If you want to introduce a funky new HR policy, make sure you do it fairly

by Bee Heller
June 26, 2017

Flexitime, unlimited holiday, 3 day weekends… these working practices are becoming much more fashionable in organisations today. The gig economy, equal parenting, people’s desire to work part-time, are all forcing companies to be flexible in the way they allow people to work.

The evidence for offering more flexible ways of working is compelling. Take 3 day weekends as an example, this infographic clearly shows the benefits they can bring…

Why Every Weekend Should Be A 3 Day Weekend
Before you go and persuade your executive team to introduce 3 day weekends, unlimited holiday and flexitime for everyone, some words of caution…

Many companies have introduced an unlimited holiday policy, only to backtrack later due to people taking no holiday at all or conversely people abusing the system and never doing any work. Tech company Travis CI provides just one example of how an unlimited holiday policy can have unintended consequences.

No matter how well intended or seemingly well designed, people will interpret new HR policies in a range of different ways. One law firm I know announced the introduction of new contracts and benefits for overseas workers designed to make things fairer across the company. Some employees on existing contracts perceived this as a worse deal. This prompted individual line managers to force through contract renewals for their ’star’ performers early to secure them on the old deal. A policy that was designed to make things fairer instead highlighted the patronage people received within the business.

One thing that’s clear, if you want to encourage more flexible ways of working you can’t just write a new HR policy. You need a company culture that supports the change you’re looking to make. And when it comes to flexible working, I think what you really need is a culture of fairness. A culture where everyone is treated equally, there’s no free riders or teacher’s pet. A culture where everyone understands that everyone’s different – people work in different ways at different times and there doesn’t need to be a one size fits all approach.

While being treated fairly won’t necessarily motivate people to do great things, a lack of fairness will undermine and eat away at your organisation’s performance.

My advice, if you want to encourage more flexible working, first cultivate a culture of fairness. Shift conversations and attention away from how much time people are spending in the office and instead focus on people’s outputs and the quality of their work. Then if you do introduce a new HR policy that offers more flexible working, make sure fairness is top of the agenda when it comes to implementation.

As with my previous blogs in this series on intrinsic motivation HR Director and blogger, Gary Cookson has written a response to this blog based on his personal experiences.

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