Today is one of the days I work in a co-working space in Antwerp. When I look around, there can be no other subject for my blog than the rising trend of flexible working. Surrounded by digital start-ups with millennials who believe that their app will change the world, business owners who have client meetings over a cup of coffee and even a father actively participating in a brainstorm session holding his newborn, I can only think how much working has changed in the last few years.
Or at least it has changed for some people. When we hear the traffic reports, most people still have a daily commute to their work place where they check in at 9 and leave at 5.
In an age when finding and retaining top talent is among the strongest predictors of a company’s success, is workplace flexibility a necessary tool to increase employee satisfaction and productivity or is it merely a gimmick to market your ‘hip’ factor?
Many employers have started to implement flexible working practices. Satellite offices have been opened, a commuter bus with Wi-Fi has been put in place and a home working policy has been written. However, the fixed working day remains the starting point and flex working initiatives are mainly exceptions, made to accommodate family needs. Nothing has changed about the actual working practices. Being ‘present’ rules, managers struggle with knowing what people are doing if they can’t see them and often assume they are not as committed as those who come in to the office. Consequently, embracing flex working opportunities is often seen as the fastest way to end your career.
The implementation of flexible working as a driver for attracting and retaining top talent goes beyond these initiatives and requires a significant cultural shift.
The new approach to work involves a shift of control from the employer to the employee.
To be a successful leader in such an environment, you might need to let go of a management style that you were trained in and that you used yourself to get ahead in your career: loyalty, hard work and putting your career above your personal life. In a twenty first century flexible working environment, it is key to embrace the buzzword ‘empowerment’ and measure achieved outcome instead of measuring the input, the hours worked. You will need to give employees autonomy and trust that they will not abuse the freedom.
It also involves strong engagement skills to ensure that people continue to work in the right direction without being physically present at all times. If you combine this with the capability to create and inspire teams, even in a remote setting, then you are all set to be a successful leader in a flexible working environment.
For the individual employee, the ability to work anywhere and at any time can be a blessing and a curse. You’ll need to learn how to manage the blurred border between work and private life. Self-management, project skills and effective communication will become increasingly important.
Implementing flexible working requires a significant shift in leadership and in required skillset. Some people may be attracted by that shift and embrace the opportunity, while others will prefer to continue to work in a more traditional way.
The true key to attracting and retaining top talent is the ability to mix those two requirements and to allow people to work in the way that best matches their personality with leaders who can adjust their leadership style to meet their needs.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Through a personalized and tailor-made approach, Ingenium Executive Search aspires to assist you in attracting the right talent that matches the DNA of your company
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