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[eBook] How to build a successful flexible working strategy


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Flexible working is about providing people with the tools to do their jobs in smarter ways, along with the technologies to be more flexible about how and where they work and the skills to react to changing customer needs. If you can make this happen then you too can reap the rich rewards flexible working can bring.

We know this because here at Vodafone, we’ve done it ourselves. Through our own experiences we have learnt valuable lessons about what it takes to make flexible working a success and are able to help our customers change the way they work too.

We are committed to finding smarter and more effective ways of working and we want to help even more businesses do the same.

That’s why we’ve created the Guide to Flexible Working – a practical resource for making flexible working a reality for your business.

Published in: Technology

[eBook] How to build a successful flexible working strategy

  1. 1. Guide to flexible working
  2. 2. Contents Foreword: More flexible more productive more profitable Where do I start? Best tools for the job Thoughts and tips for successful implementation Flexible working checklist The sections of the guide have been personalised to different job roles. Click on the section that is relevant to you based on this legend: Business Decision Maker Chief Information Officer Human Resources
  3. 3. FOREWORD: MORE FLEXIBLE MORE PRODUCTIVE MORE PROFITABLE Increased profits. Happier, more productive employees. A reputation that ensures people know about your business for the right reasons. There’s little doubt that flexible working pays some very handsome dividends to businesses that embrace it. A 2015 global study by Vodafone found that some 75 per cent of businesses worldwide now have a flexible working policy. Eight out of ten of those have seen significant improvements in productivity and more than half have benefitted from increased profitability and believe they have seen a positive shift in reputation.
  4. 4. Power to your people Flexible working means providing your employees with tools to do theirjobsinnewandmoreefficientways.Itinvolvesgivingthemthe right mix of technologies they will need to become more flexible about how and where they work - and equipping them with the skills to react to changing customer behaviours. Ifyoucanmakethishappenthenyoutoocanreaptherichrewards that flexible working can bring. Your people will be more motivated and work more effectively. An additional bonus could be reduced overheads. What’s more, you’ll be able to offer improved levels of service to your customers thanks to your better connected and more collaborative team of employees. We know this because here at Vodafone, we’ve done it ourselves. We wanted to shift away from a rigid, desk-based working culture and free up our employees to take advantage of all that mobile technology offers. So we adopted a flexible working model in our headquarters in the UK, as well as in several other countries, including the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and New Zealand. Transforming the mind-set, culture and management style of a complex organisation wasn’t always easy, particularly when it meant understanding the cultural challenges of different markets, but the experience has taught us just how important these changes were to our business. 83% have reported improvements in productivity 58% 61% have reported increased profitability Of the businesses that have already adopted flexible working: have reported a positive shift in their company’s reputation Vodafone Flexible: friend or foe? 2015 survey
  5. 5. Open for business Wealteredtheset-upofourofficetoreflectthenewculture,doing away with executive offices and permanent personal desks. We built a leadership culture that walks-the-talk. Most days you will find me working from an open plan desk unless I need an office to host a meeting. We created open, collaborative environments for employees to come and go as needed and we created spaces that cater to the different types of activities our people do – whether they need a place for deep concentration, teamwork, project work or social get-togethers to celebrate success and share experiences. Wethenputalloureffortsintopromotingcreativityandflexibility, providing employees with the tools to work beyond traditional office-based models and measuring people on output and results achieved, as opposed to time spent at their desks. And we are continuing to roll out similar schemes to other Vodafone offices around the world. Our experiences mean we have learnt valuable lessons about what it takes to make flexible working a success and are able to help our customers change the way they work too. We are committed to finding smarter and more effective ways of working and we want to help even more businesses do the same. That’s why we’ve created the Guide to Flexible Working. Please useitasapracticalresourceformakingflexibleworkingarealityfor your business, no matter how big or small, complex or specialised it is. This guide will help you get the best out of your people and the technology they rely on, with useful tips from Vodafone and real life insight from a few of our customers who have already used flexible working to improve their business. Whether your business is ready to explore flexible working for the first time, or you want to build on what you are already doing, we hope you find the guide valuable. Nick Jeffery CEO, Vodafone Group Enterprise We will see that the technology is in place to help people, individuals, communities really inform new ways of getting things done Dyan Finkhousen, Director of Open Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing, GE speaking at the launch of Vodafone’s Customer Experience Centre in New York 76% of businesses with flexible working in place have seen improvements in staff morale 70% of 18-24 year olds believe their quantity of work would improve if whey were able to work flexibly 65% of businesses with flexible working trust their employees more
