Using Flexible Work to Boost Staff Retention

New research by global workplace supplier Regus has revealed that a staggering 77 per cent of employees would choose one job over another if it enabled them to access opportunities for flexible work.

The Regus survey canvassed the opinions of more than 20,000 senior executives and business owners in 95 countries and confirmed that in Australia 74 per cent of respondents view flexible work as a perk which attracts top talent and 77 per cent view it as a way to improve staff retention.

The research also found that:

  • 76 per cent of respondents think offering flexible working makes employees more loyal
  • 60 per cent of workers would actually turn down a job that ruled out flexible working
  • 59 per cent of respondents would have stayed longer in their last position had flexible working been an option.

Regus CEO Australia and New Zealand Paul Migliorini, said the results were a wake up call for Australian business.

“One of the most significant points from this research is how mainstream the perk of flexible working has become – many respondents are actually choosing their jobs based on how flexible the employer is regarding where and when they work,” said Mr Migliorini

Mr Migliorini said flexible work costs less than fixed office based working and offers improvements in work life balance but he says it may require a shift in mind set and approaches to team management.

“The sad fact is many Australian businesses are facing high staff turnover costs, and missing out on the best talent due to outdated and outmoded working practices. This research shows that businesses who ignore this low cost method to attract the best employees and foster loyalty amongst their workforce do so at their own peril.”

According to Regus the annual cost of staff turnover in Australia is around $33 billion and for an Australian business with 500 employees this could amount to more than $3 500 000 per year. Offering opportunities for flexible work could be one of the most effective ways of reducing the cost impact of staff turnover and it seems as though Telstra might be banking on this.

The new “All Roles Flex” workplace initiative introduced at Telstra this year requires all advertised vacancies and current roles to include provisions for flexible work.

The initiative evolved from a pilot program in Telstra”s Customer Sales and Service team, which saw the number of women in the applicant pool grow by more than 15 per cent and the share of women in job placements increase by 35 per cent, when roles were advertised as flexible.

Telstra CEO Mr David Thodey says the goal with All Roles Flex is to create an inclusive culture which enables men and women to achieve their full potential without any barriers.

Telstra is the first large corporate in Australia to implement such an initiative and Mr Thodey says it has required a leap of faith by many of the company”s managers.

“Flexibility will mean different things to different people. For example, it may mean part-time work, the ability to work certain scheduled shifts, working different hours or at different locations.

What I really like about this approach is that it disrupts the status quo and encourages open conversations right from the start. It empowers people to speak up and discuss how they can make their work and career ambitions fit with their life stage and commitments outside of work,” says Mr Thodey on the Telstra Blog.

Mr Thodey says that building a more diverse workforce will also give Telstra a competitive advantage.

“Creating gender equality is a business imperative – diversity of thought, experience and ways of working are important ingredients for competitive advantage. But it can also positively influence how we connect with each other, our customers and the wider community,” he says.

According to information on the Telstra website the Al Roles Flex initiative focuses on building flexible leadership teams as well as making flexibility a key part of all job and career opportunities.

Flexible leaders

Telstra says it supports leaders to understand the need to be flexible and is exploring innovative ways to help individuals and teams strike a balance between their work and home lives.

Key to this strategy is encouraging leaders to manage flexible work by talking to their staff about future plans, family responsibilities and/or career breaks.

Telstra urges its managers to:

  • Measure and assess outcomes not just time at the desk.
  • Check biases and assumptions so that everyone”s needs can be considered.
  • Use trust as the foundation for building a great working relationship.
  • Trial new flexible arrangements to see what works best
  • Model flexibility as leaders so that team members are encouraged to try it for themselves
  • Take a guilt-free attitude to working flexibly based on the assumption that it increases productivity and engagement.

Telstra”s campaign to support leaders is reinforced by information for employees which recognises that employees have a wide variety of different responsibilities including children, elderly parents, cultural commitments, education and or community interests.

Employees are able to meet these commitments via a swathe of different flexible work options including, part time work, job sharing, working outside the office, variable start and finish times and leave options that include parental leave, cultural leave and career breaks.

Mr Thodey says that the All Roles Flex initiative is just one part of a strategy designed to evolve Telstra into a values-led business.

“It is a business imperative that we get this right and build a truly diverse and inclusive organisation. Inclusion helps organisations provide better customer service, fosters greater innovation, encourages a stronger problem solving capability, increases motivation and engagement, and creates a greater community connection,” says Mr Thodey.


1. The Regus Survey



 This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in May 2014