What is Workplace Flexibility?

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The latest product update for Zomato has a new feature where the customer not only gets to see the rating of the restaurant but also of each item in the menu of that restaurant that makes them make better choices. Apple recently launched a credit card with no late payment fee or annual fee and also offers assured cash backs on apple products. Swiggy recently moved into a new business of offering home delivery of grocery products. Netflix is developing and producing its own content. Google is working on creating self-driving cars while Facebook is leveraging its traffic to create a marketplace. 

What’s common between all these path- breaking innovations or game changing strategies? How are these companies that are undisputed market leaders venturing into new business or working on new features?

Staying relevant is the survival kit in the 21st century for each company and staying relevant is all about flexibility. The average solvency rate of companies has moved down from 60 years to 20 years. So even if you are on the right path but if you don’t move, you will be run over. However, this isn’t just true for external customers. Companies are focusing equally hard on its internal customers – ‘their people’

Up until a few years ago, compensation was king of the career decision tree. Whether retaining your people or hiring new talent, compensation was the ultimate factor when choosing one company over another. However, in the last few years a lot has changed in the workplace eco-system. People today look for a vision, role, leadership etc. before committing to a new assignment. In this list, workplace flexibility appears to be an extremely crucial factor for millennials for making career decisions. 

“Workplace flexibility is not just about the working hours. The term flexibility in the workplace is often thrown in along with independence, work-life integration, friendly culture, autonomy and trusting people to deliver results without micro-managing or operating with hard coded mindset”

Be it flexibility in compensation structures, working hours, ways of operating or decision making. The ever-growing demand for a fast-paced delivery without compromising on the quality has put tremendous pressure on companies to operate right out of the top shelf. Tailoring people practices addressing talent’s needs can make people feel valued.

Just like communication, flexibility is a two-way street. People who are trusted and given more freedom at work are highly appreciative of their flexible managers/organizations.On one hand companies expect people to act like ‘owners’ but on-ground treats them as ‘employees’ – who have neither the autonomy nor the space to be innovative. However, some of the leading organizations recognize that,in order to hire and retain theirtop talent, theyneed to create a work environment that is agile and flexible.

Yet, flexibility is often a hot topic of the debate table in most boardrooms. Many companies struggle to offer a flexible work style and simultaneously maintain high productivity and performance levels. However, it’s time that companies internalize that today workplace is not a place for people to earn money. It has become a playground for people to express themselves, be a part of something iconic and make meaningful contributions. This is not just true for millennials. Why else would a Sheryl Sandburg be willing to report to a 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and similarly many seasoned professionals be looking to be a part of start-ups that are headed by millennials.

All the top brass companies are willing to go the extra-mile and offer customized solutions that can keep their varied talent archetypes happy. Work from Home, flexi-working hours, no-cap leave policy, performance linked pay, profit sharing, ESOPs are some of the many examples of flexibility offered by companies around various facets of workplace engagement. Even when it comes to work related decision making, companies are willing to give people option to choose their location, projects and career path.

What’s important to remember is that flexibility isn’t about crowd pleasing. It’s not about executing popular demands. It’s about creating an environment that enhances trust, engagement and productivity. Freedom is not about doing whatever you want, it’s an opportunity to do the right thing. Hence, flexibility is a double-edged sword. On one hand people can really do innovative and world class work using flexibility and autonomy while some may squander this by making reckless decisions. Hence organizations needs to have firewall required to handle flexibility and autonomy effectively. What works for your talent pool intechnology may not work with those in sales and vice versa. While a challenging problem statement might excite a product engineer, a great sales incentive scheme might get a salesman going.

Being a Head HR for a company that has grown 5 times in headcount in the last 3 years and has been a part of multiple mergers and acquisitions, I have had a first-hand account of how critical it is to be flexible for creating a successful organization.

So, the answer to the question – Is flexibility a make or break for company’s success. Answer is YES. Workplace Flexibility is not the future, but the present reality of corporate culture. As they say, children don’t do what you say, they do what you do. If companies expect their people to be flexible, companies will have to show them the way! 

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Rohit Hasteer is the Group CHRO for Housing, PropTiger and Makaan. He has more than 20 years of rich experience in the domain on Organisation Development and Restructuring, Culture Transformation, Talent Acquisition and Talent Management, Training & Development. He has worked with companies like SAMSUNG, CITIBANK, MakeMyTrip, Aviva Life Insurance and UT WorldWide. He takes keen interest in building Organization culture and People Development. He is an MBA from IMT, Ghaziabad.

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