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Retaining your talent through flexible working

by Sally Barringer

September 3 2015 - The office has changed dramatically over the past decade. The days of employees adapting to suit the needs of the company are well and truly over. Today people want their office lives to mould around their working lives, not the other way around. Employees desire and strive for a work/life balance.

In the UK this wish is amplified. Employees want to find their ideal balance between monetary gain and personal fulfilment. In fact, the recent 2015 Global Talent Trends research by LinkedIn suggested that the UK is one of only two countries in the world where potential employees prioritise a work/life balance over higher compensation when choosing a new role. Therefore, if a business is able to offer a better, more agile environment for their staff, both talent retention and productivity are sure to increase.

Flexibility in figures

It has been over a year since the law that gives UK workers with over six months of permanent employment the right to request flexible working was passed. Although some organisations have embraced the change and have implemented flexible working options for their employees, this is not widespread enough. In fact, research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Unify shows that more than a third of Britons (37%) claim that their companies still do not offer flexible working arrangements.

This is despite 39% of Britons claiming that they would be more loyal to a business if they offered flexible working. Moreover, if flexible working expectations were met, 24% of those surveyed would recommend their place of work to a friend or peers - a powerful recruitment and retention tool.

These findings highlight how dear people hold the values of a work/life integration and balance, and show just how powerful a tool flexible working can be. Businesses and their HR leaders must realise its importance and begin to implement functional flexible working policies into their organisations. The transition into a flexible working business does not have to be complex, but it does require a mentality change in the office, as well as a shift in technology.

Prioritising people

Employees want to work flexibly, this much we know. Still, it is not enough to simply say they are now an 'anywhere workers', they have to understand how their roles will change and how the business will support them in staying connected. To achieve this, IT and HR must work together to prioritise employees. The need to establish an informal means of educating employees on how they will in fact support flexible working and how to use the technologies that will keep them connected.

It is perhaps critical to dwell on the point of collaboration. In modern businesses, people need to connect to and collaborate with people - more often than not - to be able to do their jobs effectively. To ensure productivity remains at optimum levels in the organisation a suitable technology solution will therefore likely need to be introduced that delivers true collaboration. But not any technology will do.

Trying to force unintuitive enterprise technologies on any individual is bound to fail. This is because even today's sternest business user is also a consumer. In their personal lives they have easy to use and engaging technologies at their fingertips. In order for your employees to be content and productive, the technology you select to support flexible working must therefore mimic what they find appealing. A few years ago this would have been a tough ask, but, luckily, there has been a shift towards consumerised technology inside enterprises.

Combining Communication

What should a new technology bring to your office? Firstly, whatever technology you choose needs to enable employees to work anywhere and at any time of their choosing - from practically any device. The right technology platform will revolutionise your business' mobile collaboration and communication, bringing together high-quality voice, video, real-time document editing and management, messaging and file sharing into a single view, across an entire team. Having a 'single pane of glass' view of all their information, can help your employees to connect and collaborate with each other using their smartphones, laptops, desktops or tablets - for a much more immediate and richer experience.

This type of technology used to be expensive, but it is now simultaneously widespread and powerful. Users can communicate easily and work together on documents painlessly. Groups can chat quickly and important collateral can be created and edited on the go.

The ability to connect, engage and collaborate is incredibly important in the modern workforce. Real-time collaboration ensures that everyone is on the same page, cutting down on confusion. It is also important to understand how different people want to do their jobs. Flexible working will not succeed if you attempt to make everyone act in the same way, this is why your platform must work across a range of devices, handsets and operating systems.

If flexible working and its practices are taken completely to heart, companies can bring about huge internal and external change. It can revitalise a business, helping it reach its full potential. The abundance of platforms allowing individuals to work whenever and wherever has made the adoption of flexible working far less daunting than ever before. Employees standards and demands are changing and, unless your company keeps up to date, it will find the best candidates look elsewhere for work.

About the author
Sally Barringer

Sally is the HR Manager at Unify, a position held for over eleven years during which time Sally has supported all functions of Unify's business including Ireland. Sally has been actively engaged in overseeing the company's transition from Siemen's Enterprise Communications to its current incarnation, providing guidance and support through HR practices ensuring the workforce remain at the heart of the business throughout this period of change.

Her responsibilities range from recruitment and succession planning, employee engagement through reward, recognition and HR Policies to change management and business transformation. Sally currently splits her time between Milton Keynes and London, providing HR consultation and improving employee relations across all sectors of Unify's business.


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