I have to say you have made the process extremely painless and easy from start to finish! I wouldn’t have any hesitation in recommending yourselves to colleagues - communication was great, you and the team were responsive to changes, you have st...
Flexible working and agile working are often discussed as if they are one and the same thing. However, there is a difference. In a nutshell, agile working incorporates flexible working but it goes further.
Like flexible working, agile working means being unconstrained by traditional working hours and being able to work in an environment that strays from traditional office conventions. However, flexible working is basically about working in a different way to achieve the same performance outcome. Advocates that champion flexible working argue that it allows people to carry out their duties to the same standard as they would being in the office working regular hours. Only this way employees benefit from a better work-life balance and save money on things like transport and childcare.
Agile working takes this conversation to the next level. It explores the idea that a more fluid way of working can actually enhance job performance. As Heather Wilson, Director of People & Organisation Development at Rockpool Digital, argues in an article published on HR Grapevine.
Agile working “shifts the focus to outcomes and performance rather than time spent.” It is about “using processes, technology, people, as well as time and place, to create the optimum environment to perform,” Wilson goes on.
Paul Allsopp from The Agile Organisation also argues that agile working is “about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines [of the task] but without boundaries [of how you achieve it].”
Agile working is very much tied to how technology is creating new ways for workers to carry out their work and communicate with their colleagues. For example, improvements in mobile and broadband technology and the rise of cloud computing means it is easier for individuals to carry out office duties remotely.
However, it is important to further highlight that agile working can be achieved without necessarily spending part of the part of the week working from home. Although agile working often does partly involve working from home, agile working practices can be implemented without ever leaving the office.
In fact, agile working also represents a shake up of the office working environment, as this post on Facilities Management Journal summarises. Embracing the new philosophy may involve rearranging work spaces so that they are allocated based on their function rather than their hierarchy, or making it easier for employees to change teams or departments. It may involve creating a “team zone” where a group of employees working on a project together can interact, and providing nearby shared spaces for teams to use when they need.
Like flexible working, for agile working to be successful, employees need to have certain working attributes. Communication and self-motivation skills, and the ability to organise your own schedule are crucial. So is an ability to work remotely, which demands an extremely proactive approach to communication. 360 feedback can help to measure how suited a person is to agile working.
To conclude, perhaps there has never been a better time for businesses to explore agile working as a concept. It could be that the latest generation of people to enter the workplace- the millennials- are much better suited to agile working than previous generations. Research consistently finds them to be self-motivators and creative animals who thrive within a more fluid work structure.
Flexible working promises to be back in the spotlight in the UK for much of 2015. Why? Because, from 30 June, an unprecedented number of British workers will be eligible to apply for flexible working as new regulations come into force. Employees that work for 26 weeks or more per year will be in a position to request flexible working. Employers are, in turn, obligated to consider and respond to the request in a “reasonable manner”.
This represents quite a change. Up until now, only those with children under 17 or people who cared for a dependent adult were eligible.
Flexible working essentially means having variation in your working pattern. It may take the form of working from home, working in shifts, job sharing or working part time.
Britain may well see a rush of applications for flexible working after the new legislation comes into force. A recent survey by Jobsite found that 66% of employees would ask for flexible working if they were given the chance. However, the response will depend on the publicity that the new legislation gets. In the same survey more than three in four people did not even know about the new rules.
Although the exact number of people that will apply for flexi-working as a result of the new legislation is not yet clear, the potential advantages of an employee having more control over their work patterns is firmer territory.
According to research, flexible working has some major benefits for employees. Workers can save a sizeable proportion of their wage; commuting costs, expensive lunches and, in some cases, childcare costs can be reduced if a person can work from home or choose their hours in the office.
Flexible working can also make working a more pleasant experience. People who work from home get to avoid the stresses of the daily commute. They can also choose what to wear during the working day, their working environment and how they work. In terms of the latter, being able to choose one’s exact hours of work and coffee breaks can make working a much happier experience.
Some commentators also point out that working from home is good for the environment; someone who works from home has a smaller carbon footprint.
