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FLEXIBILITY IN THE WORKPLACE
Employers see benefits of workplace flexibility.
Flexibility in the Workplace has been in the news a lot lately with the most recent announcement by Best Buy deciding to end its Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) policy, & Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, banning workers from telecommuting. These decisions have sparked a lively debate with employers and employees. Still, there are a number of leading employers who continue the movement toward providing their workforce a flexible 21st-century workplace. Years of research from the Families and Work Institute and SHRM have shown that flexibility in the workplace is a business strategy that can help both employers and employees succeed.
Workplace flexibility — telecommuting, flexible hours and other employee accommodations — is an idea growing on employers who are trying to grow their companies out of the recession.
While the idea of workplace flexibility is familiar — companies have been working for years on strategies to enable employees to have some say over when and where they work — “it may become more appealing for firms looking to retain workers stressed by higher productivity demands, and attract those searching for a better opportunity,” says recruiting expert Jeff Taylor with Skywalk Group.
He also states “market forces are making flexibility a more strategic alternative to some of the other ways that companies used to manage growth.”
Longer-term trends may also push firms to adopt more flexible policies. Women are continuing to obtain high levels of education, incentivizing them to remain in the workforce, and creating demand from families for increased flexibility. Also, there’s evidence that younger workers, who will make up a larger chunk of the workforce as baby boomers retire, place strong emphasis on their work product, rather than hours spent in a cubicle.
According to a recent report from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the benefits of flexible workplace arrangements — less absenteeism and turnover, and improved worker health and productivity — can outweigh costs.
Coming out of the recession, companies are shifting to more structured policies about flexible work, and away from one-off arrangements for individuals. “More companies are realizing cost savings,” Elizabeth Trcka from Skywalk Group states. “It’s not necessarily a company going from bricks and mortar 100%, to 100% telecommuting. The key with flexibility from a cost and function perspective for employees and managers is to make sure it works for both parties, the plan is communicated effectively, and employees are involved in structuring the plan where it makes sense.” “Our experience in working with many organizations is that employees don’t want to call in sick when they don’t have to,” “If they have another option, they would rather pursue that.”
Who gets what?
Not all employees have the same access to flexible workplace arrangements.
Larger organizations tend to offer a greater number of flexibility programs, according to a February report from WorldatWork, a membership organization that provides research about human resources issues. According to the report, workers in manufacturing tend to have fewer flexible options than those in health care and social assistance. Also, the most common flexible workplace programs are: Part-time schedules, flex time, a flexible start and stop time, and specific telework arrangements that allow workers to be home to, say, meet a repairman or care for a sick family member.
It can be tough for employers to find a way to extend flexible arrangements to all workers. After all, someone has to be around to meet customers, or watch a production line. However, some firms are finding ways to offer flexibility to a wide range of workers. For example, at Skywalk Group, after an initial training period for a new employee, there is flexibility to provide an employee the ability to work from home when it makes sense, while also maintaining regular time in the office. At Chevron, the firm recently added a program for employees in the San Francisco Bay area to have access to emergency child care; and at some manufacturing plants, hourly employees can trade work hours.
Challenges for flexible programs
Management can be a roadblock even when a well-intentioned human resources manager creates a plan for a flexible arrangement. If top-level managers aren’t on board, a program won’t get off the ground. Middle managers can also object to flexible arrangements.
Trcka states, “Many HR managers agree that managers are being asked to manage people they can’t see, and supervise flexible teams where people are coming and going, and so it really challenges the bottom-line goals of managers, which is to get work done.”
Resistance may be due, in part, to lack of clarity about how flexible programs will benefit the bottom line. According to the WorldatWork report, just 7% of organizations try to quantify the return on investment from flexibility programs. However, the report indicated that an organization enjoyed a lower voluntary turnover rate the higher it rated itself on a flexibility scale.
So how do you know if you can or should provide a flexible program, keeping in mind that a flexible work schedule must operate to meet the needs of the business, too. Many organizations have successfully implemented workplace flexibility policies through carefully designed and well-thought-out programs. Implementing flexibility programs requires a shift in overall firm culture, norms, and values that cannot be measured in statistics or balance sheets. The success of flexible work programs is a partnership between the organization and its employees. When employers give greater flexibility in the place of work and provide employees with flexible work options, they give employees greater control over where and when work gets done, enabling them to enjoy an optimal quality of life. This, in turn, creates loyal employees that are more likely to be engaged in helping their organizations succeed, more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, more likely to stay with their employer and more likely to be in better health.
SOCIAL MEDIA RECRUITING
Should social media be a part of your company’s recruiting strategy? A part of the answer depends on what your products or services are. If your products have a target audience that actively uses social media there may be a benefit. The other factor is – how much of your business do people really want to know? If you sell products for active runners, your audience is the type to be engaged with you. If you sell trailer hitches, your audience doesn’t really care that much about the ins-and-outs of your business, they just want to buy a trailer hitch.
