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What's costing you more – underperformance or offering flexibility?

Posted by Simon Thiessen on 16-Feb-2016 09:00:00


If you don’t provide your people opportunities for life balance, someone else will

How flexible are you in helping your people achieve life balance?

In our experience, very few organisations are doing enough with flexible work arrangements – and it is costing them in both recruiting and retaining good people.

An article on the ABC website recently highlighted some of the limited old-school thinking that still surrounds non-traditional work arrangements. Men are twice as likely to have flexible work requests refused. One respondent actually said "part-time is traditionally only something we make work for women". Seriously? You dinosaur!

Some organisations who say they offer flexible work are simply complying. According to the Fair Work ombudsman, ‘certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Employers can only refuse these requests on reasonable business grounds.’

Have a look at who the definition of ‘certain employees’ though and you will see it is limited – and many people may not qualify.

Here’s a crazy question: why not offer flexible work because you can, rather than because you have to? Here are three reasons that question may not be so crazy.

1. Attracting good candidates


Who hasn’t complained about the shortage of good candidates recently? How many of you have fallen into the trap of filling a position with the best available person even if they aren’t suitable? How long were you left dealing with the fallout and underperformance from that decision?

Read: 12 traits to recruit or develop ideal team members

In this climate, can you really afford to be excluding high quality people who will deliver high performance – providing you can meet their needs for life balance?

We still hear a lot of complaining about Gen Y workers. As with every generation, some of these stereotypes are warranted. As with every generation, most of them aren’t. As with most stereotypes, they are simply the failure of one group to understand (or accept) another.

Like them or not, Gen Y is here and Gen Z is coming. If you aren’t clued into offering the flexibility people want to achieve life balance, you are going to be scraping the bottom of the Gen Y and Gen Z barrels looking for people willing to work for with you. I don’t care what generation we are talking about, the bottom of the barrel isn’t a good place to be!

2. Retention of good people


What does it cost to replace someone? According to this research, somewhere from 50% of the annual salary or more. For an employee making around $60K, the cost is in the region of $33K to replace them if they leave within the first 12 months. 

These numbers include a consultant’s fee – but even if you recruit internally, make sure you factor in the recruiter’s wages. What the figures don’t include is loss of knowledge, skill, experience and potential especially of you have to replace them with a lower quality candidate.

Surely, SURELY the cost of being flexible can’t be that high?

3. It’s good for the organisation as well as the employee


In fact, this article on Entrepreneur shows that flexible work may actually be better for organisations than employees.

This article quotes a survey by Flexjobs which found some benefits of flexible work are:

  • 20% of people would trade a 10 percent pay cut for flexible work options
  • 18% of people are willing to work more hours if they are flexible
  • 82% of professionals would be more loyal to flexible employers
  • 39% have turned down a promotion, refused or quit a job because of a lack of flexible work options.

Get past the excuses

I hear dozens of reasons from managers unwilling to offer flexible work arrangements. Frankly, 95% of those reasons are excuses. Excuses to do what has always been done; excuses not to adapt; excuses to stick to preconceived ideas. Sure, there are some roles where it creates challenges – but welcome to the modern workplace.

Read: What is change management? The answer defines success or failure

Stop asking, ‘should we offer flexible work?’ The question today should be, ‘how will flexible work happen in our workplace?’ Once you accept that it will happen and that it is a good thing, you will find there are solutions to all of those barriers you once perceived.

Stop judging people by when they can show up and start judging them according to what they can deliver for the organisation.

Who wouldn’t I offer flexible work to?


Unless they qualify under the law, I wouldn’t be offering flexible work to poor performers. Why? Because you should never make people comfortable with underperformance and doubt you care if they leave – in fact, lack of flexibility may encourage them decide to pursue their career elsewhere.

Flexibility is one of the strongest tools you have in putting together an attractive employment package an in rewarding high performance.

Still sceptical? Keep watch on the results of Sweden's 6 hour work day experiment set to continue until the end of 2016.

Need more tips on how to build a high performance team?

Examine your leadership style. It will cost your organisation a lot if you stay a dinosaur leader and resist change in your organisation. Our SlideShare 'Don't be the ineffective Dinosaur Leader' covers 6 conscious leadership styles to drive high performance in your team. 


Download the high resolution PDF version here.



Topics: Leadership, Team Development