Flexible working can also make people more productive. This is because old-fashioned working schedules are not in sync with our body’s natural rhythms. This can result in social jet lag. With flexible working, “morning” people can start and end work early and “night owls” can do the opposite. An experiment that researchers at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Germany recently carried out seemed to corroborate this idea. Although the experiment focused on shift workers, it is easy to see how the principle is also applicable to non-shift workers. In any case, the scholars reorganised a group of shift workers’ working schedules according to their body rhythms. They were able to increase the workers’ sense of well being and reduce their social jet lag.
However, it is also clear that flexible working is not suited to everybody. Research consistently shows that people need above average levels of self organisation and self motivation. They also need to go the extra mile in terms of demonstrating their communications skills; it can be more challenging to build and maintain good business relationships and foster a sense of teamwork with colleagues if you are away from the office much of the time. 360 feedback is a good way to assess whether an individual is well suited for flexible working.
In March, the chief financial officer of Google, Patrick Pichette, announced his resignation. The reason he gave caused a stir. He said he was leaving to spend more time with his wife. “I could not find a good argument to tell [my wife] we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road,” Pichette wrote in his resignation letter. The Google high flyer plans to travel the world with his spouse before possibly exploring new leadership opportunities.
A flippant joke in Pichette’s statement is a revealing one: “When our kids are asked by their friends about the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamar and I have spent so little time together that “it’s really too early to tell” if our marriage will in fact succeed.” The CFO’s jest and decision to leave his prestigious position at one of the most powerful companies in the world raises interesting questions about career satisfaction and how, for many of us, a work-life balance remains an elusive dream.
Research clearly indicates that many UK employees feel that they are not achieving a good work-life balance. One recent study by the private banking firm Investec found that a quarter of British workers were dissatisfied with this aspect of their job. Moreover, 29% of respondents said that their work-life balance had outright degenerated since 2010. That said, a third felt optimistic that things would improve over the next five years.
London workers seem to be the least satisfied with their work-life balance. Over one fifth of workers felt that their profession ate up too much of their time. Almost 40% said their families considered them to be “workaholics”.
The head of banking at Investec, Wayne Preston, has suggested that today’s labour force could be struggling with work-life balance partly because technology and the realities of working in a global marketplace make it more difficult to cut oneself off from the office out of hours.
Flexible working is emerging as one of the most important potential solutions to the work life balance conundrum. An interview with a senior Deloitte partner with twin five-year-olds published on efinancial careers recently demonstrates the advantages of flexible working. In the article, Emma Codd describes how she benefits from working from home on Fridays, when she gets to also take her children to school and pick them up.
“I never book in any face-to-face meetings – although I do do calls – and it’s an opportunity for me to clear some time and really work on the strategic elements of my roles,” she says. In the interview, Codd also talks about taking a five-week sabbatical this year, which she says will give her some time to be a full-time mum.
Interestingly, in the interview, Codd claims that agile working is “an imperative”, especially for parents. There may well be truth in this position, given the growing child care crisis in the UK. The Family and Childcare Trust’s Childcare Costs Survey 2015 found that families are increasingly likely to be better off if one parent gives up work to look after the children. The cost of a part-time nursery place had risen by a third over the last five years to around £6,000 per year, which is £1533 more than in 2010. Flexible working can potentially alleviate some of the burden: If one parents has a flexible working schedule then childcare fees can be reduced. If both can work flexibly then the cost can even possibly be avoided altogether.
Flexible working is also good for the environment. The biggest reason why is it reduces the need to travel. As travel is responsible for 22% of UK carbon emissions, the environmental benefits of working from home are significant.
However, some commentators have voiced concern that flexible working could be a cynical way for businesses to cut costs. After all, research has found that flexible working can cut office costs by as much as 13%. A 2013 Vodafone survey found that flexible working could save UK businesses £34 billion just by freeing up costly desk space; it is estimated that the average cost of a desk space in the UK is £5,746.
The latter may not necessarily be a bad thing however. It is difficult to implement cultural changes in the workplace unless businesses can see something in it for them. And if flexible working can save businesses money and make the workforce happier then surely that is a win-win situation.
