Posts Tagged “culture change”

6 Ways to Promote Work Flexibility Culture Change

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Our client, the professional services firm BDO, recently produced a short video about their award-winning approach to work and life flexibility.  Here are the six lessons every organization can takeaway from the clip to help better position flexible work as part of the culture, or the way the business and people operate every day:

Lesson 1: Language matters. BDO Flex is a “strategy.”  It’s about getting work done, serving clients, and managing people.  It’s not a program or policy.  There are policies to support various aspects of the strategy (e.g. compensation, telework equipment) but “flexibility” itself is not a policy.  There are programs that use BDO Flex, but “flexibility” is not a program.

Lesson 2: The employee AND the business must succeed for flexibility to work. All of the stories and key themes in the video reinforce the point of “dual” benefit and impact:

  • ReThink–The possibilities are endless
  • ReFresh–You work hard. Use Flex to recharge
  • ReDefine–Don’t accept business as usual
  • ReDiscover–Don’t lose sight of your dreams
  • ReAssure–Small changes can make a big impact

Lesson 3: Take the time and invest the resources to create a shared vision of success that anchors the strategy. It took months for the firm to create the “BDO Thrives on Flexibility” vision statement, but that process changed hearts and minds and created a shared understanding which moved the culture.

Lesson 4: Flexibility is not just about formal flexible work arrangements. It’s about both formal and informal, day-to-day flexibility in how, when and where you work and manage your life. It’s not an “arrangement,” but a well thought out plan tailored to meet your unique needs and the needs of the business.

Lesson 5: Men and women want and use work flexibility. Work flexibility is not a women’s issue.  It’s a strategy to help all people fit the unique pieces of their lives together in a competitive, hectic, global economy and for businesses to work smarter and better.

Lesson 6: Flexibility is not about child care only. Yes, parents absolutely need to work flexibly; however, as the video shows so do employees who have spouses who relocate, who have a passion for ballroom dancing or cartoon drawing, and who want to stay healthy.  And it’s for leaders who want to reduce the level of employee burnout and service clients better.

What other lessons did you learn from watching how one organization is talking about and positioning strategic flexibility in their business?  What is your organization doing?

If you haven’t already, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost!

The Strategic Use of Flexibility (NEW Article in Talent Management Magazine)

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(This article appears in the October, 2011 issue of Talent Management Magazine and was co-authored with one of my Flex+Strategy Group partners, Donna Miller)

As the dust settles from the Great Recession and a new economic reality emerges, businesses are beginning to take a hard look at how they can manage their talent for maximum business impact. The urgency to review and rethink is driven by leaner headcounts, larger workloads and greater stress as technology and globalization.  These trends erased the traditional lines between work and life. The result is a shift in expectations about how to manage responsibilities on and off the job. Businesses are moving beyond the traditional one-size-fits-all model of work and career and taking a more strategic, flexible approach.

Since 2007, Work+Life Fit Inc. and Opinion Research Corp. have conducted a biennial national study to track the state of work-life flexibility from the employees’ perspective. The results of the 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check study confirm that new, flexible ways of working have gained traction since 2007. However, organizations need to do more. Helping employees manage the way work fits into their lives and organizations’ profits and growth plans in a transformed economy will require making flexibility — informal and formal telework, flexible hours, reduced schedules and compressed work weeks — an integral part of the operating business model and culture.

Traditionally, that meant writing a policy or training managers. But strategic flexibility requires dedicating people, time and money to a coordinated culture change process — one that clearly defines a business’ unique rationale for greater flexibility, establishes a shared vision of how managers and employees will use it and executes with relentless communication.

(Click here for more)

How to Make 100 Organizations in the Same Industry More Flexible… Key Lessons Learned

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Post originally appeared in FastCompany.com

In all of the years I’ve helped companies rethink the inflexible ways we work, I’d never seen anyone coordinate an effort to get 100 organizations in the same community to embrace flexibility at the same time. That is until I met the indefatigable Shifra Bronznick and her team at Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community (AWP).

The mission of AWP is “to promote the leadership of women within Jewish communal institutions and to advocate for healthy workplace practices that benefit both men and women.” The issue, as AWP defines it, is that a majority of the professionals in the Jewish nonprofit community are women, while most of the leaders are men. AWP wants to close that gap.

More details regarding the multi-faceted change process they’ve undertaken to close that gap can be found here, but one of the primary solutions they’re targeting is greater workplace flexibility. To promote a more formal, strategic approach, AWP created the Better Work, Better Life Campaign which is “aimed at enlisting 100 Jewish organizations in improving their policies on flexibility and parental leave.”

Recently, I was invited to present at a convening of 30 of the Better Work, Better Life organizations to discuss strategies to advance flexibility. This gave me a unique opportunity to observe first-hand what happens when organizations from the same industry gather to share best practices and support innovation in workplace flexibility. Here are my three key takeaways from the event:

Lesson #1: Peer-to-Peer Influence is the Most Powerful

Humans resist change with every tool they have at their disposal. And the most powerful weapon of all is, “Oh, that might work for an accounting firm, but it won’t succeed in manufacturing.” In other words, we dismiss the applicability of something new because we believe that a unique quality of your industry or organization makes it non-transferable.

But it’s much harder to dismiss information when it is comes from an organization with a business model that’s just like yours. In this case, nonprofit and mission-driven. When Sari Ferro from UJA-Federation of NY shared the steps that she followed to get a more formal flexibility process implemented in her workplace, you could tell from the follow up questions that her story prompted the group to see possibilities, not roadblocks.

Lesson #2: No Matter Where You Are On the Flex Innovation Curve, You Can Be Part of the Same Conversation.

There’s a standard flexibility innovation curve that most organizations follow. And while it’s important to meet organizations where they are on that curve, there’s a benefit to having the more advanced entities in the same room with those just getting started.

During the Better Work, Better Life convening, I facilitated a discussion of the strategies that we’d covered throughout the afternoon. At my table sat representatives from a couple of organizations that were relatively far along the innovation curve in terms of advancing formal flexibility and a couple of others for whom it was very new. Yet, you could see that the experience of those who had “been there done that” informed the thinking of those just starting to dip their toes in the water.

Lesson #3: There Are Many Creative Ways to Scale a Clear Vision for Change

The clarity, passion and commitment of the AWP team to advance their mission has driven them to develop creative vehicles to scale their efforts and impact including,

  • AWP Action Teams–Training others to be change agents and fan out into the broad community.
  • The Bay Area Project–Leveraging the success of the large number of women in the Bay Area who occupy senior positions in Jewish foundations to influence change.
  • Men as Allies–Engaging influential men to advance more shared leadership. This effort include “Sign the Pledge’ where men agree not to appear on public panels without women.

Spending time with the 30 organizations that participated in the Better Work, Better Life convening reminded me of the power of peer influence, and how beneficial it is to share best practices no matter where your organization is on the flexibility innovation curve. Imagine how much further along we’d be if groups of accounting firms, advertising agencies or hospitals worked together and shared best practices related to flexibility.

Finally, never doubt the power of the clear vision of a small group as they scale and grow in impact. Go AWP!

For more, I invite you to join me on my Fast Company blog and on Twitter @caliyost.