The Unfolding Value of Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) are believed to be an important organizational offering to assist employees in better managing work/life/family demands. The 2014 Workplace Flexibility Survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) identified the prevalence and nature of flexible work arrangements using a sample of 525 HR professionals randomly selected from SHRM's membership.
Findings indicated that the majority (52 to 75 percent) of organizations reported that FWA options had a positive impact on employee retention, recruitment and turnover. Improvement in these organizational objectives can translate into an improved bottom line for an organization. In terms of benefits to employees, the majority of organizations (52 to 84 percent) indicated FWA options had a positive impact on the quality of employees’ personal/family lives, morale, job satisfaction, engagement, job autonomy and health and wellness.
With promising outcomes for both the organization and employees, FWAs seem to offer real value. However, the extent of the value FWAs provide is still being determined. The vast majority (92 percent) of responding organizations did not use any method to measure its return on investment (ROI) or the effect on organizational and employee performance (83 percent). Research findings indicated that many organizations had a strong interest in doing so in the future. Many organizations (55 to 60 percent) indicated that an industry standard on types and methods of data collection and analyses, and benchmarks to evaluate degree of success would be “useful/very useful” in helping them to implement a strategy to measure the impact of FWAs.
A curious finding is the level of involvement of top management, HR and line managers/supervisors in the strategy design and implementation of FWAs within an organization. In this survey, 52 to 54 percent of organizations indicated top management and those in an HR function/role (including CHRO) were involved in the design of FWAs “to a large extent.” Fewer organizations (13 percent) indicated the same high level of involvement for line managers and supervisors. In terms of implementation of FWA strategy, findings indicate HR personnel took a more prominent role. Fifty-two percent of organizations said those in an HR function/role were “to a large extent” involved in implementation whereas only 31 to 36 percent of organizations indicated this level of involvement for top management and line managers/supervisors.
This has important implications as the majority of organizations (68 to 83 percent) indicated 8 out of 16 factors were “very important” in contributing to the success of FWAs. These factors included support and buy-in from top management, commitment from employees and a supportive organizational culture. Research increasingly suggests that multi-level leadership and support is a key component of a successful wellness strategy.
Future surveys could benefit from exploring factors which facilitate or impede top management and line managers/supervisors’ level of involvement in the design and implementation of FWAs. Any advances in clarifying the ROI and the effects of FWAs on organizational and employee performance through a standardized approach to data collection and analyses would be extremely valuable.
Resources: Berry, L., Mirabito, A. M., & Baun, W. B. (2010). What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs, Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-wellness-programs.
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