Workplace flexibility as a talent management policy is no longer an option. It is an essential practice that enables organizations to attract and develop skilled talent. While making career decisions, it has also become one of the top three factors that candidates consider.
Gone are the days when workplace presenteeism was the norm. These days companies are increasingly allowing their employees to have compressed weeks, work from home, take caregiving leave, have flexible arrival and departure times and even the opportunity for sabbaticals and career breaks. If not all these options, even then, workplaces are initiating the provision of a range of practices to appeal to candidates at various stages of their career. However, if workplace flexibility has grown to become a need for candidates, then it’s time human resource management professionals need to start including relevant policies to retain and attract employees.
According to the Global Candidate Preferences Survey conducted by the ManpowerGroup Solutions, people of all ages are interested in the blend of work and home that technology affords and home demands. This study, which was conducted across 19 influential employment countries elicited information from 14,000 employees to collate eye-opening data. The study states that 40% people consider workplace flexibility as one of top 3 factors while applying for jobs. And 63% people no longer think that they need to be sitting at their desks for 9-12 hours to get their work done.
With the onset of so many revelations, it is vital that employers understand the varying preferences for flexibility among candidates.
Most candidates look for the brand value of the company, the compensation the organization offers, career growth prospects, company culture, rewards and flexibility while considering an employment opportunity. As deduced from the above data, schedule flexibility is something people of all ages and nationalities want. Due to the unprecedented technological advancement, the world is changing at a rapid pace. People no longer feel the need to be physically present at their workstation to do their everyday tasks. People are okay with taking their work home. Professional and personal spaces are blending harmoniously where people are able to manage their work as well as home-related commitments better. This is why candidates are proactively looking for organizations that allow this type of flexibility.
Gone are the days when the demand spectrum was one-sided. These days even candidates have started being vocal about their demands. Just as how they are expected to work in a manner in which the organization prescribes, candidates have also set expectations for employers. Organizations have begun realizing and are trying their best to match up to this expectation. Human resource management teams need to formulate policies that provide their employers with workplace flexibility.
To draft and implement strategic business solutions that integrate flexibility as a norm of your organization’s recruitment and retention policies, it is vital to understand the precise definition of workplace flexibility and the subtle nuances associated with its implementation.
Workplace flexibility can mean many things to many individuals. It can range from when employees can take breaks to full work from home programs or caregiving leaves. There are 8 types of flexible work arrangements employees look for. The first one being flexible time for arrival and departure from work. With increased responsibilities at home and changing lifestyles, employees want companies to allow flexible work shifts, instead of having a stipulated in-time. An extension of this is the employees wanting the choice and control in work shifts. The second flexibility arrangement employees look for is work from home or location independence. Employees want the freedom to work from home to avoid long commutes to work and to be able to deliver better results at the work-front.
Job seekers are also looking for companies that provide part-time work from home and compressed work weeks. A compressed work shift gives employees the flexibility to finish their tasks at a stretch instead of doing them over a week. This way employees can finish their work fast and have a longer break time. New mothers need to take caregiving leave from time to time, to nurse their children as and when required. In some cases, even men need to take caregiving leave for their children. Lastly, candidates also feel the need for unlimited paid time off, and the opportunity for sabbaticals wherein they get to take a temporary break from their career.
As we know now that workplace flexibility is a broad term and encompasses a wide range of things. The Global Candidate Preferences Survey has tracked the preferences of employees in various regions. In four of the five talent markets tracked over the past two years, the number of candidates who cited the importance of flexible work options rose 30% in China, 29% in the United States, and 21 percent in Australia. The factors contributing to this statistic are the presence of multinational companies, a large number of millennials, the influence of technology firms in the market, lengthy commuting times to work, poor infrastructure in countries and lack of proper public transport. An example of poor public transport is, in Argentina the public transportation is chaotic, trains are unpredictable. In such cases being able to work from home is like heaven.
Talking about the flexibility preferences, 26% of the candidates surveyed, consider flexible arrival and departure times to be important. Another 22% want the flexibility to work from home or any other place they like. Choice in the timing of work shifts is considered to be third most desirable with 15% of people allotting importance for this aspect. And caregiving leave sabbaticals and unlimited paid time off are popular with approximately 5 percent of global candidates. The bottom-line of this survey is that candidates are seeking a wider variety of flexible workplace options to help them find a better work-life balance. These insights are crucial for human resource management professionals all over to world to retain top talent in their organizations.
When we think of schedule flexibility for arrival and departure time or for caregiving leave, the automatic presumption is that women need it the most. However, the survey has interesting results, which bring to light that men too want flexibility. The survey conducted in Australia, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States, revealed that the percentage of male candidates indicating schedule flexibility is among the top three considerations when making career decisions has increased significantly. This means that flexibility is rapidly becoming a gender-neutral issue. In a lot of countries women still rank higher in wanting flexibility but in Poland men desire schedule flexibility at a higher rate than their female counterparts. In the US, 43% males want flexibility in 2016 that is higher than 36% in 2015. This statistic is more or less the same for other countries as well.
One of the reasons for this rise is that unlike the Baby Boomer generation, millennials do not want to work at a stretch for a period of 50 years and then retire. They want ‘career waves’ wherein they get to work for a few years, then take a sabbatical or a career break and again start working. Millennials no longer want to be tied down to their workplaces, they want the flexibility to work when and where they want. Human Resource Management professionals need to take note of this trend to retain their competent employees and attract the best talent pool in the market. The Vice President of ManpowerGroup Solutions encapsulates this trend in the following quote:
“A desire for flexible work arrangements transcends age and gender. Working parents need the flexibility to attain work-life balance. Older workers need the flexibility to accommodate part-time work interests or desires. And Millennials expect flexibility because they are generationally predisposed to the liberating qualities that technology enables.”
The need for work flexibility among job seekers also depends on the type of industry. For example, a programmer can work remotely sitting at home but a medical practitioner like a doctor or a nurse do not have that option.
Despite the rise in companies resorting to schedule flexibility, there are many organizations with entrenched work cultures that promote presenteeism at work. This leads to flexibility stigma, a phenomenon that measures the success of employees based on their attendance rather than their performance and quality of outcomes. However, with the current scheme of things, these employers will have to move away from rigid work cultures to schedule flexibility to reduce attrition and attract new talent.
For more expert inputs to identify and understand the varying preferences for flexibility among candidates consult our experts at Manpower today.