According to research, 82 per cent of millennials said they would be more loyal if flexible work options were available. To attract and retain workers by meeting these expectations, HR needs to encourage the business to build the foundations of truly flexible working.
While transforming business culture may seem like a drastic course of action, catering to those who demand flexibility will provide a raft of business benefits. For instance, flexibility boosts productivity by enabling employees to work from any location at any time, and doesn’t require substantial investment – it even reduces costs.
Happy workers, lower costs – what’s not to like?
Flexible employees of any age are happier and fresher than their office counterparts, as they aren’t worn out by commuting or a rigid work pattern. Instead they are free to complete work when and where it suits them. A recent survey confirms this, with 83 per cent reporting that flexible working led to improved productivity.
Flexible working can also reduce costs as it decentralises the workplace, removing the need for large offices as not all employees will be present at the same time. It also means businesses can recruit talent wherever it is found, as it’s no longer necessary for skilled workers to be tied to a specific location.
However, to support those who demand flexibility, businesses need to make it as simple as possible for workers to communicate. But there is no single “magic bullet” communication channel – businesses have to accept that, as individuals, workers will each favour their own specific methods. Older workers may prefer phone calls and audio conferencing, while millennials might prefer chat and instant messaging.
Overcoming the communication conundrum
Embracing a complete range of communication channels can be complicated, especially if the business needs to approach multiple vendors to get everything it needs. There are not only the costs of dealing with multiple vendors, but the time taken to train employees to use a host of different of applications will drain productivity. As a result, businesses should look for solutions that are easy to use and provide several communication channels in a single application.
The easier technology is to use, the less time it should take to train the workforce and the more readily employees will adopt it. If HR departments choose to cater to those who demand flexibility, then they need to persuade the business to implement user-friendly technologies. Ideally, this should mean adopting software that closely resembles the applications people use at home.
Similarly, the business should not only think about what software workers are used to, but also what hardware. For example, will employees be most familiar with a desk-phone, or a smartphone? If employees already use their mobile for social calls and messaging, is the simplest option to let them use it for work as well? After all, there is little value in providing a flexible working environment if few employees can take advantage of it.
No time like the present
A Microsoft study found that 93 per cent of millennials said working for a company with updated technology, services and solutions was important to them. Consequently, outdated communications, which don’t support flexible working, may deter prospective graduates from joining a company’s workforce.
If an organisation is already planning to update its communications – for example, many are forced by BT’s plans to retire copper phone lines by 2025 – it marks the perfect time to begin truly supporting flexible working.
Supporting a flexible working environment can offer a raft of benefits to both companies and employees. However, for businesses to realise these benefits there is need to ensure the communications solution is comprehensive and user friendly. Without these qualities, companies will struggle to attract a millennial workforce. The sooner bosses do, the sooner HR can bolster the future workforce and future-proof the company.
Paul Clarke is UK manager of 3CX