By Joanne Cumper
The way we work is a source of continual debate, with people arguing for and against a number of set ups – whether it be an open plan office, hot desking, i.e. not working from your own, fixed desk in an office, the use of hybrid mobile devices, or something contrary to the previous. Whatever the set up; everyone has an opinion.
Flexible working is something that businesses grapple with every day. Why? There are two sides to this – on the one hand there remains a trust issue around people working away from the office; are people pulling their weight or getting work done when left to their own devices? The other side is the more positive view, that flexible working can result in greater productivity, greater collaboration among employees, and, as a result, help build a positive culture.
But how important is it to employees? Do workers really care that much?
Flexible working will be the priority in five years
Interestingly, flexible working is growing in importance for people. Five years ago, just one percent of people rated flexible working as the main reason for choosing an employer (Futurestep, 2017). Back then, an enormous 39 percent rated the benefits package (salary, bonus, etc.) as the number one reason, company and brand reputation (19 percent) as the second, and job stability as the third (16 percent).
Fast forward five years to now, and the picture has changed. Today, company culture (23 percent) reigns supreme, followed by career progression (22 percent), and benefits package (19 percent). Curiously, flexible working still only achieved a meagre 5 percent. But, where will it be in five years’ time?
When asked about thinking about the future, flexible working jumps to the number one spot (26 percent), with company culture (23 percent), and company mission and values (17 percent) just behind. The driving force behind this appears to be the expectations and demands of the millennial workforce. This group especially demand the ability to balance their work life with other responsibilities and interests.
It’s critical that organisations and leaders take a proactive approach in addressing this, first understanding that offering these choices to workers who desire them will increase productivity. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal is getting the job done, not punching the clock.
The younger workforce not only demands more flexible working, but it is redefining what flexibility really means.
Millennials and the Gig Economy
When many of us think about flexible working we think about not being at our desks – free to escape the office and work from home, a café, wherever, or working at times that better suit our individual schedules and priorities. It’s certainly taking time for businesses and employees alike to feel totally comfortable with this, but it’s clearly a trend that won’t be going away any time soon.
How we think of flexibility is changing. Going beyond the when and the how of working, younger workers are increasingly looking at the very nature of the employee-employer relationship. Instead of looking for full-time employment, those with the right skills and talent are looking at projects to work on and companies to work with, before moving on to the next. Many of us know this as the Gig Economy or Me, Inc. It is taking the ideal of flexible working – when and how work is done – to the next level.
According to McKinsey, around 162 million people in Europe and the United States are now engaged in some form of independent work, with growth predicted in the years to come. The freedom and flexibility for workers that gigs give them is pretty clear, and the trend is not going away.
Give your organisation competitive strength
While the Gig Economy is an exciting prospect, for talent acquisition professionals it does present a new set of challenges.
The best people who are working gigs often have a great deal of choice when selecting their next project, so as an employer it’s vital to demonstrate what sets their company apart. What does it stand for? What does it offer that another company doesn’t? These are the things that will help retain talented workers on multiple projects.
How to attract and retain such workers also reaches to another issue; the need to overhaul engagement and retention metrics. How to identify, address and satisfy the needs and ambitions of workers becomes an altered prospect as compared with standard workers. It’s important to proactively recognise this and to get under the skin of what motivates those needed Gig Economy workers.
Lastly, with these less fixed workers, there is an expectation that hiring processes will be faster. Instead of thinking of these hires as quick fire solutions, it’s important to build them in strategic planning and to make them a key point of differentiation. It’s not about saving money, but ensuring that the best talent is attainable.