The Complete Guide to Recruiting and Building a Flexible Team

What is Flexible Work?

One of the biggest issues companies have with building a flexible workforce is they don't fully understand what "flexibility" means in the business world. Flexible work doesn't just have to mean allowing teams to work remotely.

A flexible workplace can be any environment that provides employees with more diversity in managing their hours and workflows. The underlying idea is to switch from looking at productivity in terms of hours spent in the office to paying attention to an individual's output and key deliverables.

A flexible working strategy can include the following:

  • Flexible hours: Flexible working hours allow employees to choose their schedules to fit around existing commitments. This enables a greater level of work-life balance. Staff members can choose to start and end their work day whenever they choose, provided that they deliver the results required by the company.
  • Condensed schedules: The four-day workweek has become a popular trend in the flexible work landscape. Condensed schedules allow team members to complete their allotted hours in fewer days, giving them more time for themselves and their families. This can help to improve wellbeing in the workplace and improve employee engagement.
  • Remote and hybrid work: While remote work strategies aren't the only way to embed flexibility into the workplace, they are a popular option. Even if team members can't work away from the office full-time, companies can offer hybrid working strategies which allow team members to choose where they work based on their needs and tasks.

The Value of Flexibility in the Workplace

Before the pandemic, flexible working roles were relatively uncommon. Many business leaders assumed giving their team members more flexibility would damage productivity, lead to disengagement, and reduce results.

However, after the pandemic forced more companies to experiment with flexible strategies, they began to discover that flexible work offers many benefits for both businesses and their employees.

The Benefits of Flexible Working for Employees

For employees, flexible working offers several distinct benefits. Primarily, it's an excellent tool for promoting wellbeing. With more flexibility in their work hours and locations, team members can spend more time focusing on their needs and personal life.

For team members, access to flexible work provides benefits like:

  • Less stress: With flexible work, employees can choose where to work to minimise stress and anxiety. They can also avoid the headache of commuting to work each day, meaning teams spend longer on crucial tasks. One report in People Management found 52% of remote workers work longer hours when away from the office.
  • Greater job satisfaction: Giving employees the freedom to manage their tasks and time according to their specific needs increases their confidence, boosts their morale, and makes them more engaged. When staff members believe their employers value their wellbeing and work-life balance, they feel more committed to the company.
  • Greater wellbeing: Remote work doesn't just tackle the issue of stress in the workplace; it also provides teams with the freedom they need to focus on work/life balance and keeping themselves healthy. Wellbeing in the workplace minimises absenteeism and improves the workplace for both employees and employers alike.

Crucially, in today's complex economic environment, flexible working opportunities can also help staff members to save money on commuting, buying lunch away from home, and more.

The Benefits of Flexible Working for Employers

For employers, evidence of the benefits of flexible working has been mounting up for a while now. Studies have found, as reported by Gallup, that offering flexible work opportunities increases employee engagement. More engaged employees deliver better results and are more enthusiastic and energetic.

For business leaders, flexible work offers benefits like:

  • Improved employee retention: Following the pandemic, the Great Resignation was heavily driven by employees looking for new roles offering flexibility. Offering flexible working opportunities within your business can help you retain crucial talent and strengthen employees' loyalty towards your business.
  • Innovation: Employees who are less stressed and overwhelmed in the workplace are more likely to be creative and innovative. Moreover, because flexible employment opens the door to hiring staff members worldwide, companies can access a more diverse range of people for their teams, improving creativity on a massive scale.
  • Easier recruiting: Not only does flexible working provide companies with access to a larger talent pool, but it can also make it easier to attract qualified candidates to roles. In a skills-short market, a flexible working policy can help to strengthen your employee value proposition and encourage new team members to join your workforce.
  • Productivity: Stressed, overworked employees are more likely to disengage from the workforce, quit their jobs, or take sick days. According to one Gartner study, 43% of respondents said flexible working hours helped them achieve higher productivity levels. Additionally, 30% said no time commuting made them more productive.
  • New Opportunities: With flexible working hours, companies can hire staff members from around the globe, making it easier to explore new opportunities for growth and development. It's even possible to create better opening hours for customer service, improving customer retention and loyalty.

