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Flexible Working Mutable

Companies Must Adopt A Mutable Model To Survive The Next Big Crisis

Mutable is a comprehensive model for business that includes a dramatic shift from the full-time, salaried staff model that has become the mainstay of the working world. Trying to stick with the status quo won’t see businesses survive the next big global crisis, according to a leading technology research consultancy.

By MaryLou Costa

What will the company of the future look like?

A lean core of leadership and management overseeing capability and skills-based teams on a flexible and third party basis, predict the future of work experts at Bloor, a technology research consultancy. 

Bloor has even trademarked its vision under the concept of “Mutable Business”, which sees companies move away from the current narrative of “digital transformation”, and adopt a “permanent state of reinvention”. This is supported by the core and flexible staffing model at the centre of mutable business, allowing for greater resilience. 

“Mutable is about viewing change as a fact of life. Something that is with us all the time – rather than approaching change as one big project. Companies, government and non-profits need to recognise that it now has to be a core competence that they have to set themselves up with. So they’re not going to get hammered the minute a pandemic, petrol crisis or incompetent government hits them,” argues Brian Jones, Bloor chair, international future of work speaker and former FTSE 100 board member.

Jones cites the UK high street retail casualties of the past year – Arcadia Group (home of TopShop and Dorothy Perkins), Monsoon, Oasis and Warehouse to name a few – as evidence that “the old way of employing people just isn’t going to cut it any more”. A new, more fluid model is needed to convert staff from a business overhead to an asset, he suggests.

Owning the impact of automation

It’s a perfect storm when coupled with the irrevocable impact automation is having on the workforce. Six million people in the UK alone are currently working in jobs that are expected to change dramatically or disappear altogether by 2030. Yet two thirds of these are in denial.

Mutable, says Jones, is about businesses taking responsibility for embracing automation, and creating a new people-based economy.

“It’s about companies thinking beyond how they can save money by replacing 100 human workers with robots. It’s more about what are you going to do with those 100 people that have given you their best years so far?” challenges Jones.

“We need to help businesses start thinking in terms of, what are the assets I’ve got, what are the capabilities I need, and how will this evolve? So the individual becomes more a part of an ecosystem. They might be contractors, or employees of a specialist skills-based organisation, that companies buy a specific service from.”

Mutable in the real world

To illustrate the Mutable Business model in practice, Jones gives the example of a typical house purchase. In this example different people with specialist skills are brought in to support different stages of the transaction, from solicitors to mortgage advisors: “But you don’t employ them full time, just when you need them for a particular outcome.”

He further suggests that a company sales function, which might only be at full capacity at certain times of year, could be more efficient if it was plugged in across different companies to maximise their respective peak seasons. Rather than experiencing a down period at just one company. 

Indeed, the average executive currently only generates value from a third of their working time, with a third spent on activity that doesn’t deliver an outcome. Another third is spent on tasks that could be done by someone more junior, at a lower pay rate, enlightens Richard Skellett, founder of the Globalution Group of consultancies and parent company of Bloor.

“Organisations say people are an asset, when, fundamentally, that’s not true. People are on the  balance sheet as a cost and liability – it’s often their biggest cost. Moving to Mutable creates more monetisation opportunities for both companies and employees. Companies need to think about what is their core, how they strengthen that, and how they add skillsets to it,” says Skellett.

Jones also makes a comparison with Bloor itself, whose analysts are all independent contractors, yet all have a revenue-share stake in the business. This points to how companies adopting a mutable model can’t simply detach themselves from their workforce – even if the majority of them will likely be directly employed by a specialist third party who will assign them to a portfolio of other companies, and may also provide further benefits.

Employees as marketable entities

In this landscape, employees will have to invest further in themselves as a marketable, highly-skilled entity, as task-based job descriptions will become redundant, in favour of an outcome-based model.

“Individuals are going to need their own value proposition, and be able to demonstrate their capabilities to organisations, while organisations themselves will also need to understand how to manage these capabilities, and how to bring it all together to create the outcome they want,” explains Jones.  

“Being proficient in service integration and management is going to be critical.”