Exit interviews. They are not what we tend to think of when it comes to the nerve wrecking interviews that we will all face at one point or other during our lives. But they are increasingly common. All good companies should conduct exit interviews. Both employees and employers can gain a lot- if they understand how to make the most of them.
An exit interview is a face-to-face discussion or survey that a company carries out with a person who is leaving an organisation. The individual parting from the firm is able to share frank feedback about their experiences working for the organisation, and explain their decision to leave in further detail.
It is perhaps a shame that employees tend to take an extreme view on exit interviews. They either see them as pointless or even dangerous, or they think they are an ideal opportunity to let rip about all their grievances.
It is best not to indulge in the latter, however tempting that might be. As this article in The Guardian discusses, if there are emotions involved then it is best to see your exit interview like the ideal a parting conversation with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. It is time to let go and move on. Settling scores, calling out office bullies or making a big point of presenting a laundry list of the company’s faults is actually going to make what could be a very positive method of closure quite unpleasant for everyone.
That said, it is important to be honest about your experience working at a firm. This is good for you as well as the company, and not just because we love to feel like we are being listened to. Being able to give incisive feedback about a company’s triumphs and failures in a way that is diplomatic and backed up by examples is a good skill to have. An exit interview is one of the best opportunities to practice this skill.
If you are inclined to go down this route, then it is crucial that you prep for your exit interview properly. If you want to give feedback about when things have gone wrong in the company’s operations or when things have failed to meet your expectations as an employee then make a list of these specific occasions and jot down a few details in bullet form to refresh your memory. This way, you can back up any statements you make cogently and effectively in the interview room. You are going to look really unprofessional if you call your line manager incompetent or aggressive but can’t recall a specific incident. More common, perhaps is the tendency of the unprepared start on a garbled, lengthy stream-of-thought rant when pressed by your interviewer during your exit survey. Going back to the final-conversation-with-the-ex comparison, you do not want to be kicking yourself about what you could have articulated better when it is over and too late.
If you are clear on what you want to get out of the exit interview before you go in that it can be extremely rewarding for departing employees. You might want to give glowing feedback on a great manager or team member. You may want to highlight a recurring issue that you fear could limit the growth of the firm. If you go in with a useful goal and stick to this goal throughout the survey then it should be very fruitful.
An exit interview can also ensure you leave the company on a positive note, and make sure there are no lingering tensions that might affect the content of your reference. This is the final impression that your bosses will have of you. So the exit interview is the last opportunity to make an excellent impression and part your company with, yes, honesty but also dignity, diplomacy and respect for others.
Exit interviews are a fantastic opportunity for companies to get a better insight into where they are succeeding and what areas they need to work at too. As this human resources article discusses, you will rarely hear employees being as frank as they are likely to be during an exit interview. What they have to say may be a revelation. It might confirm a suspicion you have about where things could be improved with the firm.
Alternatively, a departing employees’ comments might highlight why this individual was not suited for a long term career with your company. Understanding why a person is leaving might give you the information you need to hire a person with more longevity next time.
Clearing up any tensions and making sure bridges are not completely burned is also just as useful for companies as employees. Deeply dissatisfied former staff can be dangerous, and severely damage your reputation in terms of word of mouth, especially when it comes to hiring premier candidates to fill new posts. A well handled exit interview that ends on a positive note can help avoid this scenario, even when a person is leaving because they were fundamentally unhappy in their role.
If a truly talented individual is leaving and you would like them to consider returning one day then the exit interview is also the perfect opportunity to make this clear in a more formal setting than leaving drinks down the pub.
Whether employee engagement surveys could deliver better or supplementary feedback to the exit interview is an interesting question. Exit interviews can be emotional. An employee may feel more at ease being honest in an online survey than face-to-face with their bosses. Feedback is also easier to digest and process if it is in writing rather than embedded in the nervous (or perhaps irate) ramblings of an employee in an interview situation. These surveys are fully customisable so you can create your own questions too.
