It’s time to Flex: Embrace flexible working or flounder in the future

The following article was first published in the Diversity Council Australia.  

An extensive body of research demonstrates the business benefits of flexible working, and yet flexible work and careers are not mainstreamed in most Australian workplaces and seem only to be available to a select few. In the face of globalisation, technology advancements and demographic shifts, Diversity Council Australia believes organisations need to rethink their approach to flexibility.

Lisa Annese, DCA’s CEO, said organisations need to stop tinkering around the edges of flexible working or they will be left behind.

“The World Economic Forum predicts that we are on the cusp of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’.  Technological, socio-economic and demographic shifts are transforming the way we work, demanding flexibility in the way individuals, teams and organisations work. We need to grasp the opportunity to be more creative and innovative when it comes to work design.

“Our members repeatedly request guidance on how they can build leaders’ ability to (re)design work and jobs. This is a critical obstacle to mainstreaming flexibility in their workplaces and experiencing the associated business benefits,” said Lisa.

DCA’s new research project, Future-Flex, seeks to challenge and change mindsets and outdated assumptions about the nature of work, the ‘ideal’ worker (who is full time with no responsibilities outside of work), and what drives performance and productivity in organisations.

Future-Flex gives organisations the tools to mainstream flexibility by looking at work design with the team, and the whole organisation, in mind rather than coming up with ad-hoc arrangements,” said Lisa.

“Those organisations that fail to adopt a different approach to flexible work will be unable to experience the benefits or meet future challenges – and that’s not good for anyone,” added Lisa.

What is driving change?

  • Employees. The demands and expectations of today’s diverse, multi-generational, mobile workforce are transforming where, when and how we work. In Australia, more mothers with children are employed than ever before and dual-earner families are commonplace, with 63% of two parent families with dependent children having both parents employed.  Workforce participation rates of older workers are rising.  All these employee segments seek flexible work and this demand is only likely to increase in the future.
  • Globalisation. Globalisation, the development of a 24/7 marketplace, and the rapid expansion of the services economy are also having a transformational effect on the workplace, requiring organisations to think creatively about how they can best organise jobs and work to respond to an increasingly diverse and demanding consumer/client base. Companies are increasingly working across time zones and with global virtual teams.
  • Technology. Technology is both a driver and an enabler of flexibility. Technology has dramatically reshaped workplaces, blurring the boundaries between work and home and diversifying where, when and how employees work. Advances in mobile, internet and cloud technologies, the rapid development of computing power, the computerised connection of multiple objects, and the increasing relevance of Big Data have all driven workplace innovations such as remote working, telecommuting, co-working spaces, video/teleconferencing, and virtual teams and collaboration. 
  • Culture. Like technology, organisational culture is both a driver and an enabler of flexibility, arguably the most critical of all enablers. Building a culture of future-focused flexibility requires a sustained strategic change approach that is structured around business goals and outcomes and is supported at the highest levels of an organisation.

How should workplaces respond?

DCA has developed new Future-Flex tools to build flexible teams, jobs and organisations, with a specific focus on retail environments. The tools were developed following a review of international and national industry and academic literature about workplace flexibility and the future of work; interviews and liaison with staff working in a retail environment; and our own extensive experience assisting workforces make flexible work and flexible careers standard business practice.

Future-Flex creates organisations in which employees can access flexibility for all roles, for any reason, and can have successful engaged careers. This new approach:

  • Starts with the Team. More than just accommodating an individual’s needs, Future-Flex is about re-designing work at a team or whole of organisation level. Employees are key partners in developing team?based flexibility solutions that work.
  • Treats Flexibility as a Business-Tool. Future-Flex emphasises the goals of both the organisation and its employees. It focuses on flexible work that boosts the performance and wellbeing of organisations, teams and individuals. Meeting business goals in areas such as customer service, innovation, growth and efficiency is central to Future-Flex.
  • Considers Culture. Future-Flex recognises that organisational and team cultures are critical to the success of workplaces where employees can access flexibility for all roles and for any reason, and can have successful, engaged careers.
  • Challenges Bias. Shifting to a Future-Flex mindset involves being aware of our own biases – conscious and unconscious. Many people make assumptions about what it means to be a flexible worker (e.g. about people’s career aspirations, interest in training and development, levels of commitment to the organisation etc.) Future-Flex tools explore and challenge these biases.

Future-Flex tools help organisations make flexibility a mainstream element of their workplace. Access the Synopsis Report, full report and additional resources here

Future-Flex is a partnership initiative between DCA, the Retail Council, National Australia Bank, Allens, IBM, BAE Systems Australia and IAG, which generates practical guidance for managers, teams and individuals on how to implement and mainstream workplace flexibility through work design.

Does your definition of equality include people with disability?