Sounds like a potentially rough deal for people compared with the now lighter and more profitable companies they will be outsourced to. But Jones puts forward a number of benefits for individuals in a Mutable model.

One of those is greater job security across a more dynamic marketplace. “An employee who’s employed by a company that goes bust is not in a good place. So when businesses and other organisations are successful, that’s got to ultimately be good for the people that work for them,” Jones reasons.

“And if that’s indirectly through a specialist skills service provider, then they haven’t got all their eggs in one company’s basket. Being part of a company that’s providing services to others is probably going to be safer.” 

Mutable working is, by its nature, also flexible, because of its outcome based orientation, Jones adds. It then better accommodates people challenged by constraints in a traditional work structure, such as people with caring responsibilities, those who are neurodiverse, and others with health conditions.

How Mutable is already manifesting

The shift to mutable, then, will touch everything – HR, recruitment, contracts, salaries, benefits, training, culture, loyalty, engagement, revenue streams, profitability, company partnerships, and more. 

Sound scary? Well, mutable in a form is already starting to manifest in the rise of side hustles, portfolio careers, and the growth of gig economy platforms. The alternative, Jones indicates, is businesses facing productivity issues to be left behind their competition or wiped out by the next big crisis. 

So who’s actually moving to Mutable? Bloor is currently engaged with a significant number of companies to implement a mutable framework, Jones shares, with many more discussions in the pipeline. Meanwhile, Find Your Flex is looking for innovative companies to pilot a Mutable framework with, as advocates of a truly flexible future of work.

“Flexible working is not about employees moving from working five days to four days or working part-time, or hybrid,” states Find Your Flex CEO and founder Cheney Hamilton. “There’s nothing flexible about working like that.”

The future is flexible

“Becoming Mutable is such a different conversation to that which both business and the media are used to having, especially when addressing how flexible working will impact UK businesses. This is because it’s less about employee contracts and legislation and more about the organisational change that is required to operate a truly agile and flexible workforce. 

“The Find Your Flex Group measures at 89% on the Mutable assessment. Our 8 permanent staff never work more than 30 hours per week, which works perfectly with the outcomes required of our team members. For the areas of our business where we need variable support, we rely on a team of trusted freelancers, contractors and outsourced services. In addition to this we work with a network of businesses and HR specialists, who share our values, to help us deliver our platform and services. A service that it would traditionally take a business ten times our size to deliver.

The road is long, the path clear.

“It’s absolutely fascinating now to help businesses, through Mutable, to find their internal flexibility within their current workforce and external flexibility, for their new hires or Mutable outsourcing partnerships.” 

But Hamilton adds that most UK business is still formulaic rather than adaptable, as evidenced by the volume of businesses needing to furlough staff throughout the pandemic. 

“Let’s face it, the current 19th century work models most businesses are built on, are no longer fit for purpose. They’re not future of work ready. When a business is Mutable, it can navigate through anything the world throws at it.” she continues.

“Once an initial cohort of businesses innovate in this way, others will adopt it. Mutable offer a future of work where people are allowed to work at their most productive and most importantly, are actually happy at work. That’s what we’re missing at the minute.”

MaryLou Costa is a freelance writer fascinated by the future of work, especially changes that advance women’s careers. Her work has featured in The Guardian, The Observer, Business Insider, Stylist, Raconteur, Sifted, Digiday, UNLEASH, Marketing Week and others. Plus she has appeared on Times Radio, BBC and Sky News. 

Categories
Diversity Flexible Working

Awareness Of Autism In The Workplace: Working On Inclusivity

Awareness of autism the workplace: Employer Inclusivity

Only 22% of autistic adults are employed in the UK as of 2020. In a modern society claiming to be forward-thinking, diversified and inclusive, these statistics are unacceptable. Autism awareness in the workplace is key to inclusivity.

With a recently reported lack of talent and labour shortage we ask businesses to think again. Just think about the opportunities you would be open to if you just adopted true flexible working practices. The doors would be open up to a previously untapped talent pool. Including many groups of people but for the purpose of this post we are talking about autism.

