Blog / Creating Flexible Work Cultures

  • Kerry Fallon Horgan
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  • competitive advantage . employer of choice . flexible work practices . how to of flexibility . job sharing . millenials . part-time work . productivity . women in leadership .

A key competitive advantage to attract and retain the best talent is the development of a flexible work culture.

Globalization, technological advances, an ageing workforce, new workplace values of millenials and the need for diversity in the workplace has “upped the stakes” for employers to stop talking about it and to actually make flexibility at work a reality.

There are real bottom-line incentives to doing so including increased productivity, cost savings, better customer service, enhanced legal compliance, improved morale, reduced absenteeism, greater overall effectiveness and an ability to adapt readily to market changes. There’s also that very profitable, but less concise notion of “discretionary effort” – where workers go that extra mile because they believe that employers are doing the right thing by them.

Unfortunately too many workplaces are still saying “Well that’s OK in the ideal world but not in reality, not for us” or “We’ve tried it and it didn’t work”. This is largely because organisations would prefer to stay as they are than face the challenges that confront them. So, they don’t reap the benefits of this new way of working. They’ll keep trying to fit “square pegs into round holes” by fitting workers’ around the jobs rather than making the jobs fit the best people for the work involved.

So how do we overcome the challenges of implementing these practices?

Every workplace culture is unique, has different barriers and needs different solutions to the challenges that present. The issues can be attitudinal, can be based on misperceptions, systems problems, workloads, fear of the effect on career, leadership and managerial blocks. The list goes on.

To address the barriers, Flexibility At Work developed a systematic culture change approach. This involves developing the business case; analysing organization specific issues; developing strategies to overcome the challenges; engaging senior management; addressing management issues; targeted, consistent and regular communication; engaging employees; and evaluating the program.

Usually organizations only deal with issues at the “tip of the iceberg”. The real barriers to change happen below the surface where behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and mental models do not reflect stated values and policy pronouncements.

Behavior changes come from shifts of insight or perception of the deeper issues. Our programs apply a unique coaching tool that creates pressure for discovery. It allows managers to look at the situation from the outside, objectively and in a safe environment. It enables the lateral thinking to find solutions that linear thinking is unlikely to provide. As Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”.

This approach enables change because it reframes and provides a deeper analysis of the issues; gives a three-dimensional picture of where the organization wants to be (the vision); stimulates creativity and motivation to act; and helps to find achievable steps to achieve the change.

If leaders provide the resources and the will, this is the innovation that can help to facilitate the change to a sustainable flexible workplace.

Flexibility At Work is a consulting firm that provides training, coaching and organisational culture change programs, flexible working policies and guidelines to workplaces wanting to implement succussful flexible work practices. Further information M: 0438 231 065 Email: kerry@flexibility.com.au

 

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