As traditional ways of working are disrupted, CEOs and executive leadership teams increasingly need to develop the leadership skills to implement more flexible ways of working.
Providing flexible working arrangements for all employees and reducing work/life conflict has clear benefits for employers and research shows that flexibility is a key driver for all women and men at work, not just those with young children. Many women and men don’t conform to the full-time worker mould; they have other priorities and aspirations such as pursuing additional study, approaching retirement or being engaged parents.
Flexibility is a key driver and enabler of gender equality. Flexible working at all levels enables greater access to roles and leadership positions across an organisation for women and men. As there are fewer opportunities for combining flexible work, especially part-time work, with management and supervisory positions, a lack of flexibility is a barrier to greater workforce participation for women. Supporting women and men to work flexibly can help enable women’s increased participation in the workforce. Supporting men to work flexibly enables women’s increased participation in the workforce, a key to achieving gender equality.
When an organisation takes a strategic approach to implementing flexible working arrangements, flexibility capability is viewed as an important organisational issue, rather than an issue confined to the relationship between an employee and manager. When issues are seen as organisational, rather than individual, there is often a parallel realisation that they need to be dealt with comprehensively, taking into account every part of the organisation.
The transformation that occurs when an organisation improves its flexibility capability is far-reaching and can involve creating new processes and systems around work and require managers and employees to change the way they work. It can also require new infrastructure or technology. Organisations need to create a holistic, integrated implementation approach that involves all the key players who can enable flexibility.
It is also important to understand your obligations Under the Fair Work Act 2009. Certain employees may request a flexible working arrangement under certain circumstances. The National Employment Standards that are part of the Fair Work Act 2009 require employers to consider employees’ requests for flexibility.
The Fair Work Act 2009 also prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of factors such as family or carer’s responsibilities, among other things, and makes provision for ‘individual flexibility arrangements’. For more information see the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
What we say
- Make strong, consistent statements about the importance of flexibility to achieving the organisation’s goals.
- Talk to your senior management team about organisation wide flexibility.
How we act
- Be a visible leader on the issue of workplace flexibility.
- Role model working flexibly and managing a flexible team.
- Ask the executive leadership team to role model working flexibly.
What we prioritise
- Ensure workplace flexibility is an agenda item at the executive level and has an executive sponsor.
- Ensure flexibility is a priority for your human resources and diversity team.
- Prioritise the development of a flexibility strategy
What we measure
- Monitor the uptake of flexible work arrangements.
- Seek feedback and engagement with managers and employees through surveys and focus groups on their experience on flexible work arrangements in the organisation.
Download the full toolkit:
This toolkit highlights the role of the executive team in leading an organisation towards an successful flexible working environment, including:
- Why introduce flexibility?
- Flexibility strategy roadmap – how to develop clear strategic objectives
- The 10 leadership capabilities required for effective flexibility
- Demonstrating a strong leadership commitment to flexibility.