You have no doubt seen the changes that ‘work-from-home’ has made in your own practice.…
By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
If you’re scrambling just to find and hire the talent you need to get your work out the door, you might wonder why you should even bother thinking about flexible work arrangements. Being able to offer these arrangements, however, might make the difference in keeping the talent you have.
Flexible work arrangements are also sometimes referred to as “reduced-load work” arrangements. This particular definition was used as the basis for a recently published study: “Making Flexibility Work: What Managers Have Learned About Implementing Reduced-Load Work”, by Ellen Ernst Kossek of Michigan State University and Mary Dean Lee of McGill University.
Kossek and Lee began by defining reduced-load work as “working less than full-time hours in a traditional full-time position for a commensurate reduction in pay”. They conducted interviews in 20 companies across a wide range of industry sectors, including financial services.
Employee retention was the most commonly cited rationale for supporting reduced-work load arrangements. Some interviewees at the executive management level went even further, making the point that this flexibility helps retain the truly high level, high performing person. Reduced-work load was seen as a means to enhance employee productivity. One manager commented that “Part-time people are more focused than full-time people, because they have less time to fulfill their work demands.” Not surprisingly, 25% of the companies saw that reduced-work load provides an important value proposition when it comes to attracting potential talent.
Taking a closer look at the managers who were supervising reduced-work load employees, Kossek and Lee found that the largest percentage took a “hands-off approach”, trusting their direct reports to deliver results, and were “people-oriented” with a tendency to develop trusting relationships and to stay in touch. One other style which appears to be critical to success in supervising reduced-load employees is setting high standards and having clear expectations.
When it comes to implementation, the most frequently discussed approach was to configure the job differently. A slightly different version of this approach involved re-allocating responsibilities. Some managers indicated that they had used a reduced-load work request from the employee as an opportunity to re-examine and re-organize the structure and allocation of work in the entire work unit, which often resulted in unexpected benefits.
In general, interviewees in the study reported the following benefits:
- Reduced-load professionals typically high performers
- Lower turnover
- Better team functioning
- Increased commitment, enthusiasm & creativity
Along with these costs:
- Hard to schedule meetings
- Co-worker resentment
- Negative impact on work unit productivity
One particular caution offered by managers was to be selective about the types of jobs you might modify. They suggested avoiding jobs with short-term timelines and demands dictated by external customers/clients unless you use a team approach for coverage. Though this would seem to include nearly anyone working in a BV practice, the key is to use the team approach. One manager commented that reduced-load work actually improved team communication, because when one employee was crunched for time and someone working in their unit wasn’t, the first would ask for help from the other, which enhanced communication and cross-training.
Reduced-load work is but one way to respond to the varying needs of your employees. Others include telecommuting and flexible work hours. As difficult as it can be to attract and retain top talent, you need every tool you can find to build a productive team.
Web-based copies of the report may be downloaded from http://flex-work.lir.msu.edu/.