  7. 7. First steps Start by deciding on your flexible working goals. You might want to make your workforce more responsive, create a better work life balance for your employees, reduce overhead costs or respond to changing customer demands. Ask yourself, where are you now and where would you like to get to? Do you have a clear understanding of your priorities? Can you anticipate possible road blocks along the way? And do any existing working practices need to change to help your business do better and keep delivering to your customers? Before any wheels are put into motion you’ll need to understand what flexible working really means to your organisation and how it fits with your overall business strategy. Larger companies especially will need answers at the ready to build a case strong enough to secure buy-in across their wider business. And companies of all sizes should consider how success will be measured when flexible working is rolled out. Establishing suitable metrics early on will help to shape your plan and demonstrate return on investment further down the line. Once objectives are agreed and targets are set it’s time to audit the business and assess how ready it is for flexible working. The conversation might still be high level at this stage, but make sure you keep your managers and wider workforce involvedbyhavingadetailedcommunicationsplanforeachphaseoftheprocess.Don’tforget,theyaretheonesthat will turn ideas into practice. The more you communicate, canvass and consult, the more receptive your employees will be and ultimately the more likely you are to make a successful change.
  8. 8. Flexible working isn’t one-size-fits-all. For example, to a public sector body looking for ways to maximise efficiency and deliver more within constrained budgets, it could be the means to improve services, whilst at the same time bringing down costs and carbon emissions. For the small business owner, it might be a way to attract and motivate employees with the promise of a better work / life balance. We see flexible working as a way of enabling people to work in ways that help them to meet the changing needs of customers, collaborate better across teams and find cleverer and more cost effective uses for office space. But what’s right for a global telecommunications company like us, might not be right for say, a fleet management firm, or an electrical wholesale business. So, before you build your flexible working strategy, be clear on what flexibility means to your business and how it fits with your goals . Think about your various types of workers too, the job that they do and their working style. Your field workers or contact centre staff will almost certainly need a different approach to your office based employees. Change is never easy, especially when there are many moving parts. But there are four key areas you need to address to build a successful flexible working strategy. Understanding your work styles and role requirements Changing bricks, bytes and behaviours PEOPLE SPACE PROCESS TECHNOLOGY Framework for managing change
  9. 9. People Changingheartsandmindsisarguablythetoughesttask,sothis kind of change needs to start from the top. Your flexible working programmeneedsaninfluentialgroupfromacrossthecompany to get behind it and lead by example. For larger businesses, that could mean the CEO, together with heads of business units such as the IT lead and Human Resource and Finance directors. In a smaller organisation, it may mean appointing a member of the team to drive the project alongside the company directors, or in some cases simply involving everyone from the outset. To get things moving in the right direction, you can set up working groups to bring together ambassadors from across the business. These representatives are your eyes and ears and they should include a cross-section of peoplewhoareusedtoworking remotely, from fixed locations, or in the field. Let them tell you which applications they need access to and to suggest the technologies they prefer to communicate with. In larger organisations, this can be supported with a combination of team workshops, web surveys, in depth interviews and by tracking and analysing people’s daily activities over a period of time. Changing management and leadership style is another complicated but, nevertheless, critical step. Managers and colleagues alike can find themselves monitoring and judging when people arrive for work, how long they take for lunch, or how often they work from home. As working styles change, measurement tends to be based more on output than on the number of hours an employee is at their desk. If you want to encourage new behaviours, and help your teams to trust people to deliver on their commitments, then you need to put the right performance measures in place. For managers and business leaders, this includes clearly communicating what needs to be delivered across the team, and measuring staff on their success in meeting their goals, rather than on how long they have been in the office. There’s a good chance that once you have moved to a flexible working model you may still find resistance from your team. Employees could be concerned that working in this way might be unproductive. Others may be unwilling to accept the idea of losing a fixed desk space. It takes time for people to adjust, so this needs to be factored in.
  10. 10. Process To enable new ways of working you need to understand how and why people work the way they do. Do they travel into the office every day because they need approval on documents, access to systems and information, or to be present in face-to- face meetings? How many existing processes could be updated and improved if you changed the way you thought about technology? Providepeoplewith clearguidance onworkingprinciples.You’ll also need to tell people about best practices for managing their data, using devices securely, and give them health and safety guidance for working remotely. Make sure you factor in any potential risks that come with working environments outside of the office, such as those posed by using work equipment at home. Communicate openly and honestly with people about how to use their technology and access information securely, and ensure robust security measures are also in place if people will beaccessingsensitiveinformationonpersonaldevices and laptops. If your employees are currently expected to work from nine to five, then you’ll need to decide on whether their contracts will need to be updated to reflect the hours when they should be available by phone and email. Changing