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|Flexible work arrangements are common these days amongst high performing organisations and with good reason. Having flexible work arrangements in place can help organisations retain their best talent.|
Research conducted through our specialist gender diversity division, Gender Worx, reveals three factors in providing flexible work arrangements that are required if organisations are to retain their top talent.
Work life balance
Offering flexible working arrangements and personalised career paths adjusted to work-life balance needs is required to retain the best talent (Desvaux, Devillard-Hoellinger & Baumgarten 2007). A one size fits all solution for advancing in an organisation is no longer adequate. Instead, individual women’s needs and circumstances, both short term and long term, need to be taken into account. Men also seek flexible arrangements which, when available and taken, result in increased motivation, loyalty and career satisfaction (Wittenberg-Cox 2010).
Women are still more likely than men to pursue a flexible career path or take an extended leave of absence, and they’re twice as likely to work part-time (36% versus 19% for men) in order to meet their commitments to their families. The onus generally remains on women to negotiate their own flexible arrangements.
Surprisingly, Insync Surveys’ 2012 Retention Review found that work-life balance played a part in the decision to leave for 40% of men, compared to 47% for women, closer figures than many would expect.
Cultural and infrastructure support
To support leading diversity policies, organisations must ensure that there is cultural support for flexible work policies. Management support is a key requirement. In addition, practical support including availability and use of the appropriate technology and systems supports flexible arrangements, including working from home.
Organisations such as Lenovo have instigated a new management model that enables greater freedom in where and how their staff work. Rules are relaxed, office hours are more flexible and there is less centralised control over work. By making working hours flexible, and aligning effort to purpose and objectives, a broader diversity of talent can be engaged and retained (Wittenberg-Cox 2010).
Combining flexible working paths with continued career progression is challenging, yet fundamental to achieving diversity goals. Child rearing responsibilities generally coincide with moves into middle level managerial roles, yet the increased time commitments and pressures of middle management are seen as incompatible with family responsibilities (Nesbit & Seeger 2007). Family responsiblit8ies are seen as barriers to women’s availability for work, and availability is considered essential for promotion (Chinchilla, León, Torres & Canela 2006).
There is an implicit assumption that working part-time is an indication of a lack of ambition; women’s ambition is seen to inevitably disappear once they have children (Sools, Van Engen & Baerveldt 2007). Women who are committed to their careers and seek to improve their status may nevertheless be seen as less committed by the organisation if they take advantage of flexible work arrangements and family friendly opportunities (Furst & Reeves 2008).
As senior males “normalise” the use of flexible work arrangements including work part-time, the stigma involved will begin to be broken down.
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