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Why flexi-time needs flexi leaders
Following new measures, flexi-time is on a lot of manager’s minds. Empowering your people is the key to its success. Carol Barnes explains…
Last month, new measures around flexible working were introduced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). These measures now give 20 million employees the right to request flexi-time, which means anyone who’s been working for their employer for over 26 weeks can ask for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment, so they can work flexibly – with set hours, and start and finish times chosen and agreed together.
While deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has argued that "modern businesses know flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, helping them keep their top talent,” many organisations are worried about the changes. So how do you ensure that it’s beneficial rather than detrimental?
Giving employees the freedom to shape their working hours around their families and lifestyles can increase employees’ health and well being, in turn improving commitment and drive. But if you have to make requests for flexi-time, or run a flexi-working team, the practicalities of making it happen can seem overwhelming.
“For many managers, it’s going to require some quite different skills and behaviours,” says Carol Barnes, Investors in People Specialist for South of England. “There’ll need to be a greater emphasis placed on rapport-building, communication and performance management if businesses are going to make sure flexi-time is a success.” Employees should also ensure that they self-promote this culture.
Get your procedures straight
If you’re addressing the issue of flexi-time, it’s important to lay down the ground rules for how your business is going to respond to requests straight away. Clear procedures are key. “Organisations and leaders need to be really clear on what they are going to say yes and no to”, Carol explains. “I’d recommend taking into account what the criteria is going to be and then make sure that criteria is made publically available, so everyone has a common understanding of what’s being offered and what they can ask for.”
Motivate your team
With flexi-time workers, team-building exercises, group meetings and regular face-to-face catch-ups are all invaluable to make sure everyone feels connected and engaged. However, motivation needs to be self generated if flexi-time is really going to work. People need to pull together. “This is about more than just working hours. It’s important everyone sees how their flexi-time feeds into the bigger picture,” Carol continues. “If you can build up a vision for the business together and then establish a personal commitment from whole teams to ensure flexi-time has a positive impact on that vision, you’ll be onto something.”
Build a strong team
As a leader, instilling a shared sense of ownership and empowering your people to achieve collective goals through flexible working, will go a long way. “It’s about helping your team understand why their communication needs to be better than ever, why they need to support each other and why they need to be transparent,” Carol says. “Responsibility should be shared equally, so no matter where or when someone is working, they all know what they are all working towards.”
By really understanding everyone’s capabilities, personal circumstances and working styles, leaders can play to a team’s strengths – for maximum business benefit. “It’s important to focus on the personal if you’re leading a flexi-working team,” says Carol. “If you know what interests and motivates each individual in your team, you’ll be able to relate to your employees better, and be clear about what will drive them to achieve.”
For leaders of flexi-working teams, watertight performance management is also paramount. “If you’re managing people on different hours – it’s far easier for issues to escalate,” Carol concludes. “If you see a dip you need to address it straight away, or better still, if you’ve successfully embedded flexi-time as an empowering mechanism, your individual team members will be so invested in the collective goals, objectives and the success of their flexible team, they should recognise and reflect on their performance themselves as part of the approach. Which means leaders can then become enablers and supporters, rather than enforcers.”
A shift in the role of the leader sits at the heart of successful flexi-time. But it also sits at the heart of modern business. By using the new flexi-time measures as an opportunity to assess, adapt and improve how you make decisions, empower teams and manage performance, you could see benefits that stretch way beyond introducing a better model for employee’s working hours.
The new measures around the right to request flexi-time came into force on the 30 June 2014. Find out more about the legislation and what it means for employers and employees.
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Want to find out more about motivating your teams? Check out our How To Guide on getting your people involved in the plans for your business or our How To Guide on better performance management.
Carol Barnes is an Investors in People Specialist for the South of England. She specialises in coaching, employee engagement, change management and leadership skills.