Friday, May 17, 2013

Are the roadblocks to flexibility really roadblocks?

This week, I delivered another Flexible Work Masterclass to a group of HR and Business Managers at schools around NSW. The message hasn’t changed; organisations know they need to become more flexible but it is the HOW that becomes the stumbling block. How to manage a flexible workplace comes down to knowledge and acceptance that things need to change. Accepting that we need to challenge our views on how we work, think and act in the workplace can be difficult for many people.

Consider the typical roadblocks to creating a more flexible workplace:

  • ‘This job can’t be done flexibly.’ Why? Employees can still work full time and work flexibly.  Consider the duties of the role and what can be done inside/outside of office hours or at work/from home. It is practical and reasonable to refuse a part time (2-3 days) request for a senior level role that requires staff management, travel and other high-level duties. However 4 days per week could possibly work.

  • The mindset of managers. A common perception is that flexibility is just for women with childcare needs. If you think like this, you haven’t surveyed your staff recently to find out what their needs are.

  • There is no consistency when it comes to implementation. It becomes messy if you do not have s standard system/framework to follow when it comes to flexible work requests. If it is not transparent, you will create staff discontent.

  • ‘We don’t have the technology to make it work.’ Really? In the last 10 years, we have seen the introduction of iphones, ipads, email, remote access, webnars, social media applications including skype and more. Imagine what the next 10 years will bring…. I can’t.

On a positive note, there are many workplaces utilising flexible work options to enhance the productivity of their business.  There is part time work, flexible hours, rostering and flex time, compressed working weeks, job sharing, job splitting, working from home, purchasing extra leave,gradual return to work, career break, phased retirement, variable year employment (e.g. work 3 days per week for 9 months and then full time for 3 months when the workload is heavier).

The Federal Government introduced the right to request flexibility back in January 2010 – view to get up to speed. In February this year, Bill Shorten announced that their intention to expand the right to request flexible work arrangements to all workers with caring responsibilities, employees with disabilities, mature-age employees, and workers experiencing family violence. 

Now is the time to embrace the changing needs of our workforce.

Ever thought about a board position?

Last week, I attended the 4th Women on Boards Conference in Sydney. CareerMums was also a sponsor. It was amazing – the networking and speakers made it a stand-out event. My favourite speaker was Dr Louise Maher. She is an expert in vocal intelligence and presentation skills. If you are looking for an entertaining and confident speaker at a conference or work event, look her up

There is obviously a significant shortfall of women on boards. There has been momentum in the last few years, but there are fears that this growth is stagnating because “we now have 1-2 women so that is ok”. It is not ok. 

If you are considering a board position, these are some take-outs from the conference:
  • Consider your skills. Do you have expertise in marketing, fundraising, policy development, technology strategy? Do you have exposure to business planning and good business instincts? Do you have experience overseeing budgets, funding arrangements, grants and resources? Work out what your skills and competencies are.
  • What do you enjoy? Do you have a particular interest or experience in a particular sector? You need to communicate your knowledge and interest when applying for board positions so your interest makes sense.
  • Don't shy away from board positions. All boards need more women with relevant competencies. And best of all, board roles are flexible.
  • Seek mentors to talk you through your career moves, but don't forget to have sponsors as well. Mentors talk to you; sponsors talk about you (positively!).
  • Visit and for information on board positions.
  • Do not think you need to have a corporate background to get board positions. In fact, small business owners may be much better equipped in these positions.
The conference also covered the importance of diversity in our workplace.  If you are currently researching a prospective employer, view their latest annual report. The team at Women on Boards review the annual reports of the ASX200 and rate their diversity policies in particular. Based on their criteria, only 14 got the green light, 22 got the red light and the rest received an amber light. Stockland and Caltex were two companies that received a green light. A mining company called Discovery Metals received a red light - they commented in their annual report that they had extensively searched for women with finance and mining experience to join their board but were unable to locate anyone acceptable! Imagine writing that in your annual report.

If you are interested in being represented on a board, there are positions waiting for you now.