Flexibility, as a policy, must go beyond working hours and BYOD. It is not a policy, but a ‘guideline’ that enables employees to define their own flexibility, and then act on it.
Vinita is a new-age employee at one of the fastest growing futuristic organisations; she works as a product manager for one of the most promising products, globally, for the organisation. But that isn’t her core identity. She is an acclaimed jazz musician locally, mother of a two-year-old, almost single-parenting these days, with her partner out on an overseas assignment for work. She spends her weekends learning more about the newer technologies and how that will change her product and her organisation’s life, as well as how it can help her become a better musician.
Her company appreciates her learner’s mindset, her multifaceted thinking, her agility, her ability to take ownership and, above all, her passion, ambition and humility. And she does this all with her toddler at her toe. If she would have to choose, she wouldn’t have chosen the organisation over her toddler, and the organisation knew that well.
Vinita, on her part, feels valued. She believes that her success is partly hers, but mostly owing to her organisation. Hers is not the orthodox, hierarchical organisation that sets the norms, drives reviews, runs reports, and controls and aggregates results. Her organisation is the ‘ultimate enabler of results’; it sets goals for the business, gets people who are driven by those goals, enables the alignment of various people who need to come together to deliver on those goals and, finally, lets people drive their business, in their own way. This may sound easier than it actually is. This requires the organisation and its leaders to be able to align itself to the talent that can deliver and is motivated to achieve results, attribute success to contribution rather than hierarchy. The talent here are the employees who come together to make the results happen, regardless of levels.
The organisation attributes its success to people like Vinita. It realised that for it to succeed it was not enough to have a flexibility policy that spoke about what the organisation is making available to its employees. The organisation, thus, has contributors of various kinds (full-time employees, part-time employees, contractual, subject-matter experts, and the extended circle of talent). The biggest magnet for the contributors in the organisation here is the circle of network that has been made available to them, to learn and grow with each other.
The flexibility policy was the first opportunity to try being flexible. Flexibility as a policy went beyond working hours and Bring Your Own Device. It was, in fact, not a policy, but a framework/guideline to enable people to define their flexibility.
So, what’s flexibility of the future for the organisations?
Flexibility, as the term suggests, has to meet the required flexibility expectations. It has to be ‘relevant’ to ‘all’ employee-types, has to be meet the purpose of flexibility, should be available when he/she needs it the most and there should be empowerment to choose, rather than multiple layers of approval. An organisation, on the other hand, could link flexibility to expected outcomes, compensation, incentives and career goals. Flexibility is a culture and a way of life. A policy can never make flexibility happen. It can only be an enabler. But the bigger ‘employee experience shift’ for flexibility is the shift in the culture of the organisation, in the mindset of leaders and, more importantly, in the mindset of line managers.
For an organisation to be relevant and be the talent magnet, flexibility is the most important lever. But reducing the opportunity of experience to a policy is where the journey ends before it begins. Flexibility is a state of mind that the organisation chooses to build, to be continuously relevant to the most-valued and best-suited talent for the success of the organisation. And this relevance can’t be comprised in a policy. It has to be owned by line managers and leaders who commit to that experience. Policy, of course, has to be there, but restricting the experience to the policy will be a massive missed opportunity for the organisations in the future.
-The author is leader, People and Organisation, PwC India