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The next generation of business leaders will have to be flexible

Submitted by on Monday, 5 October 2009 No Comment

We are raising a generation of children who have had access to on-demand movies from birth. Cartoons are not a half hour every afternoon and all morning on Saturdays – they’re 24-7.

These kids are not going to grow up and be slaves to the clock. Not when they’ve been able to make the clock fit their schedule their entire lives. Businesses that recognize that will thrive.

They already are, according to nonprofit Corporate Voices for Working Families, which has declared October Work and Family Month to try to draw attention to issues such as flexible scheduling.

According to recent research, companies that offer flexibility options are the employers of choice for younger workers, Donna Klein wrote today. She’s executive chair of the nonprofit.

That’s why any business with true foresight needs to focus on flexibility, not as a plum for the teacher’s pets and not as a management perq, but for as many people as possible.

It will be a hard transition for many leaders, who are accustomed to bending employees to their arbitrary will without considering the long-range impact.

For me once upon a time, the impact was quickly finding a new job after I enjoyed a Christmas Day dinner of Cheetos because the boss insisted on being fully staffed for the holiday. Half of us were twiddling our thumbs at any given time during the shift.

No one could figure out why and eventually wrote it off to his insecurities and paranoia. What if something happened on Christmas Day that the smaller staff couldn’t handle? Best to make everyone suffers, just to be safe.

This particular supervisor also was the master at scheduling employees to work up to nine straight days with no time off. It’s a tricky maneuver, but it’s possible to do it without violating wage and hour law.

Again, why? Because something might happen.

Something did happen, all right. People left in droves. The company had the expense of training new ones. All because a manager needed control.

A funny thing happens, though, when a manager loosens up. Even the managers agree that it works out OK.

According to a survey this year by Corporate Voices for Working Families, 79 percent of the managers who supervised employees with flexibility options – everything from compressed work weeks to telecommuting – said flexibility has a positive impact on productivity and effectiveness. They also gave flexibility high marks for decreasing stress and absenteeism. Eighty percent said being able to offer workers flexibility improved their ability to recruit.

And 83 percent of the workers polled said flexibility was a key factor in their decisions to stay with their companies.

Again, if it works for the workers and works for the companies, why aren’t more businesses doing this.

Never mind. I figured out the answer to that one Christmas Day over Cheetos.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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