Recruiting a Flexible Team: The Key Steps

The first step in building a flexible team is learning how to adjust your recruiting strategy to improve your chances of reaching a diverse talent pool. The easiest way to make your roles more appealing to the right staff members, and boost your chances of accessing flexible talent, is to work with a recruitment company with experience in the field.

A recruitment company can help you enhance your job descriptions to showcase your focus on flexibility, determine which roles you can offer flexible work for, and even provide access to passive candidates and other sources of talent.

Alongside finding the right recruitment team, companies investing in flexible working practices will need to follow these steps to transform their hiring process:

Step 1: Identify Areas Where Flexibility is Required

First, it's worth examining your business structure and determining where flexible work is necessary or even possible. Not every role will be suitable for remote working, but many will benefit from different forms of flexibility, such as different working hours.

Examine the current team members in your workplace, and think about the roles you want to hire for. Consider the nature of the tasks employees will be completing and how productive they'll be able to be outside of the workplace or working according to their schedules.

It's also worth discussing options for flexible working with employees. For instance, ask your team members whether they'd prefer flexible working strategies or more structure in their routine.
Negotiate opportunities based on your staff members' needs and business requirements. For instance, if you can't allow a person to work remotely full time, can you offer a hybrid work schedule to benefit their work/life balance?

Step 2: Emphasising Flexibility in Job Descriptions

Once you've determined where flexibility can be implemented into your business structure, the next step is updating your job descriptions with a focus on the opportunities you can offer. In the landscape, a job description isn't just a way to inform candidates of the tasks they'll be expected to complete in a role. While setting expectations for output is important, it's also crucial to highlight your employee value proposition and what you can offer your teams.

Explain in job descriptions exactly what aspects of flexible working each candidate can access in their role. Can they choose to work remotely or in a hybrid setting? Will they have autonomy over their working hours or be able to work a four-day week?

It's also worth communicating how your company empowers employees to stay productive and efficient. Highlight the tools and resources you can offer flexible employees, how you preserve company culture with different types of workers, and how you deliver on promises for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Step 3: Evaluating Candidates: Skills and Traits to Look For

Next, business leaders need to consider how they'll assess each candidate's viability for flexible work. Not every employee will be well-suited to a remote or hybrid work strategy. Some team members need more structure to thrive in their roles. During the interview process, you can ask questions to look for specific traits crucial to flexible working, such as:

  • Communication skills: Ask team members how they stay connected with a diverse range of distributed employees when face-to-face interactions aren't available. Discuss the tools and technologies they're familiar with, such as video conferencing and messaging apps.
  • Critical thinking: Flexible workers have more autonomy over their roles, which means they need to be able to act intuitively and independently. Ask your candidates for examples of how they've resolved problems in the past with their critical thinking skills.
  • Discipline: While many flexible workers show phenomenal discipline when working on a flexible schedule, others can struggle without structure. Ask your employees how they'll ensure they reach their targets and deliver results when working flexibly.
  • Collaboration: Communication and collaboration are crucial in a flexible working environment. Ensuring your staff members know how to work effectively together in any setting is essential to preserving productivity in the workplace.
  • Time management: If your employees choose their own hours and working schedules, they also need to be able to manage their time effectively. Ask questions about how your employees handle their schedules and minimise time management issues.

Nurturing a Flexible Team: Empowering Staff to Thrive

Recruiting flexible workers to join your team is only the first step in creating a productive and powerful company in the modern world. Once you've found the right talent for your workforce, you must also ensure you provide your staff members with the tools and resources they need to thrive.

Companies can empower their flexible teams in several ways, from investing in innovative cloud-based technology to keep staff connected to investing in consistent communication. Here are some core areas business leaders must focus on to ensure their employees can stay productive.

Training and Development: Supporting Teams in Flexible Work

First, while flexible work is becoming more common in the landscape, it's still something many employees aren't familiar with. While you can assess your new candidates during the interview process to check for traits and characteristics that make them suitable for flexible work, it's also worth providing access to consistent training and development focusing on.

