Being Flexible To Employee Needs Takes Great Management

17 Mar


I just returned from working with my co-author Leigh Branham at an event where we judged employers on how “family friendly” they were. The event allowed us to review employee survey data on the topic and interview leaders and employees of participating companies.

One employer particularly impressed me with their willingness to be flexible when it came to allowing employees to attend to family needs. There was little resistence to reasonable requests to time off, even at the last moment. I was told a story of how a valued employee was given a day off before a big customer event the next day when the business would likely be quite busy– the manager didn’t seem to even break a sweat about the matter. As you might expect, employees were genuinely appreciative of the committment of the management, and little was reported in terms of employees taking advantage or “gaming”– most employees were grateful for the kindness and returned the consideration with increased productivity and retention.

That’s all fine and well, but what really struck me was how much effort had gone into the results I was observing. The ability to be flexible was the outcome of years of great management. A few observations:

  • The ability of management to be flexible to employee requests required that many employees had been cross-trained for different roles in the business.
  • Employee turnover was very low. You can cross-train employees more effectively in a stable workforce.
  • The philosophy of the leadership in this business was to trust employees. If there were performance problems those would certainly be addressed, but giving trust to employees brought trust back many-fold.

Some managers may like the idea of being more family-friendly and have a desire in accommodating the personal needs of those whom they manage. To effectively implement a concept may require years of carefully designed management– time to get to work.

One Response to “Being Flexible To Employee Needs Takes Great Management”

  1. guajardoforesight March 17, 2009 at 8:21 am #

    I have spoke to a department manager about this kind of flexibility and trust of employees. His response was pretty skeptical.

    He shared a story with me about how he had tried this once before (unmonitored telecommuting) and he felt that people gamed the system. He was actually pretty sad about how much trust he lost in his people.

    I still think giving employees is the right ting to do. It will pay dividends in the long run. However, it is good to know your employees and to design the system with objective performance metrics in mind.

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