When we talk to candidates about what they are seeking the word ‘flexibility’ often comes up as being very important.
In fact, it’s often more important than remuneration and in some cases role content. Likewise, employers can say that they offer ‘flexibility’ in an attempt to make a job they’re recruiting appealing. So, what exactly does that mean?
As a basic definition, flexibility in the workplace is about when, where and how work is carried out. What we are seeing is that people want the ability to work remotely, work split hours, work around the traffic, do school drop offs or pickups or leave early on a Friday for a long weekend – and this is just a start!
All very one-sided, right? Not necessarily. If you reverse the definition, it means that your employee should also be willing and able to respond to the needs of the business. Employees who show they are flexible are often highly valued, have excellent work ethics and are committed to the business. They are flexible when you need them to be. It may be that you need them to start early or finish late, attend an industry event, or provide extra support or work longer hours during a particularly busy period, or to deliver to clients.
The discussion between employees and employers therefore needs to be had around what flexibility really means to both parties, and where the ‘give and take’ will be offered to each other.
It’s important to respond to each other’s situation and find the best way to reach the outcomes the business needs. It may help if there are clear KPIs or measures, so it’s clear to the business that they are getting value. A business should not feel like they have to offer flexible work conditions if they genuinely don’t suit the role or the business structure. And employees need to think about what they can offer the business in return for enjoying a flexible approach from their employer.
Flexibility requires strong communication, transparency and trust. Some employees may have worked in a business for a long time and are simply trusted, while for newer employees it can be helpful to have these measures in place.
What is certain is that flexibility is extremely important to people and, used correctly, can be used to a company’s advantage in securing and retailing top quality people for your business.