Giving More Flexibility at Work
As I discussed on the most recent Mind the Gap panel on CTV News Channel, a recent LinkedIn survey found that professionals are increasingly less interested in corner offices and prestigious job titles and that flexibility and “being their own boss” is the new sign of success at work. In fact, more than one-third (34%) of professionals surveyed said they would take a 10% pay-cut in exchange for the ability to design their own schedule. The same survey found that 36% of professionals have a side project or side job, either as a way to pursue their interests or to earn extra income.
These statistics show an increased desire among people to have a more hands-on approach to their careers. Today, people are not as happy working for the same organization for 30 years, receiving a gold watch for their retirement, as they once were. In fact, the LinkedIn survey found that 65% of those surveyed fear they will miss their opportunity for career success if they don’t keep their options open.
So, what can organizations do to engage these employees before they head out on their own – or leave for a rival organization?
Engaging and Empowering Employees
Obviously, not everybody can “be their own boss.” Not only are there logistical challenges with doing so, but many Millennials (the generation that perhaps most desires the flexibility of running their own business) are not in the right financial situation to make their dreams of entrepreneurship a reality. They often have large amounts of debt, including very high student loan debt, and this can make it difficult to get a loan to start a business, unless they are able to tap into the “bank of mom & dad”. This cohort is also less likely to own their own home, especially in “hot markets” such as Toronto and Vancouver, and thus they have fewer assets to leverage when negotiating with lenders.
However, this does not mean that they will be happy to stay with your organization and pursue whatever career path you can offer. Their desire for flexibility and more control over their work will cause them to look elsewhere if your organization cannot provide Millennials with autonomy, fluidity, and self-directed work. Therefore, to retain and attract Millennial talent, it is important that organizations understand this generation’s desire for flexibility and freedom and accommodate it where possible. Doing so will strengthen engagement and performance.
Leaders can start by looking for opportunities for flexibility. For instance, consider offering a rolling start time, where people can come into work anytime between 8am and 10am, for example, and leave eight hours later. This type of schedule gives team members the flexibility that they crave, while still maintaining a “typical” workday.
Another way to provide more flexibility is by giving team members the opportunity to work from home (or wherever they would like). While you may not be able to offer this benefit to all team members on a full-time basis, current technology has made it much easier to offer remote work at least some of the time in many roles. Explore whether or not this would work for your organization, and consider how to use increased flexibility to foster engagement.
Greater autonomy also means allowing employees to direct how they complete projects, where and when they complete work, and giving them a high level of freedom to build plans and execute them as they see fit. Micromanagement doesn’t exist in this type of fluid work style and employees are empowered to get the job done using their skills and leveraging internal support as needed.
Finally, you can provide employees with greater opportunities to provide input on their desired career path and work with them to build a plan that will benefit the organization as well as meet their individual career goals. This allows employees to pursue their passions while still remaining with your organization.
Many of our clients have implemented “intrapreneurship” programs where they leverage the entrepreneurial spirit of employees internally by assigning employees strategic business challenges, allowing them the freedom to propose solutions and recommendations and be responsible for execution and evaluation. By empowering employees to run their own “mini business” within your business, everyone wins. The organization is able to solve real world problems, employees are more engaged and motivated, and ultimately business outcomes improve while employees develop valuable skills.