Flexibility in the workplace key to retaining top talent

Finding a way to offer greater flexibility in the workplace is a great way to keep and retain top talent as work-life balance becomes increasingly important to Australian workers.

Finding a way to offer greater flexibility in the workplace is a great way to keep and retain top talent as work-life balance becomes increasingly important to Australian workers.

In fact, a recent survey found that 56 per cent of workers striving for better work-life balance are even declining promotions in favour of greater flexibility.

Global boutique recruitment agency Ambition surveyed more than 900 Australian IT professionals in a bid to understand their attitude to flexible working arrangements.

It found that employees want benefits that go beyond flexible hours. Workers also want to be able to work from home, bring their own devices, purchase additional annual leave and get discounts on gym membership and insurance.

Ambition Technology managing director Andrew Cross says the research also found that Australian businesses continue to struggle to effectively implement policies that create a more flexible working environment. He recommends that organisations implement policies that set the parameters of employee flexibility.

Additional benefits and more flexibility are great bargaining tools for businesses with limited promotion opportunities or an inability to offer salary increases, Mr Cross says.

"Typically the conversation about flexible options stops after the hiring process. However, once an employee passes their probationary period within the organisation, the flexible working arrangement should fall into place contractually and remain an ongoing discussion point in their annual salary review," he says.

"It is no secret that happy workers are more productive, and that the cost of replacing staff can be a significant financial loss for the company. With this in mind, many organisations can't afford not to invest in employee welfare." Peter Acheson from IT recruitment specialist Peoplebank wholeheartedly supports staff working from home.

More than 270 staff now work from home across a range of roles including HR, managers, accounts payable and account management.

Mr Acheson says those working from home tend to be very loyal employees.

"One of my senior staffers was approached for another role that offered more money, a bigger budget and more status, but turned it down because she appreciated that we have a flexible workplace that allows her to work from home."

The 35 staff working for a Sydney online retail store can bring kids or even pets to work.

Co-founder of Shoes of Prey, Jodie Fox, says the challenge as business founders is to make the office so great to be in culturally, that people want to turn up every day. If that means allowing staff to bring their cat or dog into the office, so be it, she says.

"We're all adults and we all inevitably have things to do that will happen during traditional working hours. Rather than try and hide that and hold up a facade of long hours worked, it contributes to making us more goals than hours-focused. Smashing goals are infinitely more important to my business than the number of hours you sit in a chair," Ms Fox says.

But many in business fear that loosening the reins will result in a reduction in productivity.

However, those to have gone down this path insist that a combination of remote access technology and trust can make it work.

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