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Flexibility is a strength, not a weakness

Date: May 4, 2016

Attracting and retaining high-performing employees are key parts of a manager’s role.  An employer who has become known for treating staff well has a valuable head start over the competition when it comes to persuading top performers to join their team.  It is wrong to think that money is the only or even the prime motivator for someone seeking a new job – offering the biggest salary will not necessarily land the desired recruit, nor will it keep them there if the other important elements of the package are not right.

Building such a reputation takes time.  How former employees describe their experience of working for the employer is very important because would-be recruits will always want to hear from those who have first-hand experience of the working environment.  To achieve the goal an employer needs to find effective ways to motivate and develop staff.  Being flexible on simple, practical matters also has an important role to play.

The companies and firms who are prepared to embrace flexible working will increase their chances of attracting the best candidates and keeping them happy and productive.  This is as true in the intellectual property field as it is in any other sector but it can be a challenge to keep everyone satisfied - client expectations are constantly being raised and it is not easy for a manager to keep them happy whilst simultaneously satisfying the many and varied requests of their workforce.

However these competing demands are not necessarily mutually exclusive and accommodating the wishes of an employee may prove to be a strong motivator that brings exceptional performance and loyalty in return, often at little or no added cost for the employer.  Something as simple as permitting remote working from home on suitable occasions or being flexible on start/finish times in the office may have far more value to an employee than the management realise.  Conversely, being unwilling to accede to such requests (without convincing the employee that there are good reasons for the refusal) may be sufficient to prompt the employee to start looking for a new job.  
In certain circumstances employees now have a legal right to request flexible working, including variants such as part-time working, job sharing and flexitime.  Employers or employees who wish to know more about this subject will find plenty of guidance is available on the ACAS website.

It is understandable that an employer may initially have reservations but it really can be in their best interests, as well as those of the employee, to try to accommodate such requests.  Happy employees with a positive attitude are clearly preferable to a tired and frustrated workforce distracted by concerns in their personal life that might be eased by a modest change in working arrangements.

Awareness of the importance of healthy living is increasingly extending in to the workplace and candidates will often cite a desire to achieve a better work-life balance or to reduce stress and gain more control over their working lives as reasons for seeking a new position.  In many cases the individual is prepared to sacrifice some of their salary to enable them to achieve this goal. Employers who are sensitive and who treat employees as individuals, whilst still setting them challenging but achievable commercial targets, will be best placed to avoid staff welfare issues and minimise staff turnover.


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