In March 2012, DCA was excited to release a landmark research report titled Get Flexible: Mainstreaming Flexible Work in Australian Business.
The report, produced in partnership with Westpac and supporting sponsors Stockland, Origin Energy and Allens, found there is significant evidence that flexible work optimises resources and productivity.
The research involved conducting highly interactive ‘think tanks’ with 57 experts, from a range of Australian organisations, who have been immersed in flexible work in Australia.
The findings from the research showed that while many people have access to ‘basic’ flexible work options, meaningful flexible work and careers are not common practice in Australian workplaces, despite mainstreaming flexible work and careers being a business imperative, capable of:
- Enabling businesses to be sustainable and adaptable to change;
- Providing a pathway to gender equality;
- Assisting with talent attraction and retention; and
- Improving workplace productivity.
The following outlines the key findings of the panel of expert participants:
Mainstreaming flexible work and careers is a business imperative that will result in improved organisational, individual and community outcomes:
- Businesses will be sustainable and adaptable to change;
- Flexible work and careers is a pathway to gender equality;
- Talent will be attracted and retained; and
- Workplaces will be more productive.
If flexible work is to be truly mainstreamed, organisations need to adopt different ways of thinking and acting including:
- A culture of flexibility that attracts and retains talent;
- Those who engage in flexible work progress in their careers;
- Everyone, at all levels, engages in flexible work;
- All forms of flexible work are engaged in;
- The approach to flexible work is dynamic, adapting to the changing needs of individuals and the organisation;
- There is a proactive approach to flexible work that is evident in both the business strategy and in management behaviour;
- Flexible work is evident in both formal and informal processes;
- Flexible work is engaged in for any reason;
- Flexible work is based on trust;
- Flexible work is a tool for increasing business performance.
Strategies that would have a significant impact in making flexible work standard include:
- Get designing: Integrate flexibility into job descriptions, job and work design, and teams; integrate flexibility into performance reviews & development plans; assess performance on outcomes, and recognise outcomes can be met in different ways; treat flexibility as a management deliverable; explore possibilities of technology and alternative work strategies.
- Get cultural: Ensure those who work flexibly are “accepted”; base relationships and expectations on trust; ensure flexible work is seen as the way things are done around here; challenge the stigma of working flexibly.
- Get leading: Senior leaders genuinely commit to flexible work; leaders lead by example – they are effective role models for flexibility; leaders have an active approach to mainstreaming flexibility; leaders have the capabilities to manage a majority flexible workforce; all staff have the necessary skills to engage in flexible work.
- Get talking: Show the business benefits; redefine flexible work by bringing it to life with examples; illustrate success stories – provide the details to enable others to copy; show how flexible work arrangements work on a practical level.
- Get strategizing: Identify flexible work as a business need; have a long term business commitment to flexible work; create a strategy for a majority flexible workforce – this is part of workforce planning; report progress and outcomes as part of standard business reporting.
- Get universal: Foster a genuine acceptance of flexible work by all; ensure flexible work is available to all, regardless of job type or level; educate clients/customers and the community about flexible work.
- Get resourced: Equip people with the tools they need (e.g. IT, team-based processes); provide appropriate resourcing for flexibility; review policy and systems that may impede flexibility implementation; explore new ways of meeting clients’ needs and consult clients and customers about this.
- Get ROI: Engage in risk (e.g. not being flexible) vs return (e.g. retaining a skilled workforce) discussions; make the connection between flexibility and increased individual, team and organisational performance; measure the impact of flexible work and show the financial returns.
- Get proactive: Look for opportunities to integrate flexibility into day-to-day business operations; focus on ‘why not flexibility’ rather than looking for reasons to ’block’ flexibility.
- Get team-focussed: Consider the impact of flexible work on the whole team; focus on support from within and across teams; welcome team-based feedback on the impact of flexibility; create flexibly autonomous teams.
- Get career-focussed: Create flexible career opportunities; integrate flexibility into senior roles.
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The suggested citation for this report is:
Diversity Council Australia (Russell, G. and OLeary, J.) Get Flexible: Mainstreaming Flexible Work in Australian Business, Sydney, Diversity Council Australia, 2012.
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