What Employees Want… Besides Money

August 24th 2010 | Evan Carmichael

Do you offer flex-time to your employees?

According to a new survey conducted by Harris/Decima sponsored by Telus, 89% of employees think that offering a flexible work program makes a company more attractive. Survey results also revealed flexible work is considered the second most important factor, after money, when people are looking for a new job.

The Flexible Work survey also found that:

  • 81% of respondents agreed that an organization offering a flexible work program positively differentiates one company from another.
  • 67% of those surveyed noted they would be more loyal to companies that provided them with the option of flexible work.
  • 87% of employees who have ever worked remotely responded that they are just as productive, if not more, when working out of the office, and over half of all respondents (56 per cent) said that having a flexible work option would motivate them to work harder.
  • Interestingly, the survey also found that only one-in-five of respondents (20 per cent) think the opportunity to work 24/7 is a downside, dispelling a common myth about mobile working.
  • Despite a strong support for flexible work programs, only 46 per cent of survey participants work at a company that offers such a program.

I had the opportunity to connect with Peter Day, founder of Endo Networks, one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, to discuss what he thinks about the emerging flex-time trend. Endo is a place-based relationship marketing company and has grown from $900k in revenues to almost $8 million in five years.

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Evan: What are the top 3 action items entrepreneurs should take as a result of the study?

1. Review the daily work habits of the various categories of your team, including yourself, to see where mobile working could bring a benefit. Include your team in the discussion – sometimes its not just the productivity improvement, but the employee satisfaction that is the benefit.

2. Consider any data security / privacy / compliance issues that you may have to address as a result of the change to mobile working – if your mobile workers have access to any sensitive client data, you may have security issues to address. Establish a security process – password protection, encryption and controls over what information can be accessed remotely, and if it is stored on the user’s computer or web-based.

3. Designate a champion(s) within your organization to pilot the mobile tools, and establish metrics with them to measure the success of the program as it relates back to your expected benefits as listed in point 1.

3.5 Don’t make any big changes immediately, but give careful thought to the changes a mobile workforce will bring to your organization – travel policies, physical office layout and size, professionalism expectations, work hours expectations, etc.

Evan: Working remotely is a big theme in the study – what type of jobs lend themselves best to working remotely and what tools / best practices can business owners use to implement working remotely effectively?

1. I think its easier to define jobs that do not lend themselves to working remotely and those are:

a. Jobs which require the employee to physically interact with a system or process related to the business, i.e. manufacturing

b. Jobs which continually require the employee to be engaged with other people in the company

c. Jobs which require the employee to access business tools which are not accessible through mobile working, i.e. higher-power computers, specialized peripherals, secure data servers, etc

2. Additionally, some employee personalities are well suited to working remotely (self-motivated, disciplined, need for mobility i.e. travel for business, desire to work remotely) and some are not well suited – there are employees whose job description technically fits working remotely, but whose personality does not.

Evan: Another theme is flexibility – what features of a flexible work program do employees value the most?

This depends a lot on the employee, but I think the biggest benefit is freedom, enabled by mobile Internet keys first, and BlackBerries second – I say MIKs first because they enable a much greater level of functionality than does a BlackBerry.

Evan: Let’s talk about productivity – as a business owner, how do I ensure that my employees are working hard and being productive when they’re working remotely?

One of the things I really like about a mobile workforce is it forces business owners to manage to results, not presence. Historically, business owners have measured productivity in many cases by whether or not the employee is present at his or her desk from 9 to 5, a practice which I believe is in many cases counter-productive to great results. A mobile workforce cannot be overseen in the same way as desk-bound employees, so owners and managers are forced to find new ways to measure productivity. At Endo we use a number of objective measurements of productivity combined with structured and regular client and consumer feedback surveys, as well as tight tracking to projected budgets, to measure our employee performance. Interestingly, the requirements to change our measures of productivity dictated by a mobile workforce have spread across our non-mobile workforce too, creating a more objective and sound method of evaluating our team.

Evan: Finally let me ask you about culture – business owners strive to create an effective business culture. How can this be established / maintained if people aren’t in the office?

First, our mobile workers are in the office on a regular basis, networking with the rest of the team. Second, our mobile working tools give us faster and more frequent communication than we had previously, which helps to maintain our culture. And third, our culture is based strongly on results, and the changes to our measures of productivity have helped the team understand better what success looks like – further ingraining our culture in our team in a non-fluffy manner.

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Photo Credit: Somewhat Frank

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