Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Flexible working in a 24/7 culture

Marketing and organisational behaviour lecturer, Stephenie Hodge, from the Warrington School of Management (University of Chester) provides insight into flexible working practices.

There is no disputing that over the last decade organisations of all sizes and sectors have worked in a constant state of change brought on through the recession, expansion of globalisation and the speed in which new technology and social media are testing the skills of even the most effective managers. So how does the manager of the future not only cope with, but thrive in, leading and motivating a team that is aligned with the organisational goals and have a mind-set of managing output, not hours?

A flexible working approach

A major future trend researched by The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM, 2013) has identified that 94% of UK organisations offer some form of flexible working. 51% of all the managers surveyed expect flexible working to become the norm within five years and recognised as a future global trend. This is proven to be a highly effective incentive to attract and retain talented employees. It empowers the individuals, giving them greater control over their working week; increasing their engagement, productivity levels which in turn reflects positively to the brand image of the organisation. Their autonomy creates a corporate personality and helps to identify and verify the company’s values, therefore achieving the ‘buy-in’ to the culture and psychological contract.

Individual’s values and perspective on working life has changed; they don’t buy into the job for life concept anymore and would rather have the option to adjust their work/life balance to best suit their personal circumstances. Therefore, flexible work options can also be used as a trade-off against a salary increase, which may suit or be the only option available to an employer.

This research is further endorsed by Kingston University/Ipsos MORI who found that ‘workers on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work and more likely to speak positively about their organisation and less likely to leave (CIPD, 2014)

Leadership and management

However, before this approach can even be considered the 2020 manager will not only have to be agile and adaptive, but also that the fundamentals of good leadership and management will matter more than ever.
52% of managers agree that skills such as communication, delegation, goal-setting and motivation are vital when operating with less time and in a more complex working environment (ILM, 2014). Trust and transparency are key as the flexible working approach has to be seen as fare and consistent and be embraced by the organisation and not seen a career limiting option.

There will be yet more on-going cultural changes due to the social and demographic shift, so a different hybrid breed of manager is required that still possess the traditional skills and qualities, but is equipped with a modern mind-set and approach (ILM, 2014).

Generation Y

There is now an expectation from our up and coming generation that this freedom and autonomy goes hand in hand with their ambitions. They are very much motivated by money, status and career advancement and do not perceive working in a flexible manner as impeding their promotion or dedication. This does not mean that they don’t want to work as hard or as long as required, but in a different working format to enable more a work life balance. This mind-set of changing working patterns needs to be embraced by employers or they could be missing out on new talent to take their business forward.

What is the payback?

If managed correctly, the payback will be built around a stakeholder relationship approach:-

·         The individual-Self-motivated and empowered which leads to a natural drive and commitment to the team effort.
·         The manager-Managing a contented team with an ethos which is aligned with the organisational values, therefore reassured that the job is being done to the best of its ability with no conflict acting as a barrier.
·         The customer & external stakeholders-The vision for transparency leads to collaboration and mutual trust which can bring a true competitive edge.
·         The organisation-Will be viewed as holistic and modern forward thinking in their approach. It holds potential value as a recruitment, engagement and retention tool; as well a great brand endorser.

Managers who are prepared to trust in their team and think differently can model the way into making flexible working the norm, will be the ones who are remembered not just as managers but as great managers.

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