Inconsistent flexible working strategies drive people away from businesses

A group of people in a shared flexible working / coworking spaceA new poll of 3,450 people in a dozen countries from Unit4 claims that around two in five organisations have lost employees over the last year because they believed they would enjoy better flexible working options elsewhere. While most firms now have a formalised approach to flexible working, the report claims that policies vary enormously, exacerbating the challenge of recruiting and retaining people for those firms with an inconsistent approach. 

The report is based on a survey involving 3,450 respondents across 12 global markets to understand how much people, policy and technology changes have accelerated over the past 12 months, the Index revealed significant concerns with flexible working strategies despite a dramatic acceleration in its adoption. With competition for talent growing, there is a danger that failure to improve working policies and implement the right tools could lead to more employees choosing those employers who offer a more flexible approach.

  • 76 percent of respondents say flexible working policies need improvement and 62 percent agree the tools to support flexible working are not adequate
  • Only 18 percent of respondents experience a policy without restrictions
  • 39 percent of organisations have seen people leave their business for more flexibility elsewhere over the past year
  • Attracting and retaining talent (62 percent) is the biggest priority for organisations over the next 12 months
  • Only a quarter of respondents say diversity is a planning focus for the coming year

The Business Future Index claims that 92 percent of respondents state that their organisations have now adopted some form of flexible working policy. However, it also reveals there is much work to be done to apply these policies more equitably and ensure employees have the right framework and tools to enable such approaches. For example, the Index discovered:

  • 37 percent of people work flexible hours, such as working from 9am – 3pm, then making up time in the evening
  • 31 percent work a completely flexible hybrid model (office and home based)
  • 31 percent are mandated to spend a proportion of time in the office (for example, a certain number of days per week)

While the reasonably even split between the different types of flexible working is understandable given that not every organisation can offer complete remote working, other data suggests an imbalance in how such policies are applied. While 55 percent say flexible working applies to all employees, more than a third (35 percent) say it only applies to some employees dependent on job role, and 9 percent suggest it depends on the manager’s discretion applying only to some employees. Given that less than one fifth of employees experience flexible working without restrictions, there is still some way to go to improve such policies and, therefore, it is critical organisations move quickly to avoid loss of talent.

Attracting and retaining talent remains the top priority for all organisations across the globe in the year ahead, but the Index reveals further challenges impacting workforce strategies, including:

  • Staff retention – organisations struggling to find and retain staff across a mix of generations (36 percent)
  • ESG credentials – One fifth (20 percent) believe their company is perceived to have poor Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials
  • Diversity – only 25 percent of organisations plan to improve diversity within the business

Re-skilling talent (51 percent) and implementing a successful flexible/hybrid working policy (50 percent) also make it onto the list of top business priorities, compounded by 51 percent who believe that the real need to enhance talent strategies will hinder their ability to achieve their objectives.