Inconsistency in flexible working strategies is leading directly to talent attrition, according to a new report.
Unit4 has announced the people and HR-related findings of its second annual Business Future Index.
Having surveyed 3,450 respondents across 12 global markets including Australia to understand how much people, policy and technology changes have accelerated over the past 12 months, the Index revealed significant concerns with flexible working strategies despite a dramatic acceleration in its adoption.
With competition for talent growing, there is a danger that failure to improve working policies and implement the right tools could lead to more employees choosing those employers who offer a more flexible approach.
According to the report, 76% (AU: 77%) of respondents say flexible working policies need improvement and 62% (AU: 59%) agree the tools to support flexible working are not adequate
Only 18% (AU: 21%) of respondents experience a flexible working policy without restrictions, and 39% (AU: 34%) of organisations have seen people leave their business for more flexibility elsewhere over the past year.
Attracting and retaining talent (Global: 62%, AU: 66%) is the biggest priority for organisations over the next 12 months, while only a quarter (Global: 25%, AU: 31%) of respondents say diversity is a planning focus for the coming year.
Flexibility important but implementation inconsistent
The Business Future Index found 92% (AU: 91%) of respondents stating that their organisations have now adopted some form of flexible working policy. However, it also reveals there is much work to be done to apply these policies more equitably and ensure employees have the right framework and tools to enable such approaches.
For example, the Index discovered 37% (AU: 40%) of people work flexible hours, such as working from 9am 3pm, then making up time in the evening, with 31% (AU: 34%) working a completely flexible hybrid model (office and home based), while 31% (AU: 29%) are mandated to spend a proportion of time in the office (for example, a certain number of days per week).
While the reasonably even split between the different types of flexible working is understandable given that not every organisation can offer complete remote working, other data suggests an imbalance in how such policies are applied. While 55% (AU: 61%) say flexible working applies to all employees, more than a third (Global: 35%, AU: 31%) say it only applies to some employees dependent on job role, and 9% (AU: 7%) suggest it depends on the managers discretion applying only to some employees. Given that less than one fifth of employees (Global: 18%, AU: 21%) experience flexible working without restrictions, there is still some way to go to improve such policies and, therefore, it is critical organisations move quickly to avoid loss of talent.
Big drivers for workforce strategies: recruitment, diversity and technology
Attracting and retaining talent remains the top priority for all organisations across the globe in the year ahead, but the Index reveals further challenges impacting workforce strategies, including:
Staff retention - organisations struggling to find and retain staff across a mix of generations (Global: 36%, AU: 39%)
ESG credentials - One fifth (Global: 20%, AU: 24%) believe their company is perceived to have poor Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials
Diversity only 25% (AU: 31%) of organisations plan to improve diversity within the business
Re-skilling talent (Global: 51%, AU: 49%) and implementing a successful flexible/hybrid working policy (Global: 50%, AU: 60%) also make it onto the list of top business priorities, compounded by 51% (AU: 57%) who believe that the real need to enhance talent strategies will hinder their ability to achieve their objectives.
Diversity is still an area where attention is needed, because although there has been an increase in the number of respondents saying their organisations plan to improve diversity compared to last years Business Future Index, still only a quarter say they will focus on it. Organisations that outperformed their business targets for 2021 were more likely to be further ahead in planning changes to their diversity policies compared with organisations that had performed less well.
"Given the need to attract a broad spectrum of talent into organisations from different demographic groups to meet demand for skills, the Business Future Index shows businesses must make diversity a higher priority," says Tania Garrett, Chief People Officer, Unit4.
"Along with investing more in reskilling their existing workforce to help meet future requirements, the Index clearly shows there is a close correlation between investment in innovative technologies and a positive impact on recruitment and retention," she says.
"The people-related data in the Business Future Index 2022 highlights the impacts of accelerated change on workforce strategies, some of which are positive. What is clear is that those that had accelerated change in the last 12 months have seen their employees benefit from better well-being and team collaboration," Garrett says.
"However, there is still progress to be made as a failure to react to the evolving workplace and make the right investment decisions will see complacent and reluctant organisations fall behind in the competition for talent."