working practices may also have implications for your business’s legal responsibilities. Make sure you are clear on the steps that need to be taken and familiarise yourself with any local legislation that needs to be followed. In the UK, for instance, the right to request flexible working was extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ qualifying service in June 2014. Space Changing how you think about space is an important part of encouraging people to work in more agile and flexible ways. It’s also a smart way to save costs. Providing allocated desks for every member of a workforce that no longer needs to work from a static location every day is unnecessarily expensive. Having large meeting rooms that are only ever used by small groups is wasteful, as is printing out documents when they can be shared digitally. By understanding work styles and giving consideredthoughttodeskoccupancy,youwill be able to better understand the implications for your space. At its simplest, this will tell you how many allocated desks you need, but it will also provide a clearer vision for the way the office is designed; from allowing for space for collaborative team working, to intentionally moving away from printing and using paper. Itisimportanttoconsiderthebudgetyouhaveavailabletomake these changes. Cost-savings can be made from smarter use of space – and a more productive workforce will pay dividends in the long-run – but completely redesigning your office space will still take a sizeable upfront investment.
  11. 11. Technology This is the foundation of flexible working. You need the right mix of infrastructure, applications, and communications tools to enableyourpeopletoworkflexibly.Thesechangescouldinclude makingsuresecureWi-Fiisavailablethroughoutbuildingsaswell as outside spaces; providing conference facilities so that team members can join voice or videoconferences from any location; unified communications and cloud-enabled collaboration tools to keep employees connected while supporting a wider range of working styles; 4G to supply people with faster internet access on their mobile devices when working on the move; and a virtual private network to give people the freedom to access the corporate network and open work files securely without needing to be in your office. Gain an understanding of which applications people need to do their jobs. Then get to grips with how urgently and frequently they need them and which mobile technologies will improve productivity and performance. Of course, your technology considerations will ultimately be determined by the budget you have available. Your business may provide your employees with the devices they need to work remotely. If employees use personaldevices,willtheybesubsidised, supported and made secure? Will you offer to help to pay for home-office facilities such as broadband connections or mobile bills? And will you provide employees with access to a helpdesk to offer remote IT support when they need it? Once you are clear on the current and future needs of your people, processes, space and technology, you will have a better idea of the changes required to make your business more flexible.
  12. 12. CHOOSING THE BEST TOOLS FOR THE JOB Once you’ve made the decision to introduce or expand flexible working in your business, you need to take a detailed look at the technology your people will need to make it work. What do they need to keep close to customers and colleagues? What encourages them to collaborate and share ideas? What will help them to be productive, stay responsive and ultimately deliver great work? We asked ourselves the same questions when we set out to become a flexible business. We realised that some employees prefer to talk on the phone; others use online chat or video applications. Just about everyone needs to be able to send and receive emails, find files and connect to the company system in and outside of the office. And some teams need remote access to more sensitive applications such as human resources or financial management systems. Every business wants to see maximum return on their technology investments, so let these be driven by the people who know best what technology they need to get the job done well.
  13. 13. Going mobile Put people in the same office together every day and you have a level of certainty that calls will reach them, teams will bond, ideas will bounce, and information will flow. To enable teams to work in more flexible ways, you need the same level of confidence that no call will go unanswered and people will stay in close touch whether they are working from home, out in the field, at customer sites, in airport lounges, or anywhere else. Smartmobiledevicesareprobablythemostobviouspieceofflexible working technology. 4G in particular – the ‘fourth generation’ of mobile communication – makes access to the internet faster on devices with mobile connectivity from smartphones and tablets to dongles and laptops. With a reliable 4G connection managers can be reached to review long and complex documents in need of urgent sign-off without returning to an office, and executives can stay at the top of their game, accessing and editing large files on their connected mobile devices all the way from the taxi to the boardroom. Unified communications also make it easier for people to stay in touch while working on the move. Converging fixed and mobile lines and linking video, voice conferencing, instant messaging and email through the same application gives small businesses a way to redirect landline calls to a person’s mobile or to a designated grouptoensurecallsarealwaysanswered–andlargercompanies a way for employees to reach customers and colleagues using the channels, such as video calls or IM, that are the best fit for them. You can choose to provide employees with devices, such as smartphonesandlaptops,orletpeopleworkontheirownpersonal devices. Either way you need to be mindful of the necessary security measures to protect corporate data from malware, viruses and phishing attacks. Staying secure If employees are going to connect to your servers and access potentially sensitive information outside of the office then a virtual private network (VPN) gives people a secure connection to your company system even if they are accessing it over the internet at home or through a Wi-Fi hotspot in a public place. IT departments can also remotely manage devices running on most operating systems. Software can be installed on smartphones and laptops that can help you as a business to keep a track of the applications that are running on the device.
