Money by itself is not the greatest motivator, ranking between fifth and tenth on most employee lists of wants, so organisations that move beyond pure dollars will attract great applicants. In this instance we designed new shift times that allowed applicants to work 4 ten-hour days, rather than 5 eight-hour days, and enjoy a three day weekend. The outcome – Jeff filled all of his vacancies within a fortnight.
Time as a Commodity
Time is now a valuable commodity for employees and consequently for employers seeking the best people. Despite technological improvements, work hours are escalating in many developed countries, so flexibility in scheduling time is becoming more and more sought after. Many people are prepared to take lower salaries as a trade-off. It’s not surprising then, that companies that embed time flexibility into their systems and then highlight this in their recruitment marketing, experience outstanding success.
Take the Marriott Hotel group who was looking for staff for its new hotel in Hong Kong. The company discovered a six day work-week was standard there, so instead implemented a five day work-week. With this point of difference, they filled all their positions with employees of choice.
My local bus company was also having difficulty hiring drivers. After focussing on the needs of their target employees, the organisation created a new shift time from 9.30am-2.30pm, and filled their vacancies with parents who wanted to only work between school hours.
Creative Time-Packaged Salaries
Time can also be linked to salary packaging. St George Bank identified that many of their prospective employees wanted time to pursue other interests, without sacrificing their career. The bank introduced a policy that let employees work four years and take a fifth year off, fully paid. It worked this way – if an employee’s annual salary was $50,000, they were paid $40,000 for four years and then, when they took the fifth year off, they continued to be paid $40,000, being the $10,000 owing from each of the previous four years. The icing on the cake was that many employees locked in for five years, reducing staff turnover as well.
Organisations who allow employees to work more flexibly have almost doubled since 2005. Yet many still resist this practice, exhibiting conventional ‘all or nothing’ thinking. They believe that if the person isn’t in the office full-time they are just lazing around. When IT giant Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer banned employees from working from home, she announced that part of her decision was poor productivity and the need to stop slackers. Hewlett Packard’s CEO followed suit, cutting it for the bulk of her workers.
Yet all the latest studies show a statistical increase in productivity when employees work from home. Pennsylvania University conducted a longitudinal study in which psychologists examined 20 years of research on telecommuting involving 46 studies and 12,833 employees. They found an overall beneficial effect which was a win-win for employees and employers.
Often those who are the most fervent in blaming telecommuting for their company woes, have poor metrics and management processes. Moving demotivated, unproductive workers from home to office is like relocating rotten apples and expecting them to flourish. If organisations have objective measurements for employee outcomes, then managers can constructively deal with poor performers, no matter where the workplace.
Another problem is the mistaken belief that telecommuting has to be for everyone every day, when what’s required is its judicious use. Allowing a leader to work one day a fortnight from home can be enough to attract better employees, especially if the competition isn’t offering this benefit. That’s why blanket bans like Yahoo’s can be damaging – they can harm employer branding and increase staff turnover, often a company’s greatest hidden expense.
More Flexible Time for Everyone
It’s not just rank and file workers who seek more time flexibility either. Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of two trillion dollar investment firm Pimco, quit in January 2014 after his daughter handed him a list of 22 milestones he had missed because of his job. In an interview a year later, Mr El-Erian was enjoying time with his daughter and they were planning a holiday together. As he told the Independent: “Hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more people will be in a better position to act holistically on what’s important to them.”
Max Schireson, CEO of MongoDB, Patrick Pichette CFO of Google and OzForex leader Neil Helm are other leaders who cited ‘spending more time with their family’ as their specific reason for quitting. It’s a sad indictment of 21st century organisations when the only way someone can do this is to resign. It does however highlight that flexible workplaces aren’t just an effective attraction strategy. They’re vital for retaining great people as well.