23 Aug

 How Innovative Leaders Develop Solutions through Flexible Work Options

Like many business owners, John’s business was cyclical.  Some months he was heavily producing while in other months he was minimally producing.  At times the differences were extreme enough that John either employed seasonally or simply conducted hiring and layoff actions to accommodate.  Over time John’s method, while having become accepted in the area, became financially burdensome.  Everything from higher than desired unemployment insurance rates to costly workers compensation rates.  Couple that with the training of contingency workers, the loss of good trained workers to competitors and John was stuck with a problem he did not know how to manage or lead to success.

John’s problem is not unique.  Whether his issue is seasonal or cyclical he, like many business owners in a variety of industries, faces this dilemma often.   What can John or any other business leader do?  Innovate…

Besides working within his business to address issues of marketing and product/customer flow, He can look at contingency staffing.  An expensive method at face value that is historically effective, however, it may not be the most productive or profitable for the company.

Another more innovative method, new to some, and either tried and rejected or tried and succeeded by others, are flexible work options.   Some automatically reject it because “it doesn’t work in our industry”, or similar reasons that ignore the bottom line value of these types of work arrangements.

Flexible work options, for our purposes here are:

Alternative work schedules — non-traditional schedules that are not defined as the traditional 8 hour a day shift work;

Employee Control Options – employee control over scheduling to accommodate personal preferences or family; or,

Progressive personnel policies for workers that empower them to manage time at work, time away from work, all while still meeting performance standards.

Of course because by definition these options are “flexible” you can design and implement them any way you choose.

The bottom line to flex work options is that they can lower cost, cut energy consumption, reduce needed space and improve organizational performance and efficiency.  They can be:

  • Temporary,
  • Long-term,
  • Individual,
  • Team based,
  • Intermittent

While not suitable for all situations they can expand an organizations reward system by allowing good performing groups or individuals to use them and providing them as an incentive for others to achieve.  Their use is essentially limitless.

Using flexible work options can be as simple as allowing:

  • Flextime
  • Reduced time/work schedules
  • Shorter compressed work weeks
  • Telecommuting
  • Flexible location work (for multi-site employers)

The key to making any flexible work option successful hinges on several key points:

Focus on the work.  It is about productivity and the type of work being done and NOT about the hours. Worked, face time, etc.  That also means everyone has to be flexible.

Ensure all participants understand their responsibilities, standards and all the rules.

Communicate regularly ensuring everyone stays informed

Trust your employees and make certain that you earn their trust.

Considering a flexible work option in your organization can be as simple as being open minded to a way that may not have been invented there.  Don’t rule out a very valuable and efficient method simply because you have never done it that way before or 20 years ago you tried it and it didn’t work.  Good leaders innovate, review, make adjustments and innovate more.  If you need help with flexible work option exploration contact someone who knows how to do it.   Asking for help is never the wrong move.