What Autistic People bring to the table

Autistic people, just like anyone have a wide range of strengths and talent. Some display above average skills in some or all of the following areas:  

  • high levels of concentration 
  • reliability, conscientiousness and persistence 
  • accuracy, close attention to detail and the ability to identify errors 
  • technical ability, such as in IT 
  • detailed factual knowledge and an excellent memory 

Most importantly being neurodiverse shouldn’t be a negative factor in finding employment. Autistic people may need to work in a different way than what employers are used to. All it requires is an understanding employer and an open conversation about how they work best.

The National Autistic Society, interviewed Jamie Knight; Senior Research Engineer at the BBC. Jamie has a number of important roles. These include developing software, conduct tech maintenance and ensuring their apps and services are running properly. This is just one example of how much neurodiverse people can bring to the table at a senior level. This is an example set by a large organisation and one for more organisations to follow.

Autism in the workplace: Perceiving the world around us

The first aspect of autism awareness employers need to recognise is that they need to rid themselves of existing mindsets. Neurodiverse people perceive the world differently than people who are not neurodiverse.

In NAS’s interview with Jamie Knight, he sums up perfectly how employers and society in general should view neurodiverse people:

“Look, its not that I’m defective, it’s that the environment is disabling me. So if I start modifying the environment, it will stop disabling me. I’ll still remain impaired … But I can stop it from having a negative impact on my life.”

And this is key when employing neurodiverse people. Make changes, accommodate and you will see an invaluable asset develop. Practices such as flexible working options, general acceptance and adapting to people is an easy part of creating a more inclusive environment.

Inclusivity of autistic people in the recruitment process

Accommodating neurodiverse people needs to start at the beginning of the recruitment process.

The job description

Firstly, job descriptions can sometimes ask for too much. Listing a number unnecessary requirements as “essential” to the job, when in practice they are not. This isn’t just an issue that concerns neurodiverse people, but it does present as a barrier.

Employers casually include “essential requirements” in job descriptions without thinking much of it. Such as: ‘excellent communication skills’ or ‘must work well in a team’. These skills can often be included in job descriptions where the employee would be mostly working independently or would not need to interact much with others to do the job well. If this is the case, why are these skills part of the essential criteria?

An autistic person may see this and automatically move on as they may not have these skills. Yet, they could have been exceptional in the role. However, sometimes their exceptional abilities can get falsely interpreted. This is where the myth surrounding splinter skills autism should be noted. Splinter skill is a term used for people on the spectrum who do well in certain domains or areas. That is, they could be good at art or playing piano, which might seem amazing. However, it is very rare and they still face challenges in their social life. So, recruiters should keep in mind that instead of looking for the “perfect” candidate, they should be searching for the right candidate. Consider what really is essential and what is not.

The interview process for people with autism

Secondly, let’s consider the interview process. A traditional interview heavily relies on social interaction and communication. A scenario in which an autistic person can find difficult to ‘sell’ themselves. Simple measures such as

  • Providing questions to the candidate prior to the interview,
  • Supplying clear instructions on how to find the location and room
  • Providing a quiet space for the candidate for before and after the interview.
  • Avoid general questions and try to ask more specific questions.

Why Flexible Working for Neurodiverse People is Key

Flexible working is the benchmark for inclusivity. It’s a key element of working life for neurodiverse people. For an autistic person, aspects in and out of the workplace can derail them for the rest of the day. Facilitating flexible working allows the individual to navigate a work style that allows them to thrive. If an employee thrives, they are productive and innovative. This will consequently benefit the company they work for.

Now it is true that some neurodiverse people require structure and benefit from having fixed shifts. That is fine, flexible working does not effect that. It simply means the company can work around neurodiverse employees if their environment has left them incapable of operating under their normal hours for whatever reason. This is why flexible working is an essential requirement for neurodiverse people which all organisations should adopt. They outcome can only be positive.