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"There’s a lot of chatter on various different social media platforms about ‘equality’. Generally, equality is defined as equal opportunity for women, LGBTI, cultural or religious groups. Strong advocacy and decades of organising have given these groups a voice, and raised awareness of the issues. People still rage against inequality, rightfully so, and talk of the glass ceiling, and lobby for better work opportunities.

But do a google search on the term ‘disability employment policy private sector Australia’, and for the first ten pages of results you’ll find two things; government diversity policies – necessitated by Australia’s signature on the United Nations Covenant on Human Rights, and supported employment providers in Australia.

Ironically, those with the strongest policies on disability employment – the public sector – seem to be losing the ability to employ people with disability, with Australian Government employment statistics showing a dismal participation rate, which has dropped alarmingly in the last decade.

But, back to the search engine - it’s not until the tenth Google results page or later that you’ll find some of our more progressive Australian private sector employers with specific inclusion strategies for people with disability.

While diversity policies exist in the private sector, the definition of ‘diversity’ is often vague, and acknowledges the minority groups with strong lobbying activists, LGBTI, multicultural and religious groups.

Disability is sometimes missing entirely.  Why is that?"

To learn more read the article from our friends at Enabled Employment, click here.

Changing the narrative of work for Australians with a disability, one job at a time

 "If 4.2 million Australians have a disability, as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics[1] in 2015, why is our image and definition of a person with a disability still centred around what they can’t do, rather than what we can do?  Why do we think of disability in a narrow, deficit focussed way?

Job sharing, flexible work hours, flexible working arrangements, results only work environments and awareness training for co-workers are all part of a reasonable adjustment definition that we think needs implementing in the majority of workplaces in Australia, not only for people with a disability, but parents, carers, and remotely located communities."

To read more from our friends at Enabled Employment click here.

Mind the Gap – How Recruiters are Still Searching for the Ideal Worker

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"There is a great contradiction. More and more companies embrace Diversity and Inclusion, as it makes absolute business sense. But are they able to reach out to diverse talent, and more importantly, are people with interesting life stories able to secure an interview?

How do you explain the 2 years break you took to look after your child? Or the other time-out for caring for an ill parent or relative? Well, there are websites helping you to fill the gaps in your CV with a variety of tricks and tips, some useful, some downright fraud, like writing in key-words in white ink into your CV to trick the software screening it. 

We are not used to gaps in the 21st century. Every minute is utilised to check on e-mails, to send out tweets, to connect on social media, to show we are always on, always working and present. And this in turn suits perfectly highly motivated individuals geared towards achieving great careers, but if you have family obligations, have an important hobby or want to continue education, or as a matter of fact would like to embrace a more spiritual, less outwardly way of life – well, it won’t bode well for your next career move."

Click here to read the article by our friends at The WorkLifeHUB.

Where policies end – culture begins?

"Imagine waking up, having breakfast with your family or going for a run. Then you work a couple of hours in your office at home. You have arranged a lunch-meeting with your boss, after which you spend some time collaborating with your team. In the afternoon you have an appointment with your mothers’ doctor, all is well. You have a couple of phone calls with oversees colleagues or partners. Home for dinner, and preparing a presentation for your up-coming key-note.

Nobody asks you where you are. Nobody makes sarcastic comments about your day. You know of your children’s progress and also are reassured about your mom’s health. Does this sound like heaven?"

Click here to read the article by our friends at The WorkLifeHUB. 

Going digital? Then you better go human too!

"AI. Smart machines. Big Data. People Analytics. If you are in HR, or reading the main thought leaders on the evolution of HR, you surely come across these terms more and more often. In an attempt to reconcile two major, parallel trends in HR and people management, here is our take on how organisations can excel at both."

Click here to read the article by our friends at The WorkLife Hub. 

Managing Different Generations in the Workforce

"Recently the workforce has welcomed a new generation into the family; with the first lot of "Generation Z” entering the working world for the first-time last year and more than a third of British workers expected to be over 50 by 2020, 2017 is set to see an increasingly changing professional landscape."

Our friends at the The WorkLife HUB examine what goes into managing different generations in the workplace...  Click here to read the article.

White Paper: Why Every Organisation Needs a Work-Life Integration Manager?

"In this White Paper we explain key trends in the New World of Work and why work-life integration is becoming more important than ever. With a foot in the world of research and the other working with companies, we are confident that we are bringing you state of the art insight about the issue, based on the latest studies and inspired by the most forward-thinking companies."

Click here to download the White Paper written by our friends at TheWorkLife HUB.

The Future of Work Reimagined

"The number of “thought-leaders”, futurists, speakers, and major consultancies bombarding us with information about the future of work is increasing. Since work makes up such a huge part of our lives, it is a fascinating subject. The convergence of a number of mega-trends and exponential innovation are propelling us ever faster towards a Brave New World of Work."

Click here to read the article by our friends at TheWorkLife HUB.