Every company in the world has a culture of some description. Such “culture” is the environment in which an organisation’s aims are pursued. It is an important force. Business gurus consistently argue that a company with a healthy, inspiring, creative work culture and an excellent strategy will reach its full potential, whereas a company with an unhealthy, lacklustre culture and an excellent strategy will probably do well, but will not perform as well as it could.
Shawn Parr, CEO of San Diego-based innovation and design consultancy Bulldog Drummond, articulated the relationship between culture and strategy beautifully in a recent article published in psfk: “Culture is the field on which the strategy plays. A vibrant and functional culture is like a blanket that embraces, protects, and nurtures the strategy. A company without a strategy lacks direction. A strategy without a culture that understands or embraces it is like a sports team without spirit.”
“Creativity” could probably be added before “culture” in order to pin down its essence. Culture is the environment that allows ideas to emerge and grow in a firm. Unfortunately, as Parr discusses in the aforementioned article, nurturing a creative work culture is often bottom of the list of priorities, even in high-flying, professional firms. Many large corporations are run by people with skillsets relating to finance, the law and other “rational” subjects. Creative culture, which is an emotional, intangible, organic beast, can be decidedly out of the comfort zone of these high flyers. As a result, creative culture is often an avoided or even ignored subject.
That said, even small companies or exciting new startups can find their company’s creative energy being sapped, as an interesting article published in Inc discusses. Experts offer a number of solutions. They include doing away with vacation policies and offering unlimited holidays to employees, and making working from home an option. Endless meetings are often criticised for being a waste of time and preventing employees from getting on with work. However, they are also incredibly bad for an individual’s creative energy. Giving team members plenty of feedback, even on an informal basis at the end of the day, is a good way of getting the creative juices of your staff going.
So what else is in the recipe for creating the elusive creative environment that so many HR gurus insist will give companies a creative edge? According to this article in Medium magazine it is not the “creative individual” per se. Alf Rehn, the management professor who wrote the piece, claims that this mythical creature is perceived to be the key to how creative a company is. Creative success is then the ability of an organisation to create as many “creative individuals” as they can with the highest creative capacities possible. However, Rehn argues that companies with plenty of creatives can still fail to be creative. According to the management professor, having an environment conducive to group creativity is far more important.
The latest research does indeed seem to be looking more in this direction. For example, Keith Sawyer has explored the notion of “group genius”. Sawyer’s thesis says that all creativity is group creativity even when it seems like it is traceable to one outstanding individual. Joshua Wolf Shenk has focused on the “powers of two” in his literature. Similarly to Sawyer, he argues that all the most impressive art and science innovations spring from collaboration rather than individual genius.
So how does this idea of group creativity tie in with the working environments of today’s businesses? If you subscribe to the theories of Rehn, Sawyer and Shenk then nurturing an environment for group creativity and the exchange of ideas is the priority, not making individuals creative. According to Rehn, that means hiring more pragmatic people who have strong constructive criticism skills rather than just taking on the most creative people. This is because group creativity thrives on devil’s advocates as much as individuals bursting with ideas.
HR practitioners may find it tricky to create the ideal environment for group creativity in the modern age: millennials are commonly charged with being terrible team players. But perhaps they just take a bit more convincing when it comes to the power of collaboration. Millennials struggle to handle criticism, according to research, so they may be disheartened if a “constructive criticiser” in their department pours cold water on their latest brainwave. However, if your organisation makes clear that this is part of the process, and an important aspect of the creative process, then this can help bring creative millennials on board.
Millennials also need plenty of feedback, so informal discussions to discuss ideas and how they are progressing on a regular basis are a good way to kill two birds with one stone; yes, you are giving that individual feedback. But by debating their ideas you are also engaging in group creativity!
Social media as a potential recruitment tool for companies is nothing new. But research indicates that both job seekers and companies that fail to look beyond LinkedIn are missing a trick.
A fresh study on social recruitment by the web-based employment software firm iCIMS (http://www.icims.com) has found that many job seekers browsing for posts on social media are misinformed. According to the research, candidates cited LinkedIn as the top social media resource for employment openings. However, just 23% of jobs posted on social media are actually on LinkedIn. Moreover, research indicates that many of the jobs posted on Linked in target people earning more than £50,000 and over the age of 25.
