"Make Flexibility Real" Topic of the Month
Why Flexibility Won't Work Unless Your Employees Are Your Partners
Individuals can't manage their work+life fit without some degree of flexibility in how, when and where work is done. Conversely, flexibility in the way work is done can't become a targeted business strategy if individuals don't know how to use it. And most don't.
For individuals to use flexibility deliberately and thoughtfully, they need to have the right mindset, tools and training. Only then they will be able to capture and direct that flexibility toward a solution that meets their personal needs and the goals of their job. Most can't.
Creating this critical employee-employer partnership is the reason I wrote my book Work+Life: Finding the Fit That's Right for You (Riverhead, 2005). It's also the why we are the Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc., to reinforce clearly the importance of both sides of the equation.
The truth is that a corporate flexibility strategy won't ever be more than a feel-good policy or program if employees don't know how to manage their unique work+life fit and vice versa.
According to the Towers Perrin 2010 Global Workforce Study, employees know they are responsible for their own well-being but fear they don't have skills to handle role . They want more freedom and flexibility in their work, but need support to enable new level of self-management
But very few organizations prepare their employees to be effective flexibility partners.
Recently I presented to a group of HR professionals and asked "how many of you train your employees to develop, negotiate, and implement flexibility plans that are a win for them personally, their team, their manager and the business?" Only 1 person out of 50 raised their hand.
This group is not unusual. According to World at Work's 2011 Survey on Workplace Flexibility "most organizations do not specifically train employees to be successful" with flexibility.
Why is this?
Historically, the theory has been that we need to train managers (I say theory because according the same World at Work study manager training on flexibility isn't happening either). Managers do play a key role in the partnership.
Managers lay out the vision, provide the information and set the tone. This creates the environment that supports the ongoing conversation and leads to solutions which benefit the business and their people. But managers can't come up with the specific work+life fit answer for each employee, and putting them in that position is the fastest way to make him or her dislike flexibility.
If flexibility training for employees does exist, the focus tends to be on "how to" fill out a formal flexibility request form and worksheet. Again, that's important but only one small piece of the puzzle.
What's the answer?
For employees to be effective partners who meet their manager and team halfway, they need to:
- Understand the way work has transformed over the last decade and, therefore, why they must take control of the way work fits into their life. They can no longer let it all just "happen," because it won't.
- Have the mindset that considers their personal needs but also thinks strategically about what the business requires.
- Recognize and move beyond the common roadblocks that will threaten to derail them, such as inflexible personal definitions of success, fears, and in-the-box-thinking.
- Know how to create a complete vision of work+life fit success that includes their job as well as personal realities such as personal finances, caregiving supports, etc., and
- Be comfortable engaging in the ongoing conversation with their manager, their team and their customers that makes flexibility work for everyone.
Other key questions to consider include what's the best venue in which to share this information? How often? In what format(s)? And, how do you measure success?
We will consider these and other key issues on Friday, May 13th at 12 pm EST during the "Employee as Partner: Flexibility's Missing Link." Click here to register. Join us!