Awareness of Autism in the workplace improves lives

Like anyone else, it’s fair to say that neurodiverse people want a certain level of financial independence, sense of purpose and the opportunity for career development. For most adults, these aspects of life are defined by their careers. We achieve independence through the money we make from our job to become self reliant. We often strive for achievements within our job and measure our success with these. Sometimes our careers and jobs are the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, giving our lives structure and purpose. Neurodiverse people deserve to have the opportunity for these basic fundamental parts of life that everyone is entitled to.

We are reaching out to you as employers to enable this. This can be done simply by creating a more inclusive and diverse environment. A fantastic starting point is to offer true flexibility. It can not be understated the impact this can have on the life of a neurodiverse person.

For more information and support on flexible working and the opportunities you stand to gain then contact us at The Find Your Flex Group. For more information about autism in the workplace then go to Autsim.org.

Categories
Flexible Working

Why employers need to understand and embrace the true meaning of flexible working

Hybrid working shouldn’t be mistaken for fully true flexible working, argue HR and diversity and inclusion experts. Companies that can make the distinction are set to be the winners in the impending “great resignation”.

By MaryLou Costa

Hybrid working is dominating the post-pandemic conversation, but most employers are missing the point: that it’s just one form of flexible working. One which doesn’t necessarily equate to overall true flexibility.

That’s according to HR and diversity and inclusion experts. They fear it will be too easy for company leaders to revert to the comfort zone of the status quo. Instead they should invest in genuine flexible working consultations and frameworks – and in some cases, change their culture.

“Everything still remains so uncertain. That getting ‘back to normal’ and going back to the office, even for two days a week, creates that certainty company leaders are looking for right now,” explains Nicola Pease, founder of flexible work consultancy Ignite and a former HR leader at Jaguar Land Rover.

“But I define flexible working as being about not just the where, but the when and the how. That’s what’s often being missed from the narrative around hybrid work. If everybody in every company in the world went to hybrid working, it would still not solve the issues around flexible working. It would still not allow everybody to work in a way that best suits them. Because it’s not all about location.”

Paving the way for ‘asynchronous working’

The ‘when’ and the ‘how’ are what companies like file storage platform Dropbox have aimed to redefine for its 2,500 strong workforce, after announcing late last year its shift to becoming a remote-first employer. 

It has adopted a new structure in which four set hours are carved out daily for team meetings. Individuals decide what hours they work the rest of the day. These hours, it has decreed, should be set aside for ‘asynchronous working’, or work that people can concentrate on themselves, using collaborative tech tools to gather any necessary feedback from colleagues.

For all the materials it has released outlining its new work policy, though, Dropbox’s HR leaders have acknowledged a crucial point – that it will be a work in progress that constantly evolves.

Accepting the evolving nature of flexible work policies

That confidence to work in a ‘trial and error’ way – and “be flexible about being flexible” – is what diversity and inclusion specialist at Green Eyes Consulting, Di Keller, believes will set employers apart as true champions of flexible working.

“We’ve created some principles, but are trying to hand it over to teams to define what their own framework is. This is around their own when, where, and how, but also the business needs and the needs of the team, because we have quite diverse teams,” says Keller, who is also the strategic equality, diversity and inclusion lead for Karbon Homes.

“But policies shouldn’t be hard and fast because we’re in unknown territory. Whatever any organisation puts in needs to remain continually under review. Otherwise, people will just flop back into the office, nine to five without even thinking about it. Because that’s a comfy pair of slippers we don’t have to work too hard on. And the mentality often is, everybody used to work like that – so it must have been all right.”

Empowering managers to manage true flexible working

Another challenge businesses are facing with genuine flexible working is educating managers to manage flexible teams, adds Pease.

“Some of the concerns I’m hearing from line managers is more pressure, on making decisions on how their team should work, and how they are going to deliver whenever and wherever their teams are working,” she relays.

“Truly flexible organisations will be working on supporting their managers in the practical implementation – as well as trusting employees to come up with the right decisions that are going to work.”

Flexible working as a diversity and inclusion driver

Both Pease and Keller agree it’s not an easy process. So why keep pushing for a holistic flexible working approach, if the corporate appetite to roll it out is often not there?

