HR Policy members heard practical examples of how flexibility can be enabled for deskless workers as well as considerations on how these successful policies in Australia can be applied in the U.S. legal and labor environment.
The Champions of Change Coalition report “Shifting Expectations—Flexibility for Frontline, Shift and Site-Based Roles” provides insights and lessons learned from case studies of companies implementing flexible work schedules in mostly male-dominated frontline workforces across several industries. The report not only outlines initiatives implemented at seven companies, but it also makes the case that flexible work is vital for business continuity, attracting and retaining talent, and providing psychologically healthy and physically safe workplaces.
Be deliberate with flexible policies and willing to fail: Mr. Wyatt stressed that there is a difference between having flexible policies and being a flexible workplace. Viva Energy first began implementing flexible work policies to increase the representation of women after understanding that rigid work schedules made it difficult to attract women to the company. Now, women make up about 25% of Viva’s workforce. The increase in representation has also had a significant impact on reducing the pay gap between women and men.
Foster an environment based on trust and flexibility: Ms. Cagney discussed the effort to redefine Worley’s values so that when they hire, train, and build teams, it is easier to support managers and leaders in implementing flexibility with their teams. In cases where middle managers, or “keepers of the culture,” are not fully bought into the concept of flexible work, Mr. Wyatt stressed the importance of learning why they are hesitant to implement change. Much of it is due to fear of change and can be addressed through manager training and education on the positive impacts of flexible work not only for employees but also the business.
How does the U.S. labor environment help or hinder U.S. companies from making similar changes? HR Policy’s Dan Yager and Shelly Carlin provided insights into the legal and labor differences between Australia and the U.S. after the panel discussion. While Australia has a comprehensive set of national employment standards, the U.S. has more of a patchwork quilt of laws passed over several decades. Despite this, the common themes of trust and employee engagement can be implemented anywhere if leadership is motivated and understands that the changes that make a material difference to employees cost very little but have enormous payback.