In order for social media to be a successful recruiting tool, you must have first utilized it as an impactful marketing tool to build your brand. People will only want to follow you if you give them a reason to do so. You must first utilize social media to provide news and information that is important for your customers. About 60% – 70% of your content must drive information that they will be interested in receiving – and be about them. This information can be tied to your business, but must be focused on providing information to your follower. 30% – 40% of your social media content can be about you and what you want from your audience – product information, sales information, and career opportunities.
At the moment, the top three social media recruitment sites are (in order):
- LinkedIn – By far the most widely used tool, but is less about your business, and more about the number of connections of the person in your company that is doing the recruiting. All your open positions should be posted on LinkedIn. All of the connections of the person who posts the position will see them and someone may know someone that is looking.
- Facebook – Regularly put out content that matters to your audience and then you can intermittently put out your internal job needs. If you get people excited about what you provide they will be more excited to consider working for you, or forward the opportunity to friends.
- Twitter – Twitter audience is younger (millennials), but if you have a product or service that appeals to them, tweet your openings. Just like with Facebook, you have to build the following first. You only get 140 characters to play with when tweeting, so it is best to post a link to the position you are hiring for.
All that being said, remember that the best people for your openings are most likely not the ones that are out there actively trolling social media, or the job boards, for openings. The best people are currently immersed in excellence and not searching. Social media will not be the silver bullet to hiring challenges, you will still need to actively get on the phone and talk to people that are not looking – and know how to sell your company to them.
While social media is a good tool that should be used, nothing beats the old fashion art of conversation.
Skywalk Group is excited to welcome Carla Werning to our team. Carla brings with her over fifteen years of proven success in marketing, business development and client retention, much of her career was with the McGladrey consulting division. She has worked with companies in various industries and will be joining our business development team developing new and ongoing client relationships. Elizabeth Trcka, Skywalk Group Partner, states “We are very excited to have Carla join Skywalk Group. With Carla’s prior experience in her consultative roles, she will be a valuable resource to clients who are looking for effective human resources solutions. Carla will be focused on new business development and the expansion of existing markets in our footprint. She will continue to support Skywalk Group’s client centric focus as well as expand our national sales efforts.”
Is your company the “coolest place to work in the Corridor?” It’s not just about being hip, trendy and popular. It goes beyond that. A cool place to work is fun, rewarding, progressive, innovative and makes you excited to be a part of the team. How cool is your company? We will find out…
Please complete the form on the Web page above and you will be contacted and sent an employer survey. Once we get the information and your employee contacts, we will forward the employee survey and find out if your company is the Coolest Place to Work in the Corridor.
DON’T THINK POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT IS IMPORTANT? RUN A MARATHON
In 2000 I completed my first, and only, marathon. I remember limping across the finish line bleeding, blistered, exhausted and very excited to see my wife and
2-year-old son. I checked that item off my bucket list, and hadn’t put on shoes for the purpose of running in nearly 12 years. I put the medal they give you when you cross the finish line in a shadow box on the wall in our basement along with many of the other family accomplishments. Over the years, my sons and I have talked about running a marathon together someday.
Fast forward nearly 13 years and my eldest son and I are training to run a half marathon with a full marathon soon to come. We created a solid training plan and have been sticking to it religiously. During a recent longer run my son had finished and I was struggling a bit. After he finished, he came back, gave me high five, said “You’re doing good dad, lets finish this,” and we finished the run together.
His simple act of positive reinforcement helped me finish and reminded me of my marathon. It was around mile 22 and I was simply putting one foot in front of the other with nothing left in the tank but determination. Turning the corner, I saw one of those very long San Francisco hills and my heart sank. As I started the climb I noticed that there were a number of people who had already finished the race who were walking the course backward to encourage those still struggling. At that point, even a complete stranger reminding me “you have almost made it, you’re still moving forward and by pushing a bit more you will finish” – meant the world to me. That simple act of timely positive reinforcement was enough to give me the mental strength needed to make it up the hill and finish.
As business leaders, it is often too easy to fall into routines or get hyper focused on a goal and forget the importance of positive reinforcement for those on our team. Positive reinforcement not only reminds people that they have the skills to complete the task, but that they also have the confidence of their mentors. When people know their leaders believe in them they are empowered to push harder, take risks and often over-achieve the goal. People who receive regular appropriate positive reinforcement are more excited to come to work, will stay in their jobs longer and be more forward thinking in their ideas to improve – because they know they have support behind them.
There are those leaders, and I have worked with a number over the years, who believe positive reinforcement is over-rated. To them I would say – run a marathon, see what that reinforcement does for you when you are wiped out and then imagine what it could do for someone you work with. Remind your people how talented they are. The results are amazing.
Career development is top of mind for many employees. Some organizations have structured career development programs in place–others do not. Regardless of the career development structure, or lack thereof, that your company provides, it is 100% up to you to own and drive your own career.
Bill Thomasson, owner/CFO of Sedna Logistics in Iowa City, Iowa, shares his thoughts on what the road to becoming a CFO looks like. Although Bill’s perspective comes from the finance world, what he says applies to nearly any career path that you may choose. Enjoy!
