Unlocking the potential of a flexible workforce

by | 21.11.2018
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A special report we created in collaboration with Development Economics and Censuswide, discovered that, by 2023, the UK could risk £12 billion a year in economic output, if employers do not fully embrace flexibility.

With the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit, shifts in the workforce, and evolving expectations from consumers, it’s a tricky time for today’s businesses. Whether that’s healthcare, retail, hospitality, or logistics, running a business that operates around the clock, staying on top of disruptive technologies, and keeping up with consumer demand, is a huge challenge for business leaders.

And staying ahead of the competition is only possible by having the right people, in the right place, at the right time. At Quinyx, we believe the only way to do this successfully is to embrace the workforce revolution.

However, the idea of flexible working is often met with a groan and a roll of the eyes. It’s all too often equated with lower productivity and increased costs. In particular, business owners and managers fear logistical headaches and wasted hours spent wrestling over spreadsheets.

We believe the opposite to be true. With the right tools and technology in place, flexible working can allow businesses to improve productivity, save time, reduce costs, improve employee retention and boost employee happiness.

This is backed up by the findings from our report which delves deep into how flexible working can help power 24-hour Britain in a post-Brexit age. At a time when the UK’s future economic performance is in question, flexibility offers a viable answer - to the tune of a £12 billion boost to economic output by 2023. While flexible working is by no means a silver bullet, offering employees the opportunity to work when and how they choose could see businesses rewarded with benefits to boost their bottom lines – as well as happy, motivated staff.

While flexible working exists, to a certain degree, in many organisations, we believe it can go even further. However, this will often involve significant shifts in both culture and the way a business runs. It takes time, thought, and effort to get right. As a starting point, here are four key elements to consider which will help you unlock the potential of a flexible workforce.

1. Flexibility is for everyone

For a long time, flexible working has been the preserve of white collar workers. It’s easy for many office workers to work from home or outside of their standard hours. Reality is much different for blue collar workers.

As Sanjiv Kalevar, a vice president at Battery Ventures in Boston, wrote recently in TechCrunch, the large, sometimes forgotten, workforce out there in transportation, hospitality, retail and many other multi-billion-dollar industries, have not benefited from recent technology improvements available to office-based workers. With millions of workers clocking in as many of us go to bed, it is important that employers open up access to flexibility to everyone. Thankfully, with cloud-based and mobile-first technology (more of which below) it’s easier than ever before to do this.

2. Understand your workforce

What do your employees want? What’s important to them? Do they, like a third of people we surveyed, value greater flexibility over an increase in salary? Our survey also found that 20% of shift workers put the ability to pick and choose the shifts they work top of their flexibility priority lists, while 16% prioritise the ability to change or swap shifts at late notice.

We also found that while those with children generally prefer the flexible option of working part-time, those with dependents other than children prefer starting work early or late instead. This means that implementing a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for flexibility simply won’t work. Instead, it is important that employers give their workforce a voice and choice, by finding out what types of flexibility would work best for them. In some instances, this might mean offering different packages for different workers.

3. Put open communication at the heart of your culture

Worryingly, a large number of UK workers believe their managers would react badly to a request for flexibility, or that it could even impact their development at work. This perception is damaging for employers – even those that are open to requests for flexible working in their organisations.

To combat misunderstanding in your organisation, be open about your flexible working policies and encourage workers to talk to their managers as and when their flexibility needs change. This begins with the strength of your culture, your values, and your purpose. Put simply, having open conversations about flexible working will lead to happier, more productive staff.

4. Embrace technology

Cloud-native and mobile first workforce management solutions are part of the technology that can help – and our worker sentiment survey found that nearly a third of workers believe technologies that allow business schedules to be viewed, shared and managed from an app could help their businesses increase flexibility. At Quinyx, for example, we offer an easy-to-use app that can cut more than half the time managers need to spend scheduling their teams, while increasing the flexibility workers have to choose when they work.

Our research uncovered the importance of overcoming the barriers facing workers seeking greater flexibility. One way of doing this is through technology.

To conclude, while a degree of flexibility exists in the UK’s workforce, we still have some way to go. The good news is that greater flexibility can benefit everyone – from the workers that want more of it, to the employers that can implement it. Now is the time for a workforce revolution.

You can download are full report and findings into the flexible workforce below.

Download the full report

Tommy Tonkins

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