To reap all the rewards made possible by Employalty, remember: you can no longer focus on hiring the best person for the job. To attract talent and inspire commitment, you must create the best job for the person. One of the most powerful ways to do this in your organization is to prioritize flexibility for employees.
Flexibility is now the most sought-after work benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). For many workers, flexibility has shifted from being a perk to being an essential job component. In a survey conducted by the Harris Poll, eight out of ten workers said a flexible schedule was important when considering taking a new job. In fact, a flexible schedule is now more important to job seekers than employer retirement contributions and unlimited PTO.
There was a time when offering flexible schedules or work arrangements would give your organization a recruiting advantage. In some industries this is still true, but broadly it is no longer the case. As work flexibility has grown in both popularity and frequency, it’s no longer a differentiator. Now, the lack of flexibility may result in candidates perceiving a potential employer as out of touch or unsupportive of work-life balance. Why? Because flexibility, in practice, is considerably widespread, with up to 80 percent of companies now offering flexible work arrangements of some kind.
The ability to work from home at least some of the time, often on a schedule they determine, is the biggest form of flexibility sought by workers. In a survey of nearly a quarter of a million workers in 190 countries, 89 percent of people expect to be able to work from home on occasion. This expectation is highest—more than 90 percent—in digital and knowledge-based fields, but it’s grown increasingly common in nearly every industry.
Even in job roles like manual labor and manufacturing, an overwhelming majority of people said they expect to be able to do some of their work offsite in the future. For roles that don’t lend themselves to regular work-from-home arrangements—think bedside nurses, flight attendants, or plumbers—flexibility may mean having options related to start and end times, varied shift lengths, work location choices, compressed workweeks, and more.
Recognize that at the center of flexibility is autonomy. Giving workers more freedom to influence their schedules, allocate their hours, and determine their preferred work location is becoming increasingly common and will likely continue.
This is an important distinction. Some reduce the idea of flexibility to simply mean hybrid work arrangements. This is a false equivalency. With hybrid, employees typically spend some days on-site and others away, but these schedules are often dictated by the company. In many hybrid work models, employees still lack autonomy.
With true flexibility, employees get adaptability. What many crave more than just a hybrid or work-from-home schedule is the freedom to figure out for themselves how, when, and where to work. It is this ability to respond in real time to both unexpected life developments and personal schedule preferences that truly determines whether an employee experiences flexibility.
Take, for example, an employee whose partner is actively deployed in military service. Flexibility might mean allowing that person to throttle his or her work schedule up or down on the calendar depending on their partner’s leave schedule.
Or consider the father who gets a call from school indicating his daughter is sick and needs to be picked up. In the past, that parent would be forced to leave work and use pto or forfeit pay to retrieve and care for his child. With flexibility, he can adjust his hours in real time, shifting some work into a different part of the day or week.
Flexibility, in some places, may also mean allowing workers to tune in to when they are most productive. I met the CEO of a software company recently who had just given up the expectation that programmers work a set, daylight schedule. He told his team, “Get done what you need to get done. Do it well and do it on time. When you do it is up to you.” He told me, “Many of these guys are night owls, so this change had an immediate impact. Their work product got better, it came in faster, and it’s made them happier. Autonomous schedule-making is one of the best decisions we’ve made.”
When this software CEO granted more flexibility to his team, the quality of their work increased. That’s because the more control we each have over our environment, the more intrinsic motivation we experience in that environment. Flexibility—specifically the autonomy employees experience when they get to determine aspects of their work situations—isn’t just an essential ingredient to attracting candidates to jobs at your company.
Psychology tells us that autonomy is part of how we motivate employees to become committed and do quality work. When team members are granted more control, choice, and influence over their schedules, they take more ownership of their work and perform with greater care and attention. That increase in quality is then sustained over time, no paid bonuses necessary. Where workplaces grant employees more flexibility, they can expect a greater degree of satisfaction, fulfillment, and engagement at work.
This piece is adapted from Joe Mull’s forthcoming book Employalty: How to Ignite Commitment and Keep Top Talent in the New Age of Work.
Written by Joe Mull.
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