Manifesto of Self-Proclaimed CFO
I have traveled the path of a finance professional with no regrets. Through the last few decades, I have armed myself with some ways to think and a few tools of the trade that have helped me along the way. I am hoping that some of these will be useful to you.
Ways to Get In
Educate. Education may not always improve knowledge, but it is the access point to get in. Get in the best school you can. Don’t kid yourself – Ivy League is worth more. Big Ten is great if you can’t go higher. Keep going. Masters Degree or higher is required. CPA – needed. Damn this one. Sarbanes-Oxley changed the finance world and now everyone has to show they are a real accountant. I don’t agree with this, but it doesn’t matter (back to access). Beyond the degrees, take a collegial finance/accounting or heavy thinking business class every few years. Keep one foot in the ideal plane of academia.
Know the Right People. This one hurts. The reality is that you can’t open the doors to top management by yourself. Find and get to know individuals that will likely be the next CEO or Executive Manager. Get to know Board members where you can, particularly the chairs of finance committees. Build relationships with your auditors. The CEO is likely going to pick the CFO and seek approval from the Board and potentially seek input from the outside audit firm. You don’t have to like them. In fact, I’ve learned a great deal from individuals I don’t personally like. Salute the position, not the person.
Rotate. While you can get to the CFO level with the same company through your career, count on a long wait. Always keep a fresh resume and a pulse on the job market. Get to know key recruiters in the area. Find a good one – I have been surprised how long I’ve known the same ones. Recruiters are likely the first point of contact for new homes. Keep elevating every few years and if it doesn’t happen internally, find a better deal on the outside. New places give you more tools of seasoning and exposure as well as an accelerated path to the golden door of CFO. You are the CFO of yourself.
Ways to Think and Work
Take on the Ugly. Give me the ugliest, most challenging, highest complexity, project available. The projects that no one wants, I want. The expectations for improvement on these projects can be very low. So the reward may be very high if improvement is made. And worst case, if little to no improvement, expectation met. Make a name for yourself as the “sweeper”. Everyone calls on you to solve the hard problems.
Be Different. No one follows vanilla or chocolate. We all want vanilla twist. Haven’t met a plain CFO yet.
Facts Speak for Themselves. Too often, I get subjective opinions not supported by data. Hard facts presented well don’t need more interpretation. They speak for themselves. Spend more time with facts than theories.
Be Cheap. Much of the CFO’s time will be spent developing the most efficient path to highest return. All CFO’s that are worth a salt are skinflints. Frugality is built-in and this generally extends past professional thinking. All spend has a return that can be quantified and evaluated. CFOs can exaggerate this point so clarity can be brought home.
Change for Change Sake is Good. This is contrary to a lot of thinkers. Within reasonable constraints (eg. don’t tank the ship), forcing continuous change has been a positive experience. Through change comes innovation. Become known as the innovator and build a culture that embraces change.
Fail Cheaply. The reality is that you will have failures. Agree to milestones that qualify the project as a failure and get out with the majority of your ass(ets) intact. Passion can drive a project and can be helpful – just don’t let it get in the way and don’t get too emotionally attached.
Empower. I’m not the brightest in the group. Never have been. I’ve always found quality colleagues. Armed them with the tools to succeed and put them front and center. They will always drive the organization further than you could have by yourself. I have seen too many Managers spend their time second guessing their employee’s decisions. The Manager’s decision may have been better. However, the loss from the second guessed employee is greater than the gain from the better decision. It is unlikely the employee that was second guessed will put their hand up to help next round. Takeaways are worth twice as much as gains. Give your employees a crack at success and win together.
Scorekeep. Give employees frequent updates of the business and their work activities in a quantifiable way (back to “facts speak for themselves”). I am always astonished how things improve just be the mere fact results are measured and published. Want something to improve fast (back to the “sweeper”) – simply educate the employees impacting the issue on the costs and measure these costs in a public way. Make them part of the solution. Problem solved.
IT . Good finance managers almost always find a way to align themselves with high quality IT professionals. The finance innovators are usually faced with finding improvements through technology. Learn the ways of IT. I have been served well by understanding the very fundamentals of all company systems. And generally, the IT department, which no one wants (back to “take on the ugly”), reports to the CFO.
On-Time Always. I am never late to anything ever. I can be counted on and people know this. A simple thing where most fail.
Work Hard. I overcompensate with high work ethic for my intellectual shortcomings (or at least fear thereof). Many work hard with a plan to retire later. What the hell is retirement anyway – retire to “what”? This is what I want to do and I like doing it. I will retire to more work. As a practical matter, there are higher priorities (eg. family/spouse) that need serious review and I am working to get better at these. That said, all quality CFOs have work ethics higher than the rest of the organization. That’s just part of the deal.
Integrity. This is core to everything. Everyone trusts and comes to you for honest, fact based counsel. I will not cheat anyone for anything. Work is voluntary and if requested to even bend integrity, I will move along.
You must be trusted and counted on.
Congratulations on your journey to CFO. It’s a trip worth taking.