Bryony Gibson, managing director of Bryony Gibson Consulting, shares how flexibility in the workplace can make your business stand out in the recruitment market.
One-fifth of UK businesses believe recruitment will be their biggest challenge in 2019 according to research by a global credit company. While scarcity of high-calibre people is nothing new, in times of uncertainty and change, attracting and retaining the very best can be the difference between success and failure for a business.
If you find it difficult to recruit, or you’re repeatedly battling with competitors for the same people, then you need to take a step back and think about how you can differentiate yourself as an employer of choice.
Flexibility in the workplace will give you the competitive advantage you need. Provided it’s genuine, offering flexible working conditions will give you a significant edge when recruiting; especially if you’re a smaller business with limited budgets.
In today’s market, the best people are becoming much more selective about where they want to work and the majority of office-based workers value flexible conditions above all else.
Many businesses still see flexibility as a perk, but the opportunity to work anywhere, anytime, and be measured by impact rather than time spent at your desk, is how your future employees expect your business to be run.
Make no mistake about it, if it comes down to joining a company that offers flexibility or one without (even if the salary is a bit more), most people will choose the company that trusts them to deliver and helps them achieve a better work-life balance.
So, it’s not really a matter of if your company should have a flexible work policy in place, but rather when and how. One of the biggest misconceptions about remote working is that it is less effective than being in a traditional office environment. While there’s a risk of employees abusing the system, more often than not that is not the case and they thrive without the distraction of meetings, phone calls and interruptions throughout the day.
Whether it’s home or remote working, self-defined office hours or annual leave, the best employers embrace a wide range of staff needs, trying to offer solutions to help everyone. Unsurprisingly, the one area that can often suffer is the bonds people form with their colleagues. Home workers may be happier and more engaged, but they can often have limited relationships with co-workers, which isn’t ideal.
Clear communication is key to making this a success. All staff should have a way to connect both one-onone and in a group environment regardless of where they are located. Technological developments in mobile and web software can make this much easier. Before you start a flexible workplace initiative across your company, consider starting a pilot with a few key departments. Set a date and review the impact and outcomes before you roll it out further, and make sure you work with your management team, as leading a squad of home workers requires very different skills to heading up a group that is permanently in the same office.
In summary, if you can create an autonomous and trusting environment where people have the flexibility to balance their own work and life priorities, then you will have happy staff, better productivity and, perhaps most importantly, an improved chance of recruiting the best people going forward.
If recruitment is a challenge and this doesn’t sound like you, then it’s time to change the way you operate before you not only struggle to attract good people but start to lose the staff you value most to companies who do realise the value of flexible working.