Because genuine flexible working is one of the biggest organic drivers of diversity, equality and inclusion, argues Cheney Hamilton, founder and managing director of The Find Your Flex Group. The website’s user data reveals a broad spectrum of people looking for flexible working. The data also proves that it’s no longer just the desire of working mothers, as it was previously deemed.

“Looking at our site user data, we reached gender parity last November. Then from January to March, given the decline in high street retail, we saw a massive influx in women over 45,” Hamilton reveals.

“This was mainly white women, then from April, we saw more women from the BAME community. We also have strong representation from the LBTQI+ and disabled community.”

Leveling out gender inequality, though, is one of Keller’s main motivations for advocating flexible working.

“For men who want a more hands-on experience as a father, flexible working opens a huge door for them that was previously iron bolted,” she notes. 

“And for some organisations, it’s shown them innovation beyond anything they could have imagined, that they can really go and build on now. So why would you not pursue flexible working?”

Coming out on top in the ‘great resignation’

Such positive personal experiences of true flexible working will now shape what people are looking for from an employer, believes Pease. This shouldn’t be taken lightly, she warns, if predictions of an impending ‘great resignation’ become reality. Indeed, Microsoft research shows 40% of people want to change jobs this year.

“I’ve done three different surveys now with three different companies. 80 to 90% of people are saying they want to work more flexibly, and have more choice about where – and when – they work,” Pease shares.

“If a company says they can’t offer flexibility, I don’t think that 80% of people are going to go, ‘okay, we’ll just carry on as we were before’. They’re going to see if they can find that somewhere else. Organisations that don’t get on board with flexible working will find they lose their top talent to ones that are.”

Needing to re-identify true flexible working post-pandemic

Keller tells us; don’t mistake flexible working for the way many people have worked during the pandemic.

“There is definitely a need to re-identify flexible working. Because the enforced hideous way we’ve had to work over the last 15 months is what people see as flexible working. And there is flexibility within that, but it’s definitely not flexible working,” she clarifies.

“Flexible working is being able to work how I want, where I want, and to a degree, when I want. Providing it meets my business needs, my work needs and my personal needs.”

MaryLou Costa is a freelance writer fascinated by the future of work, especially changes that advance women’s careers. Her work has featured in The Guardian, The Observer, Business Insider, Stylist, Raconteur, Sifted, Digiday, UNLEASH, Marketing Week and others, plus she has appeared on Times Radio, BBC and Sky News. 

Categories
Flexible Working

Hybrid Working Is Not The Same As Flexible Working

As a lesser educated character on The Big Bang Theory once hypothesised… “All jacuzzi’s are hot tubs, but not all hot tubs are jacuzzi’s”. I’d like to apply this insight here with Hybrid Working and Flexible Working. Let’s not risk falling into that “4 Day Week” again. When it comes to flexible working there is no one size fits all solution.

Communicating Flexible Working

Flexible working and the policies which govern it, should be about how businesses are willing to communicate. Good communication should be embedded in an organisations values, culture and subsequent behaviours. We should view employees as individuals rather than an asset/fixed cost or number on the bottom line. It’s about allowing them to use their voice and us as business leaders, listening. To be ‘engaged’ our employees need to be heard. Therefore collaboration is key to ascertaining what can make our people productive members of a team. There needs to be the understanding that what works one week, can just as easily change in the next – for both parties. 

TRUE flexible working paves the way for a more diverse and inclusive workplace. The Output model is a tool we can use to make this happen.

Flexible Working and Output Based Models

Society and ethical businesses must move away from 1950’s work modalities. It is vital that we begin to look at all of our roles and functions as an output. This means to engage with candidates based on what they can deliver – not what they look like, what school they’ve come from, their gender or socio-economic background. If you can’t do that, you are in danger of not being accessible as an employer, as we march into the future of work today.

People are seeking flexible working opportunities in their thousands, and only 40% of them are parents. If the last 12 months have taught us nothing else, it’s how quickly life can change for the masses. For the individual it can be even quicker and occur more often.