  14. 14. If the device is lost or stolen, the employee or IT team can lock or wipe the device remotely, stopping company information from getting into the wrong hands. Any business can become vulnerable to viruses and malicious attacks, but for IT teams with thousands of employees to support, mobile threat management tools will scan all traffic to and from a mobile device to block inappropriate content and protect both the data and the device. Managed mobility services also ease the pressure of delivering mobility at scale, taking care of everything from the policies, processes and security, through to the day-to-day management and deployments. Working together Regardless of whether people are in the office or on the road, you want everyone to have easy access to the information they need. By moving servers, files and applications into the cloud and replacing old and restrictive IT systems with a virtualised environment you can give employees exactly that. Office 365, for instance, gives people cloud-based access to the everyday programmes, such as Excel or PowerPoint, they would otherwise need to be on a desktop.Othercloudtools,suchasGoogle Apps, help people to share calendars, join video meetings and store and share documents they can work on together. Working smarter More and more things are becoming connected to the internet and whether you call it Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology or the Internet of things (IoT) it’s giving businesses pause for thought over how this can help the company and its employees work in smarter and more flexible ways. A smart building system, for example, can help a business adjust its energy consumption hour by hour based on the number of people using an office. Employees can come and go as needed and the company has a smart way to save costs. Oraconnectedsoftdrinkscabinetcangivenearbyfieldengineers a way of seeing whether there is a fault and if so, which part needs replacing. Someone can swiftly be sent to fix the issue without any time wasted on routine maintenance check-ups, improving the level and efficiency of service the engineer can deliver. It’s worth considering whether emerging technologies, such as M2M, could be the secret ingredient to smarter working and a more competitive edge. Getintouchformoreguidanceonthebestflexibleworkingtools for your business.
  15. 15. THOUGHTS AND TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION We asked some of the customers we’ve helped and a handful of our own experts ‘what advice would you give to other businesses about flexible working?’
  16. 16. The technology is in place, the task for us is to get the corporate culture to match. We need to trust our teams to go out and get the content, or sell the advertising. We need to stop making excuses for them to be in the office. Peter Quinn, Service Delivery Manager for Telecom & Networks, Trinity Mirror When our sales guys meet a client they need to be fully up to speed – on the project, the product, the industry context. They need to be able start meaningful, informed conversations from the go. Jonathan Bowl, Global Director, EMC WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS HAVE LEARNED ABOUT FLEXIBLE WORKING Mobility will create new ways of working and new possibilities for the business. To help plan our mobile strategy we need to better understand how employees experience mobile technology. Matt Sevenoaks, Global Head of Crowdsourcing, KPMG
  17. 17. Senior managers need reassurance flexible working is a sound business move: what are the benefits and where are the financial gains? What are the risks and how can these be mitigated? Jan Geldmacher, CEO, Vodafone Global Enterprise Flexible working is about more than the hours people work. Try to look at a more holistic approach that recognises everybody has very different needs from the world of work now – it is difficult to have a one-size-fits- all approach. Jennifer Hayes, Head of Talent and Development, Vodafone UK Outline a clear direction and targets at the outset about what the business wants to achieve. Any u-turns or changes will create a lot of rework and potentially waste money. Jeni Mundy, Product Management Director, Vodafone Group Enterprise Flexible working relies on a ‘psychological contract’: the perceived relationship between employees and employer and the expectations they have of one another. Trust that work is being done, openness to change and the organisation’s commitment to adopting more flexible working arrangements: these are essential tools for creating a positive psychological contract. David Langhorn, Head of Corporate and Large Enterprise, Vodafone UK WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED ABOUT FLEXIBLE WORKING
  18. 18. FLEXIBLE WORKING CHECKLIST We hope you have found the guide useful. This final section provides you with a useful checklist for addressing all of the elements to make flexible work a success for your business.
  19. 19. FLEXIBLE WORKING CHECKLIST Three steps to flexible working STEP ONE PLAN DEPLOY MANAGE STEP TWO STEP THREE Critical success factors Gain buy-in from the key people and appoint early adoption team to lead by example Identify business managers to put the wheels in motion Observe and listen to the needs of employees Regular communication to keep your people engaged Know what the business wants to achieve Evaluate your employee working styles and needs Build the business case Be clear on the change management implications – how will the culture, policies and processes need to adapt Secure funding and key people buy-in Detailed planning of working practices and policies Full scope of technologies and changes to work environment to be developed and deployed Communication of changes to culture, policy and process throughout organisation Provide training and support for results-based management, data security, health and safety Ongoing management of IT infrastructure and mobile technologies Ongoing training and access to IT support Metrics in place to measure success Regular employee feedback to learn and optimise against Key tasks and actions Get started with flexible working