Translating Flexibility to make Organisations more productive
Organisations realis that asking employees to follow a fixed path is seen as underestimating their competence
No matter what size, shape or domain of the Organisation is, it is likely that a substantial percentage of the current workforce in every Organisation was not even born when smiley were first used in emails and ‘the computer’ was named Time Magazine Man of the year, both in 1982. This same percentage is much more upfront, demanding and the word ‘freedom’ has never gained so much prominence since the end of British rule in 1947.
The younger generation has never been heard more than these times both at homes and across the board meetings.
Organisations have suddenly realised that asking employees to follow a fixed routine path is seen as underestimating their competence, questioning their integrity. After all, why is face time so important? The 9 to 5 office hours, the neat and crisp job descriptions and the smartly designed cubicles are all seen as fenced walls by the younger generation. These invisible barriers limit their ability to influence when, what and where they work. What if they want to come at 11 and leave at 7, what if they want to get involved in an additional project outside their job purview and what if on some days, they just want to work sitting in their drawing room instead of an office cubicle, what if they want to take a break to pursue a hobby for a few months, what if they choose to slow down on the career ladder? Will these choices hamper their productivity or enhance it? The question is for us to answer. Do we continue with the regulated ways that most of us have followed during childhood or change ourselves with the changed environment to have happier and engaged teams resulting in improved productivity...the choice is ours to make.
Flexibility is all about creating a mindset for embedding this in our culture of how and where we work, how transparent and open we are to being change agents. It is about having candid discussions within the team and being able to demonstrate that we trust our people. Flexibility is not necessarily about working less, but working differently so that our people can effectively manage their professional and personal lives, while still delivering the highest quality services to the clients. It also includes openness to:
• leveraging our people who may be working remotely from another market;
• mobility in serving clients across the country and globally; and
• retooling to develop skills with maximum relevance.
We have learnt that among the top few reasons of staff turnover is the lack of flexibility in our work environment. We far too often lose top diverse talent because of insufficient investment in their career advancement. There's no question that we have a business imperative to address both of these issues in the short- and long-term. By doing so, we will become advocates and create a more rewarding experience for our people, which will help us attract and retain talented professionals, as well as further enhance the quality of our services and the value we deliver to our clients.
While one school of thought may suggest that productivity improves with investing on technological advancements, outsourcing the non value-add jobs or trying to scientifically derive other methods for increasing productivity but I believe that there is no substitute to having an engaged workforce.
There is a domino effect of flexibility on productivity. It is not "a nice to have" option for our people. Every single one of us needs to have a certain amount of flexibility and predictability in our work lives so that we can perform at the top of our game. We need to walk the talk and demonstrate that the leaders are advocates for flexibility and that we're serious about this. Once we are able to initiate it, we should see a lot more wings spread out and ready to freely soar high in the sky.
One look at any recent survey or media campaign gives us a glimpse of how the focus is shifting towards a youth centric theme. Whether it is the ‘next gen’ survey capturing the expectations of this millennial generation or whether it is Coke’s ‘I am crazy’ or Pepsi’s ‘youngistan’ & ‘oh yes abhi’ campaigns running on Television, they all seem to be breathing the theme of freedom.
There will never be a ‘one size fits all’ solution and every Organisation needs to figure out its individual plan to maintain a fine balance between following strict guidelines & flexibility and avoid any possible misinterpretation of the term ‘freedom’.
(With inputs from Shveta Verma, Associate Director, PwC India)