Only one percent of candidates participating in the iCIMS study said they would expect to see a job advertised on Twitter. In fact, around 51% of new openings are Tweeted. Twitter enthusiasts in the HR industry argue that successful use of hashtagging can help firms to reach out to target candidates. Compiling a list of keywords and hashtags that potential job applicants search for is a good way of making contact with the right people. Posting at the time of day that target candidates are on Twitter is also important.
The study’s findings, based on 60,000 openings posted on social media, also reveal that employers need to make efforts in social recruitment beyond LinkedIn. Potential candidates look for postings on Facebook and Google+ after LinkedIn. Interestingly, Facebook came top in terms of conversions. That is, the number of people who saw a job advertised and actually applied for it. Jobs posted on Google + get four times as many views as they do when they are posted on other social media platforms. This gives Google + the added bonus of being great for brand awareness.
Image-based platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest should also not be overlooked. The research found that some candidates use these to get an insight into a company’s culture and make a more informed decision about they would be right for them. It is worth pointing out that Facebook is the perfect platform for giving candidates a positive impression about what it is like to work for your company. Social Media Today recently published an interesting article, which details how Nestlé’s UK projects a fun image of the company through its Facebook page, snapping moments like their Christmas jumper day. (http://www.socialmediatoday.
Some recruitment specialists have also been critical of LinkedIn’s limitations, even for members with paid subscriptions. In 2014, the platform came under fire for removing the function that allowed LinkedIn Recruiters to send out mass mails to members of their groups (http://www.winningimpression.
Finally, it is important that HR gurus learn to think like millennials. These Generation Y candidates, born between 1982 and 2000, are the most relevant target when we talk about recruiting talent on social media. Top Generation Y professionals are simply not trawling for posts on job sites. They are already employed. However, they may seek to research and engage with companies via Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.
Bottom line: if you think like your candidates, learn way they go and take the conversation about opportunities to them, talking in language they respond to, then you should start to see results.
One of the biggest buzz words sweeping through the HR industry at the moment is Millennials in the workplace. But who are millennials, and are they a good thing?
Millennials are people who were born in the 1980s and 1990s and entered the workplace around the year 2000. Born between 1982 and 1994 and the children of the Baby Boomer generation, the millennials are often perceived as having been raised on mass media, digital technology and lots of positive praise. A common point of contrast is Generation X, which refers to people born after the post-World War II baby boom. Historians generally define their birth dates between the early 60s and early 80s. They first started entering the workplace in the 1980s and started to become influential in the 1990s.
Now that millennials have entered the workplace, their presence has triggered intriguing debates about their skills and weaknesses, and how these patterns are a reflection and outcome of the unique moment in time that millennials occupy.
Let’s start with the bad news. Millennials, or Generation Y, are not good team players, according to research. A recent study published by EY found that millennials scored badly when it came to working with others. The study was based on the testimonies of over 1,200 professionals, which focused on participants’ views of their peers. Just 45% said that their Generation Y peers were good team players. Millennials also seem to be failing to establish themselves as grafters. In the EY survey, just 39% identified millennial peers as hardworking.
Another study by the Oklahoma-based international staffing firm Express Employment Professionals found that Millennials display “an over-inflated sense of self” and “lack of commitment”.
This is not to mention the relentless anecdotal testimonials that you will hear from businesses across all sectors that Millennials have poor spelling, grammar and basic numeracy skills compared with older generations. That they are less equipped to cope with criticism because they used to get straight As at school due to grade inflation. That they need greater praise and feedback for their work, having become accustomed to endless “pats on the back”, rewards and progress updates during their education years. That they also lack adequate attention spans and are easily bored, the fallout of living in a world awash with technological and social-media based distractions.
Furthermore, millennials have a reputation for wanting a lot of takeaways from their work: not just work-life balance but also flexible working, a collaborative working environment and the warm fuzzy feeling that their work makes the world a better place.
