How to Create a Results-first Flexible Working Strategy
You can't expect this work policy to succeed without drilling it down into your overall business goals
The debate over whether businesses should implement flexible working is now over. They should. The next step is in deciding how businesses should offer those flexible working options, and figuring out ways to get the best results.
But before that can happen, businesses need to have a philosophical shift.
Flexible working only works well in environments that put results first. That starts from the top. If your CEO, executives, and managers don't practice what they preach in this area then your flexible work plans are doomed from the start.
Research has shown that workplace flexibility is the most sought after benefit by job seekers (62 per cent of respondents said so), but 55 per cent of workers with income under $90,000 said they would stay in a role longer if it has flexible working benefits.
Employee retention saves money. If flexible working gets you there, it's worth exploring.
Start with a Deliberate and Definitive Set of Objectives
Any policy starts with an objective and a roadmap, but you also need to start well before that. Think outside of flexible working: how well defined are your employees' goals?; What metrics do they need to achieve?; and Do they understand how those tasks relate to their managers' tasks, and so on?
Employees need goals that are measurable, actionable and deliverable (the MAD framework). This is crucial, because if you place an employee without MAD goals into a flexible work environment, you will associate their lack of progress with flexible work, instead of the real problem, which was a lack of focus and ways to measure performance.
A Robust Policy that Includes Employee Feedback
Like any policy, flexible working should be defined so employees are treated equally and fairly. You need to decide how your flexible working program runs.
Will people get to work from home? How often? What should they have access to at home? What kind of tools do they need? Is it okay to work from home for an entire week? How often should someone be in the office? Is the office considered the default location? Can people split their days?
These are all questions you need to answer.
The vital part comes once you define your policy—you need to get employee feedback. Have them read it, give their thoughts, and then have them sign off. The more buy-in you get, the more likely your policy will be a success.
Be Flexible in Flexible Work
Working with a results-first mindset should widen your options. This means flexible work should take several forms. Return-to-work programs for new parents, ramp-up programs for anyone returning from an injury or other medical event, the option to work different hourly schedules if your business can run smoothly at the same time.
Give your employees the tools to work, and you'll be rewarded with workers who are less stressed about scheduling their life around work, which means they'll work even harder.
Your policy should encourage constant communication. For remote workers, that means understanding how and when they start work, then letting others know when they're available. Calendars should be updated constantly, and there should be an expectation that messages are replied to in a timely way.
Managers should keep regular 1:1s. Remember, detailed goals and performance metrics will keep employees motivated and working. Communicate why you're working on particular projects and what you're attempting to achieve to make sure everyone is in the loop—no matter where they work.
A valuable way managers can keep a check on what each member of their team is working on and how successfully is by establishing a clear framework to discuss performance, also known as setting out objectives and key results (OKRs). OKRs are essentially an internal assessment tool that considers real-time performance and ability, so that results, not location, take priority.
Technology Has To Be Seamless
There are plenty of digital tools that make remote working easier: Slack, Trello, etc. But the real shift in a results-first flexible work policy has to be much broader than this.
Often, people in an office will forget to make meetings accessible for remote workers. They won't organize the right meeting rooms, which feature video conferencing, or they won't include Zoom or Skype for Business options.
Sometimes documents won't be uploaded in the right way, or they'll be shared on paper instead of digitally. Workshops don't take into account people who are dialling in.
Make sure your leadership team knows that if one person is working remotely, everyone is. Then craft your digital tools around that belief.
A Results-first Policy Starts with Business Goals
Remember, you can't expect a flexible work policy to succeed without drilling down into your overall business goals. Once you have those established, and your employees are accountable to them, flexible working will give you more opportunities to reach and exceed your targets.