  • Technical skills: Provide employees with the technical guidance to utilise tools critical to their workflow. This could include training on collaboration and communication tools, using cloud-based software, and managing schedules and time effectively with calendars, project management tools, and to-do lists.
  • Soft skills: Some employees in the flexible workplace will require extra support developing the soft skills they need to be effective in their roles. They may need help strengthening their communication or leadership skills or guidance on time management and critical thinking. Regular training and support from leadership can help to promote stronger company culture and better engagement from staff.

Additionally, companies could consider implementing mentorship and buddy programs, which encourage staff members to share skills and learn collaboratively. Mentors in the business environment can share their insights, help to keep staff members engaged and improve the onboarding experience for new staff members.

Encouraging a Flexible Mindset and Company Culture

Implementing flexible work into the landscape doesn't just involve investing in cloud-based software and giving teams more autonomy over their schedules. Companies also need to adapt their culture and focus on strengthening the mindsets of their flexible employees.

First and foremost, it's important to create a sense of community in the workplace between every employee, regardless of whether they're working remotely, on a traditional schedule, or with a condensed work week.

Around half of the employees in one study said they stayed in their jobs for longer when they felt a strong sense of community. Encourage your teams to collaborate and communicate regularly to build stronger bonds.

Additionally, it's worth cultivating the right mindset by setting expectations for flexible work as early as possible. Let team members know how much freedom they'll have and how they'll be expected to perform in return. Provide regular feedback and guidance to ensure staff members stay on the right track, and encourage people to act independently and communicate their needs to leaders and supervisors when necessary.

Other great ways to boost your flexible company culture include:

  • Make collaboration fun: Get people invested in collaborating with team members with gamification, feedback, rewards, and fun group sessions. Allow people to build bonds in the workplace by promoting regular conversations not focused on work.
  • Keep teams engaged: Keep staff members engaged by rewarding their hard work, offering feedback, and keeping everyone informed with regular, transparent communication. This will help to prevent flexible workers from feeling isolated.
  • Collect feedback: Don't just provide feedback to teams; listen to your flexible workers, and pay attention to their evolving needs over time. Ensure your staff members feel comfortable approaching leadership about changes to their schedule or role.

Supporting Leaders in Managing Flexible Teams

While many factors can make or break the success of a flexible team, few things are more important than the right leadership strategy. Leaders in your team are responsible for keeping staff engaged, motivated, and productive wherever they are.

Start by teaching leaders how to adapt their management style to their team members. Focus on eliminating issues like "micromanagement". 68% of workers say micromanagement decreases their morale, and 55% say it harms their productivity.

Today's flexible staff members want to feel like they're trusted to handle things independently. Unfortunately, business leaders can often struggle to determine when to give employees autonomy and when to provide direction.

Leaders can improve the morale and performance of flexible teams by:

  • Communicating consistently and effectively: Leaders should constantly communicate transparently with their employees, wherever they are, to provide them with guidance, feedback, and direction. Providing clarity on expectations and maintaining an open line of communication is crucial to boosting workplace productivity. Good communication skills from leaders can also encourage staff members to reach out when they're worried their current schedule might lead to burnout.
  • Prioritising wellbeing: One of the biggest benefits of the flexible workspace is greater work/life balance. However, leaders still need to encourage team members to look after their mental and physical health. Creating a wellbeing programme or implementing strategies to assist team members in protecting their health when working flexibly can reduce the risk of a flexible strategy failing to thrive.
  • Setting flexible teams up for success: Encourage leaders to discuss each employee's needs regularly to provide the right resources to every staff member. Some employees may need access to specific cloud-based software to work remotely or hardware to set up a home office. Others will need assistance learning project management, productivity, and collaboration tools.

Above all, leaders should consistently commit to building trust in the workplace. Encourage supervisors and managers to give their teams the freedom to work independently and concentrate on delivering transparent, honest communications.

Unlocking the Power of Flexibility for your Team

Adapting to a flexible workplace environment can seem complex for any team. However, learning to recruit and build a flexible workforce is becoming increasingly crucial in the modern world. Implementing the right strategies can improve your chances of attracting top talent to your team, boost employee retention, and even strengthen productivity.

One of the best ways to strengthen the quality of your flexible workplace strategy is to work with a  recruiter who knows how to navigate the flexible landscape. A dedicated recruiter will help you to attract more candidates to your roles, make your employer brand more attractive, and expand your talent pool.

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17th July

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