This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

February 23, 2011

Flexibility---Increasingly Important Benefit

The brand new "Survey on Workplace Flexibility" offers some startling findings: the majority of employers in the United States now offer some kind of "workplace flexibility". The study, from the prestigious total rewards association WorldatWork, provides an inside look at employers’ views on flexibility. The study gauges the impact of flexibility programs on employee attraction, motivation, and retention.

The study revealed that while a vast majority (98 percent) of US employers offer at least one workplace flexibility program, most (nearly 60 percent) use an informal approach. WorldatWork defines this informal approach as one having no written policies or forms, where implementation is up to the discretion of the manager.

Four out of ten say flexibility is "culturally embedded". Not surprisingly, the study found that the stronger the culture of flexibility, the lower the voluntary turnover rate. In addition, a majority of employers report a positive impact on employee satisfaction, motivation, and engagement. In workplace flexibility programs, culture trumps policy. And it’s not about the quantity of programs offered; it’s about how well supported and implemented the programs are.

The survey found that different sectors emphasize flexibility programs with varying degrees: compressed workweeks are more prevalent in the public sector (68 percent); part-time schedules are more common among non-profit organizations (90 percent); and publicly traded companies more frequently offer ad hoc telework (89 percent).

Companies tailor flexibility programs to fit the needs of their workforces as well as their organizational priorities. The most prevalent programs are flex-time (flexible start/stop times), part-time schedules (with or without benefits), and teleworking on an ad hoc basis (e.g., meet a repair person or sick child). Each program is offered to some or all employees in more than 80 percent of surveyed companies.

The study also revealed several obstacles to the adoption of flexibility programs, including: lack of training; top management resistance; and lack of employee interest in programs like "phased return from leave", "phased retirement", and "career on/off ramps". Given its importance to Gen-Y, expect more and more employers around the world to embrace flexibility as part of an effective Total Rewards Package.

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