At the beginning of each year our lives are flooded with predictions and best practices for the coming year. These predictions run the gamut of diet and exercise, disruptive technologies as well as cultural trends both at work and at home. Therein lies the challenge to integrate these new systems and technologies for an increase in efficiency, effectiveness and an overall quality of life.
Being passionate about workplace performance developments, the workplace performance evolution that grabbed my attention this year was an article written for Forbes by Steve Wozniak. In his article (found here) Wozniak outlines a treatise for choice:
“2013 is going to be the year of choice. Whether it’s your phone or the company’s, working from your office or the coffee shop, one option isn’t going to cut it anymore and the companies who can anticipate the next way to use technology smartly and effectively are the ones that will rise to the top this year.”
This article reflected perfectly the greater demand for freedom and flexibility we are seeing within our client workforces. More and more people are striking out on their own in pursuit of greater freedom and balance in their lives. Employers are also increasingly receiving requests from their employees to work from home, to telecommute a couple days per week, and for overall greater flexibility in their working arrangements. In fact, several companies have been sprouting up to help job seekers find jobs that give them the flexibility they desire (check one out here).
Demand for flexibility is growing. Approximately 33% of American workers are engaged in some level of freelance work. Your organization is now competing with the freelance choice, making the need for flexibility in how work is completed ever more critical.
Over the past couple of years, there has been a rampant increase in software and tools that make collaboration simple on a global scale. With the ability to collaborate in real-time across multiple time zones, the traditional office environment is coming under fire.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not advocating for a society of work from home employees, I believe office space is a vital component of a business. Having a central place where the culture of a company is lived and carried forward is critical to a company’s long-term success. However, what is important to note is that for a company to retain it’s competitive edge and to retain key employees, the desire for choice as well as other progressive lifestyle benefits will eventually need to be addressed.
What is the business advantage of offering ‘Choice’?
The past several decades have seen a rise in two-income households and regular annual increases in drive time. The combination of these factors is increasing the desire of employees to have flexibility in their work arrangements. As commutes are getting longer and family time more scarce, ensuring your employees are giving 100% of their attention to their work will increase your chances for success.
By giving your employees the ability to choose when and where work gets done, you are increasing their level of engagement. If you have read our Engagement Blog Series (start here), you will remember that engagement is a combination of job satisfaction, motivation and effectiveness. Gallup’s research has shown that a 15% median growth in organizational engagement can have over a 2% impact on your bottom-line profitability. Gallup’s data shows a 16% profitability difference between their most and least engaged clients.
In a study published by Regus in February of 2012, the majority of participating business (72%) cited increased work productivity as a direct result of their flexible working practices. In fact, 68% of these same businesses declared that flexible working has also led to increased revenue. So, by supporting ‘Choice’ you will directly impact the engagement of your employees as well as experience bottom-line revenue and profitability growth.
What are the implications of ‘Choice’ on performance?
Giving people the ability to choose when and where work gets done is tricky business. The ability to work from home and on your own schedule is not always congruent with the needs or objectives of the organization. After all, sometimes your presence is necessary to successfully complete the work and reach your objectives. Imagine the impact ‘Choice’ can have if your supervisor was always ‘choosing’ to work from home while his entire team was working from the office. Or, if the office phone was left to ring off the hook because there weren’t enough people to field the calls. Offering ‘Choice’ should never sacrifice performance or your ability to meet the demands of customers, both internal and external.
Offering your employees some flexibility in their schedules isn’t the right choice for everyone. Finding the right mix will be critical to a successful lifestyle benefits package. Keep in mind that some people enjoy the structure and support a traditional office environment provides. They enjoy the discipline of knowing that there are set hours and responsibilities within those hours. Once the day is complete they can turn work off and enjoy their evening knowing that work will resume the next morning. For me, having worked in an office for several years, I especially enjoyed the relationships and camaraderie that an office provides. Who doesn’t enjoy a good potluck or regular occurrences of birthday cake?
Much like how an office provides structure to the day, a flexible work arrangement is the most effective with a solid framework of expectations and robust communication.
What systems should I have in place before offering ‘Choice’ to my employees?
1. Set a Foundation of Clear Expectations
Nothing is more important than knowing the rules of the road before getting behind the wheel. So, prior to setting out on a flexible work arrangement, your employees should know that to continue to receive this benefit, they must achieve their objectives. Lifestyle benefits should never be given at the sacrifice of exemplary performance. You still need to “Wow” your customers and deliver projects on time. How else are you going to stay in business?
Here are a few questions to help you set a solid foundation:
- How will we know if this program is working?
- How often and in what capacity should this benefit be utilized?
- What are the consequences if performance declines?
- If the employee is non-exempt, is there a clear understanding of what constitutes overtime work? What is the approval process for overtime work?
Once these questions are answered, make sure to create a policy and communicate this policy to your entire staff. While different arrangements can be made based on the individual needs of your employees, they should all fall within the boundaries of the company policy.
2. Establish Clear Performance Objectives
Second only to knowing the rules of the road, your employees need to know what successful performance looks like. Establishing the results you expect to see and the objectives that need to be reached allows both you and your employee to feel secure that they are contributing to the organization’s success no matter where the work is being done.
These questions will get you started identifying the Performance Objectives:
- What goals need to be met and within what time frame?
- Who are the people that will be impacted by this flexible arrangement and how will you ensure on-going communication with them?
- How will we know if this arrangement is successful and what are the consequences if the objectives are not met?
Once you enter into this agreement with your employee, make sure the expectations and requirements of the flexible arrangement are written down and signed by both parties. Doing this will help to formalize the arrangement and remove ambiguity by allowing both parties to reference what was agreed upon. Having a clear plan in place prior to experiencing a decline in performance will help to remove some of the tension and emotion from what can be a tough conversation.
3. Schedule Follow-up Meetings
Everyone gets busy and caught up in the daily activities required to run a successful team, so schedule check-ins in advance to ensure you are staying abreast of your employees performance. These follow-up meetings are an easy way to start a conversation about what’s working, how the employee’s performance is comparing to expectations and an opportunity to confirm you are both on the same page moving forward. Start with weekly meetings and as trust and performance are maintained, ease off the meetings and try them out monthly. Follow-up meetings are your early warning system so make sure you are making the time to complete them.
Ultimately ‘Choice’ is about providing autonomy, offering your employees the ability to achieve their work objectives and to enjoy the lifestyle they desire. Having the choice of when and where to work can have a positive impact on the performance of the organization. Providing new and exciting benefits will continue to be important as the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive. While it is easy to feel like you need to offer the latest and greatest innovations in pay, benefits and technology to retain your talented employees it is also easy to get overwhelmed by the complexity of implementing these offerings.
We at Marble Arch are passionate about navigating these challenges and will help you to establish the systems and behaviors that lead to your team’s Peak Performance. Call us for your initial consultation and begin customizing your plan for ‘Choice’ in 2013.