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Flex: Why Policies are Falling out of Favour

Updated: Oct 10, 2018

You may have noticed that the language around flexible working in your organisations has started changing. Instead of mentioning flexible working policies the language has shifted to taking about ARRANGEMENTS. Companies such as Barclays, with their Dynamic Working arrangement, are one of the key proponents of rise of this new language around flexible working. At a recent conference I attended the company went to great pains to explain that Dynamic Working is not policy but something to help everyone get a better life-work balance. Confused - yes me too so let's try to understand what, if anything, has changed.

According to the CIPD "HR policies provide written guidance for employees and managers on how to handle a range of employment issues. They also provide consistency and transparency for employees and managers, helping to enhance the psychological contract and create a positive organisational culture." If Policy creates an equitable set of rules then an Arrangement provides guidance on how you implement the statements in your policy. It seems that organisations are increasingly understanding that simply having an equitable set of rules can not shift the diversity dial but rather employees need to start accessing arrangements that support diversity in order for real cultural change to take place. So in effect we are seeing a maturing the language and understanding of the flexible working debate.

While this maturity is a good thing it can leave many confused and can also lead to some less culturally mature organisations jumping the Policy piece to head straight to the more fashionable Arrangement. The reason this should be avoided is two-fold;

  • Policy needs to be based on an existing organisational culture or an aspiration culture, in effect it helps to set out and support the cultural norms of an organisation. If you are a less mature organisation then you may think that simply creating an arrangement creates culture. Barclays worked for several decades on the flexibility piece before they decided to move to an Arrangement.

  • A Policy provides workers and managers with clear guidance and support - the less mature the organisation's diversity and inclusion mindset the more detailed the guidance and support needed. As an organisation matures the Policy required can reduce and simplify. At the same time simply providing the statutory minimum for Policy is equally unhelpful.

Whether an organisation chooses to focus on flexible working policies or arrangements, or both, it is important that they underpin with a few basic support blocks;

  • The promotion of real models through blogs and newsletters. This shows the story of the 95% of people who flex successfully and reduces down the group think around the 5% of examples where it fails.

  • Provide ongoing training and support for managers on how to get the best out of flexible workers. Hiring managers also need support to understand how flexible working requests work for new hires and what level of flexibility the organisation is currently comfortable with offering to new staff members.

  • Embrace technology in support of agile working practices. The aim to develop global managers who can manage global teams and technology is a key element.

  • Have a culture of trying. This means a willingness to experiment around new ways of working through a Breadcrumbs for Change approach

All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.


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