Could flexibility be the new currency in employment?

By Alex Egan

I came across this graphic a little while back but its simplicity has stuck with me ever since. For me, it shines a light on a fundamental shift that to some extent has already happened.  A shift in how, and indeed where, people will ‘choose’ to work in the future.  I say ‘choose’ because talented and passionate people always have a choice about where to work, and a new definition of flexibility in the work place looks set to become the next battle ground for employers seeking to differentiate, in order attract, retain and engage the best people.  Its no longer just about the cash….

The concept of ‘flexible working’ really started to filter through into the mainstream from the late nineties with the Employment Rights Act passed in 1996. Whilst this placed certain statutory obligations on employers to consider more flexible working arrangements, I think its fair to say the pervasive culture in business is only just about starting to embrace this legislation over 20 years later. There are always a few well ahead of the curve (and indeed some a little behind) but most business now have a flexible working policy in some shape or form.

So if it has taken the best part of 20 years for the base concept of flexible working to become common parlance in business vernacular, then we will need to adapt a whole lot quicker to next evolutionary step on this journey in order to survive in the future.  The definition of ‘flexible working’ is expanding at an extraordinary pace and way beyond the basic statutory obligations. Change is fuelled by huge leaps forward in technology, namely powerful mobile computing devices (smart phones and laptops etc), secure cloud storage and perhaps most importantly, increasing access to high-speed wi-fi more or less everywhere you go. The net result is that employees expectations of flexibility in the work place are also evolving at real pace. The big question is - can process laden businesses adapt culture and systems rapidly enough to survive the new climate?  

As has ever been the case, evolution favours those ahead of the curve and able to adapt quickest….


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