Magazine article HRMagazine

The Business Case for Flex

Magazine article HRMagazine

The Business Case for Flex

Article excerpt

Survey research at one company shows that flexible work program participants are the most loyal, the most committed and the hardest working.

At State Street Corp., a multinational financial services provider, we view flexible work arrangements as a strategic tool for achieving business objectives and employee engagement.

In 2009, we created an executive committee to strengthen our ability to recruit and retain top talent. One of the findings: the necessity of having tools and resources that consistently support better work/life balance for employees through flexible work arrangements. As a result, after several years of offering informal, ad hoc, alternate work arrangements, we implemented a formal Flex Work Program, known simply as Flex. In today's fast-paced, 24/7 workplace, professionals have too much to do in their work and personal lives-and look for solutions to ease that pressure.

In a 2011 survey by Work+Life Fit Inc., for example, one-third of the 637 full-time employed respondents to a telephone survey said they plan to look for a new job either in or outside their organizations. Two-thirds said they want greater flexibility, including:

* Flexible hours.

* The ability to work remotely.

* The option to work a reduced schedule for less money.

Other studies have shown that an employee's loyalty and intent to stay with an organization increase when flexible work arrangements are available.

At State Street, the results we've seen from Flex support these findings. We have heightened employee satisfaction, productivity and operating efficiencies and lowered turnover in virtually all locations where Flex has been implemented.

Furthermore, a companywide internal employee engagement survey in October 2010 revealed that employees with some type of flexibility in their schedules are the most loyal, the most committed-and the hardest working. Employees with the most favorable perceptions of Flex scored 20 percent higher, on average, across a variety of engagement indicators, including emotional and rational commitment, intent to stay and discretionary effort.

Natural Environment

As a company with more than 29,000 employees in 26 countries, we emphasize our corporate value "Stronger Together." It supports collaboration across geographies and business units. Hence, we have long had people working with each other, but not necessarily side by side.

Even before we implemented a formal flexible work program, many managers were regularly connecting with employees in other locations and collaborating globally on projects. Time-zone differences required managers to be flexible about when and how they worked.

Employees' appetite for flexible work arrangements grew so much that by 2009, we needed a standard approach that would permit us to look at the idea from a strategic business perspective. At first, we provided a framework, giving employees a method for requesting that managers create alternate work structures and giving managers a means to evaluate requests. Flex evolved from employee-initiated arrangements into today's manager-initiated program.

The program needed to be more than just an "add on," so we built Flex around partnerships between our human resource, information technology, real estate and business strategy teams. Besides a dedicated staff of two employees, Flex relies on alliances with stakeholders through our Flex Working Group. This group consists of 12 work streams ranging from information technology and finance to communications and HR. This structure gives my HR team the ability to gauge how Flex impacts different constituencies.

A toolkit helps managers assess roles to determine what flexible work arrangements may be feasible for each individual from a business perspective. The managers can then proactively discuss Flex options with team members to implement a strategic and transparent program.

So far, feedback gathered during the last year about our manager-initiated flexible work arrangements has been positive. …

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