MANAGEMENT Masterclass
n today’s dynamic times, the
weekly working hours vary
from country to country – from
40-44 hours...
March 13 2016 BUSINESS TODAY 00
eter to decide things like promotions, perks, etc.
Evolving Global Workforce Needs
As the ...
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Management Masterclass- March 13

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Management Masterclass- March 13

  1. 1. MANAGEMENT Masterclass I n today’s dynamic times, the weekly working hours vary from country to country – from 40-44 hours generally, to 35 hours in France, and signifi- cantly higher in North Korea. In the past, these variations have generally been driven by history, geography and culture. However, increasingly, company needs or lifestyle choices are the drivers. One of the practices that has gained popularity globally, and looks like it’s here to stay, is flexitime – de- fined as a system of working a set number of hours, with the starting and finishing times chosen within agreed limits by the employer/em- ployee. The common perception is that flexitime is not a good thing. It is seen as a challenge for busi- nesses; one that adversely impacts productivity. At the same time, it remains clear that flexitime is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ but critical in certain situations. Competitive, Evolving Global Workplace Context A more competitive and continu- ously changing workplace is de- manding a rethink on workplace practices. To collaborate globally, we must be available for early morning or late meetings. The costs of work- ing spaces are driving companies to ‘hot desk’, where virtual teams can work anywhere, including their homes. Manufacturing products have a global demand – it has meant a peak and trough product-demand cycle for some companies, demand- ing a flexible workplace. The dearth of talent has also meant that cross- border freelancing is growing, and the contingent flexible workforce is becoming an integral part of a com- pany’s workforce. Customer business needs are driving new demands. For example, in a multinational where I worked, they now have to run machines 24/7 to drive manufacturingproduc- tivity. When they face breakdowns over the weekend, a team is needed to support them, as customers won’t wait until Monday. In a competitive, and often roller- coaster business context, companies would like to get the maximum out of their employees but not want to pay overtime. More importantly, they may not want to explicitly ask them to work over the specified hours, but sort of expect that level of commitment, and use it as a param- March 13 2016 BUSINESS TODAY 0000 BUSINESS TODAY March 13 2016 It is not only desirable but also critical in certain situations for organisations. By RICHARD COWLEY Why Flexitime is Important
  2. 2. March 13 2016 BUSINESS TODAY 00 eter to decide things like promotions, perks, etc. Evolving Global Workforce Needs As the company context is changing, so is the workforce in terms of their expectations. Increasingly, companies have challenges with retention, particularly with the younger team members, and they want to find ways to makethemstay.Acommonpracticenowistouseworking hours as a carrot to attract and retain, e.g., flexible five- or six-day work weeks, flexible use of 40 hours, etc. Employees have changing needs that depend on per- sonal context, e.g., as the cost of living and hiring babysit- ters rises, parents need two jobs with schedules that cross-over. Older employees are happy to work less and take potential cut in salaries in more developed markets to enjoy time with the children, while in nations with more mouths to feed, people can be hungry for overtime. Finally, of course, the new gen- eration is demanding a different type of relationship with their employer, one that is more focused on their needs, e.g., to contribute socially or have reduced commute time to work. What Impacts Productivity? To understand the impact of flexitime, one first needs to understand what factors poten- tially impact productivity met- rics. There are many! The major ones include: employee efficiency (how quickly something is done versus expectation), employee effectiveness (achievement versus target, e.g., sales), and the way the company is structured in terms of organisation layers and manager-team ratios. The industry context is important, as productivity in a consulting firm versus a manufacturing environment is clearly very different. As is the position level, where at the manager and above levels, organisation and individual productivity is driven by many factors. I believe that not having the right strategy or plans, flawed decisions, or a lack of effective performance leadership have the greatest impact on productivity. In the office environment, productivity can be im- pacted by the simplest of things. During my time in Korea, I watched the team diligently finish lunch in 20 minutes and go back to work, whereas in other countries, a slow lunch is the norm. So, what should be an hour easily turns into an hour and a half of lunch. The time spent on Facebook or the Internet generally impacts productivity, too. Jobs where this is not prevalent e.g., hairdresser or bricklayer, would not be impacted much. Context is, therefore, a key criterion of evaluating the impactofflextimeonproductivity.Inproductmanufactur- ing or hospitals, shift work is the norm, therefore, flexitime is generally a given. Where teamwork, projects or virtual teams are concerned, there must be a time slot when all the teams have to work together. Outside of these times, flexitime is an opportunity. In organisations that demand an interface with customers, fitting in with their schedules is critical, e.g., direct marketing people may need to meet customersonweekends,pharmarepresentativesmayhave to meet doctors as per their schedules, etc. Flexitime is paramount to delivery. In consulting, support services or design environments, greater flexibility is an option as long as the core deliverables are achieved. When Flexitime Meets Productivity As a regional HR leader, one of the key pri- orities when you join and work in an organisation is to look at productivity. And generally speaking, flexitime is not seen as a major contributor to poor productivity versus other factors. The granularity comes at a department or individual level often and, generally speak- ing, is part of a performance discussion. However, in some situations, this may not be the case. I would recommend that the perceived negative impact of flextime be bal- anced with the upside that it might provide in terms of retaining talent, sus- taining projects or providing a paradigm that enables a higher quality product that delivers on the value it creates, versus being concerned about how many hours it has taken to build. A big focus on the impact of staff turnover is interest- ing. Productivity is hit when an employee departs and the losscanbeveryhighforsomepositions,asthemomentum is destroyed. A focus on quality outcomes that meet expec- tations, e.g., product effectiveness, net margin or delivery deadlinesismoresignificant.Retainingknowledgeworkers will help productivity – in some cases, they can do more in six hours than a new employee can do in 10. In summary, context is everything. Depending on the deliverable, the employee and market workforce dynam- ics, the impact of flexitime on productivity varies. The deliverable is core to deciding this, and the priority is for it to be achieved. To ensure better productivity, building strong employer-employee relationships is critical. Flexitime can only help. ~ The author is a global HR thought leader and change maker Companieshave challengeswithreten- tion,particularlywiththe youngerteammembers...A commonpracticenowisto useworkinghoursasa carrottoattract andretain MANAGEMENT Masterclass