“Flexibility” is probably one of the scariest words to any management team. Their immediate reaction is one of fear, and “That will never work for our company.” But the reality is that flexibility is what employees want—and are getting with many employers.  So as a company, how do you adapt to the growing flexibility needs of your employees without sacrificing the needs of the business?

Where should companies start with flexibility?

You first have to determine if you truly need to adjust your practices.  What are your challenges to attracting and keeping top talent? In our case at World Travel Holdings, we struggled to hire in the locations of our contact centers. We overcame this problem by gradually allowing our current workforce to work from home. Then we tested virtually hiring and training agent classes.

It worked!  In the past six years, we have grown our at home workforce to 88% of our agent population, and their performance is better than ever. Yes, it took us six years and many missteps, but it’s important to start slow, adjust, and try again.

Managers need to tailor flexibility to each individual employee.

The next lesson is this: fair is not equal! As a company, we believe in doing things for people. We work individually with top performers when they need flexibility, and the outcome does not look the same for any two individuals. People need different things, so it is best to find the right fit for both the employee and the company.

This could include anything from adjusting hours, to switching to 4-day workweeks, to enabling staff to work at home a few days a week or even just in the afternoons. If you want to keep your best people, find a way to work with them.  My only word of caution is to be transparent with others as to why you are doing it for one person and not another.  As long as there is a good reason, it works.

So managers, don’t be so scared of the word flexibility. Dig in to discover what your employees want when they request flexibility in their work schedule. Believe it or not, you may be surprised that what they are looking for could even fix a business problem for your company.

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