Line managers the key to success of flexible working

2005

Getting line managers on board is the key to making flexible working a credible reality in the workplace, a new study has argued.

The research by the British Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found the attitudes and skills of line managers were at the heart of bringing flexible working policies to life.

Without such backing, organisations were unlikely to reap any benefits from flexible working, however good their policies on paper, it warned.

The organisation has also published a guide, Flexible working: the implementation challenge, designed to help employers and line managers effectively implement flexible working to the benefit of both the business and employees.

Its study found almost half – 45 per cent – of line managers reported difficulties in implementing flexible working practices.

The factors most likely to cause problems were demonstrating fairness between employees, communicating with their team and controlling workflow.

Rebecca Clake, CIPD organisation and resourcing adviser, said: "The real challenge for employers is how to implement and operate flexible working in practice, in order to create the positive culture and secure the improved performance they desire.

"The guide suggests that the role of the manager goes beyond their understanding of policy and process, it is their mindset and attitudes as well as their ability to handle the management issues associated with a more flexible workforce that is crucial," she added.

"CIPD research shows there are clear business benefits to be achieved from introducing effective flexible working policies, three-quarters of employers say flexible working practices have a positive effect on staff retention, and 70 per cent say that flexible working has had a positive effect on staff motivation," Clake continued.

"Organisations who only half-heartedly introduce policies or fail to effectively implement good policies could lose out on the possible benefits," she warned.

The research has been backed by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Gerry Sutcliffe, employment relations and consumer affairs minister, said: "The Government is committed to the growth of flexible working. It is good for business, employees and their families."

The main challenges behind making flexible working a reality were management attitudes and skills, it said.

Managers needed to have the "will" as well as the "skill" to manage flexible working effectively.

Core competencies that had to be addressed when introducing flexible working had to included performance management, communication, resource planning and monitoring and evaluation, said the CIPD.

Just a quarter of organisations formally monitored the take-up of flexible working and only one-fifth evaluated the effectiveness of one or more of their flexible working practices in the previous year, it warned.

Organisational culture, trust and fairness were also key factors when it came to making a success of flexible working, it added.

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