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Build Your Career Get the Job

Want Top Talent? Give Employees the Flexibility They Seek

Credit: GPointStudio/Shutterstock

If you aren't giving your staff some flexibility in when and where they work, you likely are going to have a tough time attracting top job candidates moving forward, new research finds.

The study from ManpowerGroup Solutions revealed that nearly 40 percent of job candidates worldwide said schedule flexibility is now among the top three factors they consider when making career decisions.

"Workplace flexibility as a talent management policy is no longer an option; it is an essential practice that enables organizations to attract and develop skilled talent," the study's authors wrote.

It is important for employers to understand that workplace flexibility doesn't just refer to giving employees schedules that best suit their needs or allowing them to work from home on certain days. The study's authors said flexibility includes a broad spectrum of work arrangements, including the following:

  1. Flexible arrival and departure times
  2. Full-time work from home or location independence
  3. Choice and control in work shifts
  4. Part-time work from home
  5. Compressed shifts or workweek
  6. Opportunity for sabbaticals or career breaks (e.g., extended time off)
  7. Unlimited paid time off
  8. Caregiving leave

"Workplace flexibility doesn't just mean working remotely," said Kate Donovan, senior vice president of ManpowerGroup Solutions and Global RPO president, in a statement. "It includes all types of working arrangements, from when to take breaks, working from home or caregiving leave. While no employer can accommodate every option, they can provide a range that appeal to a variety of candidates."

The research found that choosing when they start and end their shifts and being able to work from where they want are the two most desired types of flexible workplace policies for employees. Specifically, 26 percent of the employees surveyed said flexible arrival and departure times are most important, with 22 percent saying they prefer the ability to work from home or any other place they choose. [Want to offer flexible work options? Here's what your employees want]

In the U.S., 8 percent of employees desire an unlimited vacation policy, the largest group from any country.

"In the United States, where workers regularly forgo paid vacation time, the allure of unlimited paid time off (PTO) remains," the study's authors wrote. "Some companies offer not only unlimited vacation days but also pay for employees to volunteer at nonprofits or give back to their communities."

To ensure they attract the top candidates, employers need to make sure they are creating policies that provide the types of flexibility today's employees are seeking, according to the study.

"Organizations need to be ready to drop old work models that emphasize presenteeism over performance," Donovan said. "It's time to shift the needle – employers who meet candidate expectations around schedule flexibility have the advantage in recruiting and retaining the best talent."

ManpowerGroup Solutions offers several tips on how employers can better meet the demand for flexibility:

  • Align incentives with outcomes. Instead of replacing face-time requirements with hours logged in on a virtual private network, which can be perceived by employees as inauthentic, employers should simply set goals and deadlines. If employees meet them, their bosses can worry less about when they clock in and out.
  • Eliminate flexibility stigmas. Change your company's culture so those who do take advantage of flexible options aren't looked down on for doing so. This change needs to start at the top. Company leaders need to be transparent and lead by example.
  • Start small. Don't try to totally transition your culture overnight. Instead, take baby steps by allowing some employees to shift schedules or designate remote working days.
  • Take advantage of technology. There is a wide selection of technology tools employers can leverage to make flexible workplace options more successful. Time management, workflow, internal communications, project management and feedback tools are options employers should consider using.

"Candidate demands for schedule flexibility show little sign of abating," the study's authors wrote. "Organizations seeking to recruit and retain the world’s top talent must effectively respond to candidate interests."

The study was based on surveys of 14,000 professionals in 19 countries, including the U.S.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.