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Flexible working and its opportunities for inclusion

RoleMapper Team
May 3, 2022

The pandemic has forced people to re-evaluate how they engage with work and there’s no turning back. 60% of employees say they want increased flexibility post lockdown, 80% of candidates will turn down a job with no flexibility.

Right now, we are at a crunch point in the future of flexible and hybrid working. This is a great opportunity for People Leaders to focus on taking a more holistic approach to flexible working practices and diverse and inclusive working.

According to latest research, 60% of Black employees who are not happy with the amount of flexibility they have at their current jobs, will look for a new one in the coming year.

In addition, the results from the latest Future Forum Pulse Survey has also shown a very significant shift in attitudes since lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Mandated return-to-work policies are seriously impacting morale with knowledge workers who have little to no ability to set their own work hours; they are nearly three times more likely to look for a new job in the coming year, compared to those with scheduled flexibility.

For those organisations that are looking to take a flex and/or hybrid approach, we are seeing organisations experimenting with the 4-day working week and looking at job sharing to enable part-time working and career progression.

However, organisations do need to take a longer term and structured view to flex, in order to make this a long-term success, which means adopting a more strategic focus on flex and future of work strategies. This will give People Leaders a unique opportunity to fast track their flex and inclusion agenda.

In order to do this, we need to rethink ways of working. Jobs sit at the heart of how we manage talent, but how does an organisation achieve this as part of its diversity strategy?

Rethink job design

Creating a more inclusive culture means looking beyond traditional 9 – 5 working patterns. According to research from Harvard Business School and Accenture, in the US alone there are more than 27million ‘hidden’ workers who are unable to get a foothold due to disability or personal circumstance. The survey also highlighted the majority were in middle to senior-level positions.

This is a significantly untapped talent pool, but flexible working has shown to remove barriers to work and gives those locked out of the job market more opportunity.

Good job design is simply good practice. It’s an opportunity to capitalise on future work planning and re-think job design

People leaders have a window of opportunity to integrate a holistic view of flex – not just location flex but also time flex – and accelerate their diversity and inclusion agenda.

Leadership buy-in

We talk about top-down strategies, but we also need to recognise the increase in demand from bottom up. With the surge in flexible working requests, people are rethinking how they engage with work.

At the same time, it is important to highlight that not all flexible working patterns work for all jobs. For example, there’s a lot of talk around the four-day week as a win-win solution for both the business and its people, but leaders do fear that flex patterns will be imposed and consequently have a negative impact on the ability to get the job done.

In order to combat this, leaders need to consider the following:

  • Establishing a set of principles that guide decisions
  • Creating mechanisms that assess flexibility and design work in a way that works for the role, the team and the business. A consistent mechanism will also remove bias from decision-making
  • Ensure leader buy-in is data-driven

Establish the business case for re-thinking how jobs are designed and encourage experimentation. We have seen companies map out KPIs that track:

  • Significant increase in diversity retention and hiring
  • Linking lack of flex to a direct attrition cost
  • Link from increasing part-time population on both productivity & cost
  • Reducing attrition of those nearing retirement

Re-imagine jobs

Organisations need to reimagine jobs at the point of role design. Jobs sit at the heart of how we manage talent and it’s the job that determines what flexible working options will work. I think we can all agree that the need to work flexibly is not a pandemic focused ‘one-off’.

To ensure a more sustainable approach, it’s important that flex is built into the core of a job, which means re-designing work to focus on outcomes. As we mentioned earlier, not all flex options work for all roles, so it’s important to design-in what flex will and won’t work. As a result, organisations will need to build-in processes to operationalise flex consistently, and fairly, across the business.

Wellbeing and future-proofed flexibility

Sustainable high performance and wellbeing are now at the core of many organisations. By re-designing jobs and creating the conditions and foundations that allow employees to choose how they can work, can be key drivers to keeping your people engaged, present and in a better place when it comes to wellbeing.

Now is the time for action. HR professionals have a huge opportunity to use the strategic focus and momentum on flex in order to re-imagine work at the point of job design.  

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