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Successfully managing your new elastic workforce

A critical change out of the COVID-19 crisis is the shaping of a new working concept – the elastic workforce. As we shift into the next phase of the ongoing disruption, leaders are starting to consider the opportunity to drive operational resilience through redefined management.

In our leadership insights series, Leading for a changed future – what are your ‘AHA’ moments, we explore how leaders can build agility and sustainability in their organisations. An elastic workforce will be pivotal in allowing leaders to tap into the unique value of its people to drive performance and productivity no matter the circumstance, knowing that their teams are engaged and motivated.

The first step is truly understanding what that means and what it looks like for each individual organisation. There is a wealth of possibilities for leaders to explore in flexibility, ranging from loosening geographical bounds to reimagining roles completely. The current crisis put the spotlight on remote working, but we must now build on this in other forms.

A bolder and better future

The concepts behind an elastic workforce is not new. A 2016 PwC report outlines some of the innovative ideas the company explored for itself, including unprescribed sick leave to allow employees to care for others; reduced hours and flexible working times; job sharing and more. Chief People Officer, Mike Fenlon, stated at the time, “… achieving a culture of flexibility requires a culture of trust – where we can openly discuss our flexibility needs without fear of being viewed as less committed.”

The results speak for themselves in numerous examples. A 2019 report by the Australian Government and Workplace Gender Equality Agency found game-changing cases of companies benefiting from nurturing an elastic workforce, including:

A blueprint for change

So, how can leaders leverage and manage an elastic workforce effectively? Here are three ways to drive that transformation:

  1. People-focused management. This shift is about putting people first which means adapting leadership styles where needed. Leaders must understand that everyone, regardless of circumstance, deserves the same degree of flexibility and that the trust is a given, not something to be earned. If an individual was respected enough to be hired, the same thinking must apply to flexibility.
  2. Accurate information. As explored previously in our piece on meaningful metrics during crisis management, insight-driven data must drive the future. A Single Source of Truth for key metrics helps identify capacity and pairs it with the contextual information needed for leaders to make rapid decisions, especially in reallocating resources to allow flexibility in job roles.
  3. Outcomes over apparent productivity. Leaders must not lose sight of the fact that hours worked or time spent does not translate to better outputs, with short bursts of activity often leading to increased productivity. The key is to ensure the metrics measure true outcomes and that people are given the tools necessary to enable their output as needed.

It comes down to engagement. Investing in workplace flexibility promises significant benefits to productivity by ensuring: employee buy-in, earning the organisation their trust, respect and commitment; higher morale with the additional control they are afforded over their own lives; value added through highly engaged employees that are more driven to produce results even off-time; and even the ability to attract a broader pool of talent enticed by the solid workplace culture on offer.

Leaders, it’s time to embrace the elastic workforce or risk being left behind!

Lead your business into a changed future with Enlighten. To explore your options, reach out to Helen Mackay, Head of Sales and Marketing at helen.mackay@enlighten-opex.com for a virtual coffee chat.

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