Exercising for Flexibility

My blog on Labour Brokers produced a number of responses pointing out the benefits the TES (temporary employment service) provided – particularly flexibility. For short term needs, especially for smaller companies, a TES meets that need and does provide the opportunity for the “temp” to make show their value and obtain permanent employment. There will always be a need for “temp” staff – but are they the only solution?

There are other forms of flexibility.

Many employees are now “knowledge workers”, academically qualified and computer literate – more than able to move across a range of tasks. To what extent have we allowed employees to use their abilities, rather just than just follow a restricted “job description”, that probably hasn’t been updated for the last two decades? Employees using social networking sites demonstrate a variety of skills that are rarely put to full use within their normal work day. Have companies really fully explored the use of multi-skilling systems to develop their employees and create more flexible companies?

Yes, unionists will initially object and discussions will be raised on whether employees should be paid for “skills acquired” or “skills utilised”. Certainly there must be a benefit to an organisation to have employees who are able to pick up a range of duties as required. Are our human resource and personnel practitioners exercising their minds about how to implement work systems differently? Job descriptions are not fixed in stone – many of them haven’t been updated for years and don’t take account of new ways of working.

What about changes to work hours? Are companies making use of “flexitime” – different employees working at different times of the day, or alternatively for a variety of different periods of hours?

Flexible hours allow employees to meet their family responsibilities and still earn an income – without being around when there isn’t a need for them. Everyone doesn’t have to arrive or leave at the same time – flexible times make sense for easing traffic congestion, utilising parking places efficiently, and reducing the number of physical work stations required.

Employees working part-time, who don’t take extended tea and lunch breaks, are good value for money knowing that there is a limited time to achieve their tasks. Many work processes have a chain of activities, not everyone has to be available at the same time. Shift work and overtime are tools to achieve flexibility, but all too often they have become fixed in set patterns and for set times – no longer meeting the needs of business or responding to the fluctuations in demand. Have unions been fully engaged on re-examining fixed working patterns – particularly prior to retrenchments?

Have HR practitioners really examined what needs to happen – rather than what is happening and engaged management in brainstorming exercises re-considering how the workplace is arranged?

In difficult economic times, exercising our minds to achieve greater flexibility and different ways of working can result in cost reductions and avoid or reduce retrenchments – retaining scarce skills within the organisation – ready to hit the ground running when the economy picks up.

Let’s exercise (our minds) for greater flexibility.

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