Flexible working practises are associated with a whole host of business benefits according to academic research. From the attraction and retention of top talent[i] to lower levels of stress[ii] and even the out-performance of teams who don’t use such practises, there really is a lot to recommend embracing them.
In this month’s Talent Keeping news we’re shining a light on how to boost part-time employees’ performance and career prospects off the back of new research which explored the effect of managers’ interpretations of employees’ use of flexible working practises (FWPs) on career success.
Dr Lisa Leslie and colleagues at the University of Minnesota found that managers who attribute an employee’s use of FWPs to a desire to be more productive perceive them as being more committed to the organisation than employees who they perceive use FWPs for an easier personal life[iii].
Managers’ perceptions of their flexible working colleagues’ commitment to the team and the wider organisation is important because it correlates positively with financial rewards and access to career enhancing opportunities. In a nutshell, if managers don’t think their part-time workers are committed then those part-timers (who might actually or potentially be big assets to the business by any objective measure) may have their careers stifled or leave to join the competition. More on that at the end.
ONE – Train employees on how to position their flexible working (and requests for) with line managers, team members, other colleagues and clients. i.e. to talk about how they envisage the proposed ways of working will contribute to their performance and be of benefit to the business, colleagues and clients.
TWO – Showcase positive examples of flexible working men and women in a variety of roles at different levels of seniority with an emphasis on how this is making them more productive and how the business is benefiting This could be part of the internal communications plan for sharing results and planned actions flowing from your most recent employee engagement survey.
THREE – Encourage line managers to keep an open mind about the career aspirations of part-time workers. Part-time can be wrongly viewed as a synonym for ‘not as committed as s/he used to be’ or ‘not as committed as my full-time employees’ and managers with this mindset can inadvertently deny career advancement opportunities to their part-time team members.
FOUR – Encourage line managers to talk to part-time staff about opportunities happening on their ‘non-work’ days that may be helpful to their career development or day to day performance. Employees, whether FT or PT, are generally highly appreciative of line managers sign-posting development opportunities; given enough notice the majority of your part-time employees are likely to be very open to switching their days in order to participate.
FIVE – It makes sense to set about creating a culture where the positives and perils of such practises get discussed within teams. Ideally a team will openly and collectively review how flexible working practises are working for the team and what needs to change in order to keep clients satisfied, the team dynamic strong and results strong, every six months or so.
Leaking talent at your end?
One Hertfordshire law practice we’ve been talking to, Raydens Solicitors, has used flexible working as part of its strategy to attract top London talent without paying London salaries (mainly parents of very young children). The vast majority of the firm work less than a five day week and you can read more here. As with any change to a business, part-time working needs to be well thought through before it is implemented on a wide scale. Yes there are many upsides to flexible working but the potential perils need mitigating too.
Our Solutions to help your business
If we’ve given you food for thought do pick up the phone or drop us a line for a confidential conversation about how we can help your business. Two of our short, engaging workshops in particular could be just the ticket:
- Making part-time working work for you and your team – equipping mid to senior employees with tools and techniques to continue to be a productive employee and team leader when working part-time.
- Creating a culture where part-time working works – for leaders and managers of part-time employees and managers who are preparing to employee part-time employees.
[i] Blair-Loy, M. & Wharton, A. S. 2002 Employees’ use of work-family policies and the workplace social context. Social Forces, 80: 813-845.
[ii] Gajendran, R.S. & Harrison, D.A. 2007. The good, the bad and the unknown about telecommuting: Meta-analysis of psychological mediators and individual consequences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92: 1524-1541.
[iii] Leslie, L.M, Park, T. & Mehng, S.A. 2012. Flexible working practises: a source of career premiums or penalties? Academy of Management Journal, 55: 1407-1428.