The Future Of Work

We have got to learn lessons from the last 12 months. Businesses have got to move forward, with their eyes open and with a new way of thinking. Let’s embody the scientists who will lead us out of this mess that is Covid 19. This is our moment to be ingenious, intuitive, exciting and ground breaking. 

My team and I can see a future of work, that doesn’t leave anyone behind. One that we know is going to require some shifts in mindset and strong leadership. Furthermore we need to be looking a re-skilling those at risk of automation driven job loss. Additionally businesses need to engage with schools and represent their talent as role models for our children.

The narrative around flexible working has to change. There is only a single ‘one size fits all solution’. That is to embed in the values and culture of an organisation that flexible working is about open conversations regarding productivity and staff wellbeing.

Don’t Use Flexible Working And Hybrid Working Interchangeably

So we are asking employers not to replace their flexible working agenda’s with hybrid working. Hybrid working is one of many solutions. It is not the only solution.

#ChangeInOurLifetime

Categories
Flexible Working

How Do We Develop The New Normal Of Work?

Placing people and their performance at the heart of organisations in our new world of work.

It won’t have escaped your notice that we are gearing up for a return to ‘normal’ or the ‘new normal’ as it has been termed by some. Many are questioning if they will be returning to the office. Will they be offered a hybrid and be able to remain working form home? However a recent Yougov survey commissioned by PUSH, 40% of people suspect employers want them to return to the office as soon as possible, because they think their employees achieve less when working from home.

But what is this new normal of work?

Will it be better or worse than before? Have organisations learned and adapted or have they simply focused on surviving with the intent to return to normal practice? How many of us have preferred working from home? Those who had to take the responsibility of education at home may have had a different experience to those who didn’t. It’s clear we’ve all had a wide variety of experiences. How many will recognise that there is no one size fits all solution? That flexible working is in fact subject to the needs of the employee.

However we all feel about the changes imposed on us we can’t ignore the fact that change and inclusivity drives innovation and flexible working is the true benchmark for inclusivity.

However a recent Yougov survey commissioned by PUSH, suggests that 36% of the working population think they will work nearly 100% of the time from the office once the pandemic is over. Yet, 35% of people felt they achieved more when working from home. 

We at The Find Your Flex Group believe that each individual should have a discussion with their manager around flexibility and productivity.

Under what circumstances will they be most productive? What measure can we put in place to ensure support, cooperation and collaboration?

PUSH founder, Cate Murden, suggests it’s a new form of presenteeism: belief that even with the proof we are willing and able to work from home, employers still feel the physical presence of an employee in the workplace equates to better and more valuable deliverables.

According to the 3,037 surveyed, 32% believed those who return to the office when asked are more likely to get promoted. That rises to 42% in the under 35s!

What about mental health?

Murden believes that mental health and wellbeing are being put on the backburner as new figures suggest we feel pressured to return to the office in spite of the fact we achieve more at home.

Murden advises companies to instead use lockdown as a baseline for learning how we can protect the fallout from a sudden return to work: 

“The numbers that came back from this survey were shocking, but not surprising. If nothing else, it shows that we are still a long way from placing people at the heart of the organisation and not just bottom lines. Why, if we know we are doing better from home, are we feeling pressured to go back into the office?

Overlooking old behaviours and not learning from the past 12 months will be the downfall of many companies. Over the course of the pandemic alone we have supported some of the largest household names, including Whitbread, Toyota, Urban Outfitters and Rightmove, as they prepare for the wave of mental health issues that come with the new era of work. It is these companies, the ones that have used this time to adapt and grow, that will succeed.”

Perhaps, when we talk about a ‘new normal of work’ maybe we need to look beyond how a company functions. Maybe we need to get to the heart of any organisation, its values and its people.

About PUSH

PUSH specialises in corporate wellness, mental health, leadership and professional development. Working with clients to create tailored solutions to the challenges felt by their teams. Having seen 15% YoY growth during the pandemic PUSH decided to commission and publish the Human Element Report outlining our views on the return to work.

Read the full report here: The Human Element Report

For more information on how PUSH can support you during lockdown and beyond, visit www.pushmindbody.com or contact cate@pushmindandbody.com