Nonetheless, there is also powerful evidence that millennials are extremely valuable in the workplace. The technological skills of this digitally plugged-in generation are highly prized. Seventy eight percent of respondents in the aforementioned EY survey said that millennials were the most tech-savvy. Seventy percent thought they had good knowledge of leveraging social media opportunities. Millennials are also thought to be extremely enthusiastic additions to a team.
Generation Y is good at critical and creative thinking too. This is probably a product of changes in Western education systems, which now have greater emphasis on cultivating these skills. Some evidence suggests that millennials are less motivated by money, which makes them potentially better value for money. An online survey by Monster.com in 2009 found that only 17% saw “compensation” as their main motivating factor, compared with 37% citing work-life balance. Finally, many have entered the job market during times of recession, which has made them competitive, and more willing to go the extra mile to gain employment and keep it.
Millennials are more genuine than previous generations of workers. Research suggests that they desire success for their personal development rather than just for the sake of “getting ahead”. Experience and wisdom are the things that they respect. Rather than just power. If Generation Xs can be accused of “brown-nosing” or using sycophantic manipulation tactics on their senior colleagues to get ahead, then Generation Ys are less likely to display these tendencies.
Another advantage that perhaps gets unfairly overlooked at times is the fact that Generation Ys are more highly educated than Generation X in higher education terms. More Generation Ys have one or more degrees. They have learned skills like processing complex information, critical thinking, discipline and argument through their studies.
Generation Y Advantages:
Creative and critical thinkers
Value for money
Impressive higher education credentials
Generation Y Disadvantages:
Not great team players
Poor basic literacy and numeracy skills in some cases
Not great with criticism
Need constant feedback with work
More demanding in terms of “what they get out of work” such as flexible hours
Organisations that use 360 degree feedback as both an employee development tool and a performance appraisal tool may think they will enjoy all the benefits of a closed loop, efficient system that measures, informs and helps to develop all layers of the business, however they should think again.
As a development tool, 360 degree feedback focuses on competencies and behaviours and is designed to breed a culture of continuous improvement. Appraisals on the other hand are a measurement of overall contribution and productivity and are directly linked to salary increases, bonuses and other rewards.
Dissatisfaction and negativity can spread like a virus through an organisation, and if your company catches a cold it can be a costly matter to resolve. But how to keep employees well motivated, happy and healthy in today’s marketplace?
Nowadays many businesses operate almost constantly in red alert mode, driving their employees hard against deadlines and causing their businesses to run on adrenaline alone. Running on adrenaline is unsustainable in the long term, however, with stress being one of the biggest causes of illness and depression, it should be of no surprise when employees start to experience ill health and a lack of drive and motivation. If your environment is set permanently to ‘fight or flight’ it will quickly burn through employee energy and goodwill, resulting in an inevitable crash.
Of course from time to time all companies expect their employees to ‘go the extra mile’ and cope with less than perfect conditions, however all take and no give is a sign of a company out of balance and heading for a fall.
So how can you balance the needs of the individual with the goals of the company, particularly in this challenging commercial climate? An employee wellness program provides the key. Far from being fluffy HR practice, employee wellbeing makes sound economic sense. If your employees are healthy, happy and well rewarded, they are positive, which provides the energy to get things done no matter what the odds.
Companies that offer wellbeing packages not only benefit from being able to attract and engage the best available talent, but also from much lower attrition rates whilst having their employees operating at maximum efficiency. The result? An organisation that is able to reach its full potential and grow sustainably.
By providing many of the things your employees need in-house, you help them to focus on the job at hand. This can mean everything from baskets of fruit and healthy lunches through to health and dental care, gym memberships and career development.
Even companies with a limited budget can find ways to better reward their staff for their efforts. An afternoon off in recognition of a goal reached, or as a thank you for pulling out all the stops to meet a deadline, not only helps the employee to feel appreciated, but also ensures that they are well rested and better able to continue to work at their optimum.
By cleverly combining an employee wellness program with regular appraisals and career development, there is a constant cycle of achievement and reward that helps to keep levels of employee motivation and satisfaction at an all time, super productive high.
Following on from our post from last week on Are you a listening organisation? … and how can you test for it? (Part1) below is an infograpic relating to Feedback Fitness.