By Hang Bower
April 19, 2012
When it comes to recruiting and retention, there are countless strategies for attracting top talent, many of which are very compelling and successful. My firm has found a focus on flexibility to be especially successful in increasing our value proposition for current employees and candidates. Below are some tips for implementing flexibility strategies at your company:
Consider life stages. Most companies are a diverse mix. Many employees are in different career and life stages with a myriad of interests. When considering which flexibility-related benefits or rewards to offer your employees take these differences into account and focus on strategies that will be appreciated by as many people as possible.
One option is a backup dependent care program, which allows employees to exchange a nominal co-pay for up to 10 days per year of professional care for their children and elderly family members if their usual care arrangements fall through. Companies benefit when those employees can focus on their work without having to worry about alternative care. Paid parental leave policies, which can include maternity leave, paternity leave and adoption leave, are another great example of benefits that speak to specific life stages.-¨
Search for flexibility ideas you can build upon. Some companies - especially growing ones - don’t realize that they already have the beginnings of a flexibility strategy in their local offices. This strategy is evident in their management’s way of handling one-off flexibility needs. Take a close look at how middle and upper management in different locations handle employees’ unexpected “life happens” moments, when for one reason or another an employee can’t perform work as usual. For example, how do they ensure business is conducted as usual when an employee’s flight is delayed or during a massive snow storm? Does management support alternative ways for employees to tend to their personal lives, and still complete their work? Find out more about how that works, how often it happens, and what is involved. Then, think about whether that model - or a version of it - would work in your other locations, and whether it could be expanded to cover more permanent changes in where, when or how employees work.
This method was instrumental in the creation of a flex strategy at my company, BDO USA, LLP. We researched ways in which flexibility was already being used, as well as any ideas employees had for improving their current flexibility. Then, we weighed our findings against the ultimate needs of the business. The result was a visual depiction of ways employees and teams can use different types of flexibility in where, when or how much they work, from small, temporary changes to large, permanent changes.-¨
Consistency is key. If your company chooses to implement a formal strategy around alternative ways for employees to work, I encourage you to design the program for consistency, which largely relies on the buy-in of front-line managers. Whether you’re a local startup or a national conglomerate, it’s key that front-line managers implement the strategy the same way for employees in similar roles. One way to encourage this is to arm managers and employees with solid strategic flexibility principles, which they can use to interpret situations where no precedent has been set.
For example, basic strategic principles can be that the company is open to experimenting with new ideas on where, when and how to get work done, and that employee, client and business needs must all be considered when using flexibility.
We have found flexibility strategies to be very well received by employees, and with a lot of hard work and dedication, you may be able to make flexibility part of your retention strategy too.
Hang Bower is executive director of Human Resources at BDO USA. BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. Contact Bower at www.bdo.com.