What is keeping leaders up at night? The answer is flexibility.
According to a study by LinkedIn, 80% of business leaders in India feel pressured to offer greater flexibility since COVID-19. The report titled ‘Future of Work’ reflects that with employees (58%), managers (41%), and the government (37%), as the top three contributors of this pressure, leaders are confident of the benefits that happier employees, and hiring from a more diverse talent pool will bring. Amid today’s burgeoning demand for flexibility, business leaders are actively creating new workplace policies that give employees more agency over how they work and where they work from today. The study shows that 88% have also hired specialists, consultants, and additional personnel to help design their workplace policies for the future of work.
In the official communique, Ashutosh Gupta, India Country Manager, LinkedIn said, “Flexible working has emerged as a top priority in the new world of work, and business leaders see this as an opportunity to hire more diverse talent and improve business performance.” According to him, this has not just brought about a change in the structure of the workforce in India, but also the leaders had to brainstorm to frame new policies to make the changes workable.
Gupta further said, “Nearly 9 in 10 leaders in India have hired specialists to design stronger workplace policies, to re-evaluate everything from L&D opportunities to performance reviews and career progression through a new lens — one that puts people first and not location. To support this shift in the way we work, LinkedIn is launching new platform tools to help job-seekers find opportunities that match their preferences and their need for a more flexible work environment.”
Flexibility is an important element of the future workplace
Citing the importance of the employee perception towards a flexible working model, Jennifer Di, HR Director, Southeast Asia and & APAC Corporate Functions (Baxter International) shared with us, “We first need to question what the future workplace will mean to people, how they envision it, and what do they expect from it.
“Well-being and flexibility are two important elements of the future workplace,” added Jennifer.
Sharing an example, she further said,” At Baxter, we want to enable a mindset where managers are less focused on work locations. So, the when and what of work is more important than where the work is done. Hence flexibility and well-being will define the new era of the workplace and beyond.”
The balance between functions and flexibility
However, with flexibility comes liability towards the functions. Despite the fact that the majority of the entities went into remote operations, remote or hybrid hiring is highly function dependent. Sharing an example of the situation with us Kamalesh Dangi, Group Head Human Resources, InCred said “Even though the survey is true to some extent, employees and job seekers have to understand that not all functions can operate remotely. For example, during the pandemic flexibility and remote working facility came up as one of the major criteria for recruitment. But branch banking is an essential service, not all bankers could be offered the facility. So, that is yet another aspect of flexible hiring.”.
“Flexibility emerged as an additional expectation,” Kamalesh Dangi said.
Similar thoughts were evinced by Kiran Aidhi, Chief People Officer, KFin Technologies. Kiran shared, "Employees would be in the driving seat looking for greater flexibility to opt for work from home or office as per their needs. While this may work for managerial staff or back-end staff, but for frontline this may not be feasible. HR would have to do a balancing act between the two sets of employees. HR policies would have to be fungible and agile; more and more permutations and combinations would have to be worked upon to handle same need of different set of employees. For example, if someone is coming to office, they may use office Wi-Fi, for which neither the employee pays not company charges. Now in same team you would have someone working from home (perpetually or for few days) and may come up with a demand of Wi-Fi being paid by the company. The complexities around policies and people will increase more.”
Talent diversification as an outcome of flexibility
To add to the perks, findings of the study also bring out that flexibility has added to the diversification of talent especially in terms of geography. Both candidates and employers could easily overcome the proximity challenge. It states that more than half of business leaders in India also believe virtual interviews can help them connect with aspirants with proximity restrictions (55%), find a more diverse mix of candidates (45%), and professionals with modern skills (49%) today.
How leaders are preparing for tomorrow
The report reveals that preparing for the new hybrid work culture, 9 in 10 business leaders in India have already offered or are planning to offer job sharing possibilities, while 78% have already offered or are planning to allow employees to work from a different country. The study also shows that India is leading in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region when it comes to offering flexibility; in comparison, only 68% of APAC leaders offer job shares and 58% allow the staff to work from a different country.
When it comes to business priorities, that ‘digital transformation’, ‘rethinking marketing strategy’, and ‘establishing new ways of working’ are the top three business priorities for business leaders. These priorities come at a time when leaders choose social media (69%) and other online advertising (57%) over ATL and print (42%) in today’s remote reality. Further, 93% of India’s leaders also believe that having younger employees on the team gives them fresh insights into new marketing trends, especially as they continue to adapt their marketing strategies.
Happiness quotient becomes important for driving strong business results
The study shows that 3 in 5 leaders believe having ‘happy and fulfilled employees’ (62%) is just as important as ‘excellent customer service’ (63%) to drive strong business results today. Therefore, ‘helping employees adapt to new ways of working’ and ‘keeping them happy and engaged’ are cited as the key workforce priorities for leaders in the next six months.
To keep employees engaged and prepared for the future of work, 9 in 10 (89%) business leaders are investing in training courses that facilitate employee collaboration and productivity in a flexible working environment. In fact, 1 in 2 leaders is relying on increased L&D investments to help employees upgrade their skills (52%), move easily into internal roles (52%), and learn together in a community-based environment (52%).
In the era of work-life integration, a sharper focus on the empathy vertical can boost collaboration among distributed workforces. The study shows that 1 in 2 (50%) leaders in India feel that encouraging small talk at the start of meetings, and empathetic conversations led by managers (46%) can foster inclusion among employees, regardless of their locations. Therefore, in changing workplaces leaders need to offer flexibility and come up with innovative ideas to engage distributed employees to drive business outcomes.