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How do you grow when you can’t find people?

You may think you can’t find the right people to achieve your growth goals but they’re out there in the job market. They’re waiting for you to offer them the thing they want most: flexibility. No more labels, no more mandates. People choose to work for employers who listen and understand that work and personal lives are inseparable, and that one size cannot possibly fit all.

Adding new blanket policies, like mandates to work onsite, will not attract and retain the talent you need to grow. Rethinking everything you know about people and work through a lens of flexibility will.

Infuse flexibility into your cultural DNA

Many employers have been slow to acknowledge that yesterday’s best practices may no longer apply. Not understanding and accepting what employees want today makes it difficult to compete for top talent.

Within recent memory, there were two or three generations in the workplace who shared similar life experiences and cultural traditions as well as a slower pace of change than we have today. People settled for simply having a job.

Now there are five generations working together in an environment of constant change. Traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, millennials, and generation Z represent employees from ages 16 to 75. Their values and expectations characterize the particular aspirations, challenges, and lived experiences of their era. And, naturally, they differ widely.

HR thought leader and author, Josh Bersin, points out in a recent report that we must reinvent our companies faster than ever (and certainly faster than the competition). As the labor force continues to shrink, he advises companies to, among other things, “hoard talent, and redevelop and redeploy people for growth.” In other words, make flexibility the foundation for your cultural DNA. Constant change has become the defining feature of work life and it requires equally constant flexibility.


Glassdoor research serves as punctuation. Gen Z, defined by rapid change, will overtake boomers in terms of workplace numbers this year and dominate the workforce in the years to come. In addition to expecting and inviting change, Gen Z brings their own set of values to workplace cultures. They care deeply about community connections, being heard, transparent and responsive leadership, and diversity and inclusion. “Zoomers” question everything and everyone and value collaboration and teamwork, mental health, and work-life balance. Taken together, these factors are bringing “a pivotal moment of cultural change” to organizations.

Forbes’ research puts the flexibility lens into numbers: Across the generations, an overwhelming 79 percent of respondents prioritize flexible work options, with 64 percent highlighting the need for flexible parental leave and 62 percent emphasizing access to mental health resources.


Rethinking and reinventing

Remote/hybrid work options provide an illustration of what reinvention can look like through the lens of flexibility. Younger workers are often more open to working onsite because they haven’t had a chance to fully experience it yet. Workers with kids appreciate the potential to save childcare costs and the opportunity to be at home with their children. Mid-life employees may have caretaking responsibilities for elderly parents, and employees of any age may have caregiving responsibilities at home. Some people like the connection and opportunity that onsite work provides. Others believe they are more productive working from home.

Rather than mandate that everyone works onsite full time or close your offices and set up everyone to work remotely, you can offer a diverse range of choices that allows employees the flexibility to choose the way they work best. Supporting everyone in working at their best should be every employer’s goal. It increases productivity, retention, and profitability.

In addition to supporting those who choose to work full-time at the office or from home, hybrid flexibility adds options for four-day weeks, part-time work, job sharing, sabbaticals, and any personalized combination of them. If personal events or health necessitate a change, it should be natural and easy to create new work schedules.

While where and when to work are the most talked-about topics related to flexibility, consider other aspects of your culture where you can increase employees’ options. People also value flexibility in:

  • Benefits. Provide a wide range of benefits that allow employees to choose the ones they need. (Boomers do not need maternity benefits.) Use employee feedback surveys and exit interviews to ensure diverse needs are covered.
  • Communication. Use various formats: email, group chats, in-person meetings, video calls, or other methods preferred by team members to ensure everyone gets the messages and feels their participation is valued. Encourage horizontal communication so different generations can share skills and wisdom.
  • Training & Development. Support people in their growth by allowing them to apply for internal jobs and move up, down, or horizontally to meet their personal career goals in a role that suits them.
  • Teams. Provide opportunities for team development, collaboration, and upward communication, which help squash biases and encourage cross-generational teamwork.
  • Mentoring. Develop a mentoring program to help cross generational divides and serve as a tool to share experience, skills, and knowledge.
  • Work Styles. What makes an ideal work environment ranges from structure and fixed schedules to rejection of everything traditional. Consider personal style when matching employees with managers and build in flexibility related to performance evaluations, feedback, development, and other factors.

When a large majority of employees consider flexibility a priority, employers competing for talent must listen. By making options and choice key elements of your culture you show that you value everyone’s needs and perspectives. You’ll see stronger teamwork, innovation, and productivity. And you’ll ensure a competitive advantage in finding and keeping the top talent you need for growth

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