children?

It behooves organisations to discuss:

  • At what level is flexi-hours acceptable: senior positions or lower level ones?
  • Could senior executives job-share, work part-time, or work from home?

Thankfully, many organisations in Australia have answers to these pertinent questions.

They lead the charge and ensure that whatever the role, and whatever the salary, flexibility is not only acceptable but promoted.

Working 40 hours a week is no longer standard protocol in many professional businesses. It is possible to operate successfully while employing part-timers or offering a highly flexible workplace. And this isn’t solely focused on women, with or without children.

In one success story, Susie Babani, Chief Human Resources Officer at ANZ Bank suggests,

“The old way of work, of getting in at the crack of dawn and thinking you can’t be working unless you’re at the office, is alien now.”

“We need to be thinking about what we pay people to do, which is deliver results. Does it matter if that’s at home or at Starbucks? At 8pm or 6am? Probably not.”

In a separate article, Susie elaborates on how flexibility can create greater productivity.

A second success story is Veritas Recruitment in Melbourne.

Veritas has operated for almost seven years in the Melbourne market with a largely part-time workforce including Georgie Stocker, its Director and owner, who says,

“The benefit for us is our high levels of staff retention in an industry that notoriously has high staff turnover. Our people have changing work needs . . . and we don’t want a lack of flexibility on our part leading to skills and knowledge leaving our business.”

Many Veritas employees are working mums who jobshare or work a four-day week. There are different starting and finishing times, and teams are structured so that clients still receive the highest level of care.

“Offering flexibility in our workforce is essential in attracting and retaining experienced staff who have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to offer to our clients,” Georgie enthuses.

So, back to the original question: What should you do if someone has the capability to deliver the results in part-time hours that a junior worker requires full-time hours to accomplish, or can't at all? Welcome them with open arms!

And not just working mothers. Here are more good reasons to embrace workplace flexibility:

  • Digital technology allows many knowledge workers to work productively from anywhere, anytime. Many of us are already doing it beyond traditional work hours!
  • Job-hopping is the 'new normal' alongside the growing working population of millennials, and flexibility is a key employee retention strategy for a generation who are estimated to have 15 to 20 jobs in their lifetimes.
  • Talent management - Workplace flexibility is smart talent strategy. Forbes articulates it well: “Savvy leaders understand that talent is the single most important factor in a company’s success. You can have all the basics down, but without the right talent, you’ll just be running in place. And to attract and retain that talent, you have to work with them to customize (sic) their jobs. This makes people feel valued, which leads to peak performance. The key is to be flexible and collaborative with hours and location.”

If you don’t offer flexibility, you may miss out on all these benefits:

  • Knowledge, talent and reputation
  • Greater staff buy-in and morale
  • A smart, progressive, empathetic team of well-rounded people with rich lives outside of work

So, greater workplace flexibility is one way to achieving higher employee engagement and retention that helps move your business forward.

Another is a training strategy that includes cloud-based technology, enabling your flexible workforce greater access to training and knowledge sharing whilst remote. Collaboration and sharing amongst office-based and remote team members will flow more smoothly, and you are more likely to rapidly engage your flexible workforce.

Velpic's technology tool can help your business leaders play an informed and active role to ensure not only a highly engaged flexible workforce but a knowledgeable well-trained flexible workforce too.

This is just one way of many ways you could harness Velpic to empower your workforce through education. We welcome you to find out what else you could achieve productively with Velpic.

What is Velpic? An affordable and user-friendly LMS with its own versatile rich content creator, mobile multimedia streaming portal and experts marketplace. Velpic makes the complex easy.