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The days of 9 to 5 cubicle jobs are over.
The new generation of workers places a high value on flexibility in a job. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t work hard, or expect not to have to show up at the office.
It means most younger workers expect to have meaningful lives both in and outside of work, and want to harness the flexibility that technology provides.
A recent survey by Indeed found that job seekers aged 16-24 rank workplace flexibility as their top priority in a job, placing it above even compensation and benefits. Job seekers between 25-34 years of age come next, giving flexibility greater weight than older workers.
It isn’t that older workers are interested in flexibility. In the survey, about 37% of those aged 55 or over included it as a key factor in their job hunt. But younger workers clearly value flexibility more highly.
This creates a challenge for many organizations, and in turn for hiring managers seeking to recruit talent. How can a company provide a flexible, open work environment while also ensuring a productive, engaged workforce?
Here are five tips on how to unchain your workers in a productive and forward-looking way:
1. Embrace Technology
We have unbelievable access to technology that can make us work better, faster, and more
productively, all at relatively low cost. If you aren’t already, companies should invest in video conferencing, shared file folders and documents, as well as instant communication such as chat capability or information sharing tools.
More importantly, if you have these tools, use them! Have the necessary training and systems in place so that, if a new technology is useful, people can understand and leverage it to help with efficiency and results.
2. Trust Your Employees
In the old workplace, hierarchies ruled and people were expected to punch the clock. In the new workplace, results are valued over appearances, and getting the job done trumps showing everyone you’re doing it.
It’s true that, given free reign, some employees will take advantage. But the fact is, if your dedicated workforce feels well treated and appreciated, this won’t be an issue. Most workers will act like adults. Not only that, they will be happier and healthier if given the right tools to do the job. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Let the Mission Lead the Way
If a company lacks a solid mission and goal, nothing else will go well.
If employers are focused on a common, clear goal, they’ll be driven to do their jobs no matter where they’re sitting, or how they’re scheduling it. At my company, Indeed, our mission is simple: We Help People Get Jobs. Everything flows from that core message, and our employees respond by knowing exactly what they’re working toward, and how to accomplish that goal.
4. Let Them Take Time Off
Last year at Indeed, we instituted open paid-time-off, or unlimited vacation days. This new policy has been a success. Employees take the time they need in coordination with their managers. They are not nickel and dimed for every day, or worried about what will roll over and what won’t.
People don’t take advantage of the system, because the majority of us need and want to work. We just want to be able to plan time off according to our life needs, and without worrying about whether we’ve gone over or under an arbitrary limit. Now that’s flexibility we can all understand.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
It can be hard to allow someone to work from another location and really believe they’re working. But in a positive work environment, managers should have an idea of what employees are doing, and employees should have expectations about what is required.
If flexibility appears to result in missed deadlines or dropped projects, ask the employee about it and figure out how to get better metrics and measurements of their work. With that tweak, you’ll know for sure whether working remotely is the problem, or whether the employee just can’t meet expectations.
We all want a good work-life balance in which we can excel in our careers and also have a life outside of them. In the modern workplace, the tools are all there. We’ve just got to put them to use.
This piece originally appeared on the SHRM blog here. Its author, Paul Wolfe, is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed. He oversees all global human resource functions, including talent acquisition, employee retention, compensation, benefits, and employee development.
Mr. Wolfe has over 15 years of experience as a human resources executive having served as a VP and SVP at number of well-known companies, including Match.com, Orbitz, Conde Nast and Ticketmaster. His specialties include talent acquisition and management, succession planning, performance management, and leadership development.