Smart Companies Keep Smart People
David Lennan. Chairman, Work Wise UK. 19 May 2012
Everyone has been telling us this week in Blogs, Tweets, Facebook and simple E mails that the world of work has changed and continues to do so at a very rapid rate. We know this all too well as Work Wise UK has been pioneering smarter, flexible working across the UK, for the last 7 years.
We have worked with companies large and small, helping them develop strategies and implement work plans to keep their industries and people ahead of the game. But here we are just a few weeks away from the greatest sporting event on the planet and we are still talking about “company’s preparedness” for the huge numbers of visitors to the UK and how companies are going to cope.
The smart companies and people have already created the flexible working environments that will allow them to showcase their businesses to the world and demonstrate beyond doubt what a great place the UK is to do business and that our innovative people really are the best.
Our bloggers have said as much this week. John Taylor Chief Executive of ACAS said that “It is vital to recognise that how we manage human capital is a crucial aspect of the UK growth agenda. Indeed securing high levels of employee engagement is equally as important as acquiring high levels of skills”
How right he is, just look at the headlines this week with our world leading motor industry securing another great success at Vauxhall Merseyside by securing the production of the Astra. The company is hugely proud to say that they have created a 21st Century work place and what a result they have delivered in this Olympic year. This really is a perfect year for employers and employees to actually rethink and remould what they do, how they do it and how they relate to each other.
As Richard Stephens Founding Director of StaffShare the skill exchange, so clearly said “The 20-30 Y-Generation demand a very different attitude in how they use their work time. They want flexibility and movement away from the 9-5 culture their parents put up with. Forget work life balance, he said, “it’s about live integration-a seamless, virtual connectivity between interest and action - they do not need offices, desks, or other people and perhaps even clocks are questionable. They live in a mashed up existence, driven by the same energy as we have (or had) but use in a faster and more effective way than we ever thought possible.”
To support this thinking Simon Curry CEO of PowWowNow, a leading provider of conference call services said that “The revolution of technology within business has made it possible for the way we work to completely change. Wi-Fi now allows you to be on the go 24/7 and choose your working patterns. We no longer need expensive hardware, or dedicated conference rooms or even offices for businesses to be able to function. The ability to run a successful business based on the merit of talent, not geography or convenience. What a revolution for the business world and especially business owners.”
Tony Grace, the Chief Operating Officer for Virgin Media Business told us that “There’s no set rule for how people work best. Businesses need to be more flexible about every aspect of the way they work. This will not only engage and motivate a workforce, but also allow a business to tailor how it communicates with its customers. Implementing home working strategies is one way businesses can become more adaptable and cost effective”.
Clearly, smarter working is not constricted by time or location as Steve Byrne, Managing Director for Travel Counsellors pointed out when he said, “As the web has made 24/7 a commercial reality, it is those businesses that are there for their customers when they need them that will thrive and prosper, and this is where flexible working comes in. However, being available is only part of what it requires to use flexible working effectively. You also need to provide an intense level of care for your customers and if you do that your physical location is irrelevant”.
It was interesting to hear the views of Nicola Smith, Head of Economic and Social Affairs at the TUC, when she commented: “It has certainly been a mistake for many employers to take their eyes off of the ball during the recession. Flexible working and high-quality homeworking should not just be seen as part of the remuneration package but should be viewed as part of coherent personnel and delivery strategies.
Certainly working from home is often a genuine all-round win situation. Many workers are keen to cut out the stressful and expensive commute, employers who have already taken the plunge have gained improved productivity and staff motivation whilst constraining real estate costs, and cutting commuting would help to reduce congestion and pollution”.
I was in full agreement with Philip Gomm, Head of External Communications at the RAC Foundation when he reminded us all that “The beauty of smarter working is that everyone is a winner; even those who cannot inject some flexibility into their daily routines. Each person who can stagger their journey or avoid making it all together is one less person those of us who are tied to rigid rush-hour travel patterns will have to fight for road space with every morning”.
The Work Wise UK team have experienced all these changes at first hand as we have helped businesses in the private, public and voluntary sectors achieve their ambitions by transforming their people and operations into real 21st Century workplaces.
We are still in a huge economic downturn and the Governor of the Bank of England has warned this week of storms ahead. As we all know, storms have warning signs and just as weather pressures change, so does the pressure in the workplace. We all know when a head of steam is building. We have seen in our news coverage this week that rocks and immovable hard places, pterodactyls and terrorists exist in workplaces across the world. People don’t like change and will resist as long a possible, but the consequences of not re-thinking the paradigm in good time are clear for all to see.
Downturns don’t just happen overnight. It is the job of directors to monitor information and data and direct their business accordingly. There is a real need to manage capacity issues in a different way and rethink how business can be successfully run in today’s world. A strategic plan isn’t just a new business plan, a rebranding exercise or an excuse to make people redundant. A strategy is taking a really good look in to the future, which none of us can predict, but we can all be part of creating.
How crazy is it, to spend money recruiting the best people, developing the talent, building a corporate culture only to destroy it during downturns, through making people redundant to match reduced capacity? Anyone who has been through this experience will know what a thoroughly dehumanising experience it is. What a strange society it is, that devotes more time and money to recycling plastic bottles than it does into recycling the skills of people!
Our bloggers this week have pointed out, that people’s attitude to work has changed fast and this latest recession means nothing will ever be quite the same again for any of us. Self-employment is a now forming a big and growing part of the workforce. Portable skills are paramount, more and more people realise the skills they have are portable and they will be sharing these across companies as talent shortages emerge across industries. As growth is stimulated by national government, skills sharing will emerge across supply chains locally and companies that want to succeed as the economy grows will realise the need to retain and develop the talent they have and share skills for the benefit of all.
Work Wise UK will continue to assist companies wanting to respond to the challenges of growth and the fast changing workplace, by helping them develop smarter working practices, achieving our Mark of Excellence and staying ahead of the game. We look forward to 2013 our 8th year and following the Olympics we are keen to see what we have learnt and how the future is looking.
So, as this week draws to a close it just remains for me to thank everyone for their positive contributions, which have helped to make Work Wise Week 2012 the most proactive and successful so far.
Work Wise Week 2012
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