Flexible working is the new measure of success

Professional bragging rights were once the preserve of top earners. Those with massive salaries, huge bonuses, and in some cases, even bigger egos. Money equals success – technology has shifted that long held view. Today flexible working, in terms of hours, location and role, has become an embraced reality and chief workplace priority. Technology has blurred the lines between work and life. The new “digitally native” workforce now expect a flexibility and access in every aspect of their lives. More than ever, work is seen as an adventure which is to be explored, rather than accepted.

Young people today are expressing less appetite for both pain and pay – according to our research, only six in 10 millennials see salary as one of the top three priorities for a job. The first is hardly surprising, the second less and less so. Work is increasingly connected to how we live, where we live, how we interact, and with who. It is utterly entwined with our lives.

The market also plays its part. Such is the ongoing skills crisis that talented candidates in tech for example can more or less take their pick of jobs. This means they have more influence in the terms of their employment. In other words: no more staying in the rat race, doing someone else’s bidding and picking up a cheque.

Workers – especially younger ones – are placing less value on money, and more on flexible working options

Survey after survey reveals that workers – especially younger ones – are placing less value on money, and more on flexible working options. They put variety, learning opportunities, and choice as priorities at work.

Research by Powwownow found that three quarters of UK employees say that they’d be more likely to consider a job that provided flexible working, while a third would prioritise greater flexibility over an increase in pay. Another study by HSBC meanwhile found that 73 per cent of younger full-time employees are currently working flexibly, while 69 per cent of those that aren’t would like to do so.

This is news to no-one except, it seems, those employers and recruitment agencies that cling on to outdated preconceptions about what truly motivates people today, who remain the majority. Businesses that fail to factor in candidates’ demands for greater flexibility are playing a dangerous game.

They are failing to make themselves attractive destinations for the most talented workers on the market. Recruitment agencies, meanwhile, are perpetuating the fallacy, focusing on remuneration over other, more-valued aspects of employment.

Ultimately, companies are inadvertently stunting their growth, development and diversity.

 

What workers  really want

The ‘job for life’ went extinct a good while back. However, many employers and agencies are out of kilter with how flexible and adventurous today’s workers are willing to be.

Tempo’s recent research found that 30 per cent of millennials have clocked up five or more jobs in their career so far. The average millennial has already had an average of 3.4 jobs, rapidly approaching the 5.9 held by those in the 55+ age bracket.

What are these younger workers searching for? In separate research, we found that 37 per cent of millennials will decline a job if flexible working wasn’t offered. Pay will always be an important motivating factor, but all the research shows that younger workers are hungry for more, namely opportunities for flexible working that prioritise work-life balance (including the ability to work from home).

This isn’t a surprise. Millennials are the first digital native generation: they see the world through the prism of technologies that enable them to have more choice that ever before. Businesses (and recruitment agencies) that won’t accommodate these demands for flexible working will fail.

 

The wider benefits of flexible working

Important as it is to improve employee attraction and retention, there are many more important benefits that should be encouraging organisations to implement flexible working practices.

Returning to the HSBC survey, the researchers found that an overwhelming nine in ten employees (89 per cent) believe that flexible working motivates them to be more productive at work, compared to the 77 per cent who say the same about financial incentives. There’s more. A sensible approach to flexible working can deliver significant cost savings to a business by cutting office space, while providing a better work-life balance, reducing sickness and absenteeism.

But let’s not forget that workplace flexibility is about much more than scrapping the 9-to-5 and enabling employees to work from home. In fact, that it is the bare minimum.

Flexibility is as much about the type of work that people can access. By enabling people to move more freely throughout the organisation, businesses can help people to share and develop their skills through the experience of working within multiple teams.

The same goes for skills retention, since greater workplace flexibility helps the business to keep hold of talented team members in the event of life-changing events such as long-term illness or parenthood.

In short, there is no good reason not to invest in making work more flexible for employees. If holding onto top talent and acquiring new skills is a priority to a business, they will ditch the old assumptions about the workplace and instead create an experience that’s palatable for all.

 

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