Adopting a strategic approach to flexibility ensures it is viewed as an important organisational issue. When issues are seen as organisational, rather than individual, there is an understanding that they need to be dealt with comprehensively, taking into account every part of the organisation.
A strategic approach to flexibility
Due to the increasing imperative for organisations to improve their flexibility capability, flexibility is no longer confined to the working relationship between an employee and their manager. It involves many parts of the organisation working together to create a successful transformation. Whether it be creating new processes and systems around work; requiring managers and employees to change the way they work; or implementing new infrastructure and technology, organisations need to create a holistic, integrated approach that involves all key stakeholders. Leaders also need to play a role in supporting flexibility, whether it be via resourcing, modelling flexibility themselves or creating accountability for the transformation. The strategic approach enables internal decision makers to make choices that support the overall business direction. This is the role of a flexibility strategy, to enable decision making, as well as support implementation more broadly.
The change process
The change to organisation-wide flexibility requires a comprehensive strategy that includes an ongoing learning process, which enables the organisation to handle the complexity. In the past, flexibility has been seen as a benefit to employees, with little focus on the potential benefits to the organisation. As a result, the focus is usually on individuals and their managers with many organisations yet to develop the capabilities needed for effective, productive flexibility. Often within organisations, flexibility begins with one trusted, valued employee adopting a flexible working arrangement with minimal imposition on operations. While this is an important first step, it is not sufficient to enable an organisation to deal with the important areas of change that facilitate organisation-wide flexibility. An organisation’s experience of flexible work with isolated individuals may reinforce, rather than challenge, existing misunderstandings about flexibility.