Flexible working is the key to diversity

diversityFlexible working is one of the hot topics of the 21st century. If it’s well implemented, flexible working can bring many benefits to employers and employees alike. Whilst for employers, it can provide an agile and diverse workforce, for employees the ability to work flexibly can be life changing.

Capability Jane was set up in 2007 to address the frustration felt by many professionals with genuine flexible working needs that were not being accommodated by their employers.

One of the key benefits of allowing flexibility is diversity, which has long been a problem for businesses, especially at senior levels. Many highly skilled people leave the workforce mid-career to care for children or relatives, thus creating a ‘diversity vacuum’ at the top of many organisations. Yet, by enabling people to remain or return to senior roles on a flexible basis, businesses can help to turn the tide and increase the diversity of their talent.

Diversity has long been known to increase the potential for high performing teams. Political Scientist, Professor Scott E Page highlighted the benefits whilst researching his theory ‘Diversity Trumps Ability.’ He carried out extensive studies over a number of years, and found that diverse groups picked totally at random, out-performed control groups of the most intelligent problem solvers from the same sector.

In addition to innovation and creativity, it’s also been shown that flexible working can foster employee engagement and boost loyalty. An employee survey carried out for the CIPD found that workers on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more likely to speak positively about their organisation and less likely to quit. When you add in the efficiency gains of allowing employees to manage their own time, it’s clear that offering flexible working is a win-win, as long as the position allows, and it is carefully implemented.

Not every job can be worked part-time, so for any request of flexible working to be honoured, it must provide business continuity and be commercially viable. Fortunately, there are many benefits to offering flexible working that make it a worthy consideration for any business.

Increasingly, many people are looking for the flexibility to work from home, at least some of the time. Technology is making this a very real and easy option for many employers. In this case, procedures and practices that offer peace of mind for the employer, and structure for the employee are a must. For home based working to be a success, communication is key, both for the employee to feel part of the team as well as to ensure clear and quick lines of communication. Instant messaging apps and live video are invaluable and can help you ‘touch base’ regularly with your colleagues. It is also important to clearly define how and when work is carried out, and set regular times for updates and feedback.

Another popular type of flexible working option is to create a Job Share. Everyone loves a two for one offer, and that’s exactly what you get if you split a full-time job into a job share – the added benefit of experience and skills from two people.

At Capability Jane we are finding that more and more organisations, both corporate and SME are starting to recognise the real business benefits gained by offering flexible working options to existing employees, as well as ensuring it is central to their talent attraction activities.

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