The main drivers of decisions to stay or leave a place of employment are having:
1. a supportive work environment
2. a challenging job
3. a good fit between work life and personal life.
Catalyst, Families and Work Institute 2008
Workplace flexibility helps with the first and third drivers, thus increasing employee retention.
Flexibility is not about working less, it’s about working differently.
Having flexibility in when, where, and how you work allows you to flexibly allocate time and energy between your work life and personal life.
Finding a Work-Life Fit
Providing support and resources to professionals navigating non-linear careers is essential to maintaining career momentum over the course of a career lifecycle.
A flexible framework of talent management will allow women and other caregivers to continue to rise in the organization rather than opt out of the workforce, as nearly 40% feel compelled to do today.
Is the “ideal worker” model alive and well in your organization? Women are particularly vulnerable when viewed through this lens.
"Ideal workers,” defined as employees willing and able to put work above all other considerations (Joan Williams, Unbending Gender) can fulfill performance measures based on face time and availability. Many highly capable, over-achieving professionals with significant responsibilities at home attempt to compete on the terms set forth but face intolerable levels of stress.
Equal access was not enough to bring more women in the managerial and executive ranks in organizations. Women were granted access and then proceeded to mold themselves to a structure that was designed for the work-centric male, supported by a home-centric wife. Few women were able to change themselves in order to conform to this mode of operation and many quit, or Off Ramped, as a result of the intense conflict, or imbalance, between the two roles. A model for a dual-centric employee, fulfilling responsibilities at home and at work, did not exist in many workplaces. One of the greatest barriers is the negative consequences often perceived with the utilization of flexible programs. The dead-end “mommy track” is a reality in many workplaces.
In the past, work and family were approached as two discrete domains. Many of today's professionals seek to integrate the two spheres and need the tools to do so. Technology supports that capability. Work redesign, flexible careers, and attitudinal change are the next critical steps.
Women are Canaries in the Coal Mine
Women have been called the "canaries in the coal mine" with regard to workplace cultures. While flexible policies initially focused on the retention of women, these policies work best when they are gender neutral. Many different segments of the workforce seek the tools to manage their personal and professional lives for a variety of reasons:
Workplace Hurdles Drive OffRamping
When employees seek options to manage their dual responsibilities in a different way, they often face rigid structures or may become professionally marginalized. Many have their request for flexibility turned down. For others, the transition back from maternity leave is too stressful. Companies are often losing valuable human resources and knowledge (in which they have invested significant training) due to burnout or disenchantment.
Flexibility policies may not be enough. Flexibility needs to become part of the process and the culture in order to encourage utilization and effect retention rates. It is important to evaluate the impact of any underlying assumptions that can negatively influence performance evaluations and advancement of individuals who utilize flexible policies in your organization. It is critical to ensure that commitment is not measured by face time.
Flexibility Retains Key Workforce Segments
Effective Workplace Flexibility impacts an organization's ability to attract and retain employees:
Many companies that have successfully implemented flexible work programs for salaried professionals are creatively designing programs that significantly increase the retention of hourly workers, as well.
To determine the best approach for increasing retention in your organization, please refer to NLC Services.
Elements of a Flexible Workplace: