For my parents and the majority of their generation, a great job was one that had predictability. They went to work for the water company, an auto manufacturer or took an apprenticeship where they could become skilled in a trade. They knew longevity meant seniority, and that seniority meant (slightly more) flexibility within their work environments.
Together, my parents put in more than 50 years at Digital Equipment Corp, which later became Compaq and then HP. My father used to joke that, with each acquisition, he would remain at the same desk, same job—but would just put a note on the wall to help him remember which company name to say when he answered the phone. My parents were both happy with their careers commuting each day, working 8 AM to 5 PM, and methodically making their way up the ladder. They were satisfied with a promotion every five years and a free turkey at Thanksgiving.
Today, the criteria for what makes a job “highly satisfying” is dramatically different. My two oldest boys are millennials, and both expect their summer and part-time jobs to be fun—or at least not drudgery—and that there’s something more in it for them than just a paycheck. The promise of being able to work at the same company 10 years from now is not enticing to this generation. Instead they expect immediate gratification with a good supervisor, a collaborative work environment and schedule flexibility.
Under-staff any department and you frustrate internal and external customers while demoralizing employees; over-staff and you drive up operating costs and risk disengaging employees. Often the complexity of scheduling grows in parallel with the size of your staff. To counter this, organizations often build more rigidity into their employees work schedules, but that approach can be problematic. For instance, Oregon became the first state to mandate that employees get their schedules at least one week in advance, noting that companies were taking advantage by not giving enough notice to accommodate for transportation and child care.
So can companies give their employees the flexible schedules they want? In many cases, yes – and there’s big benefits for both employee and employer.
Look at Glassdoor’s ranking of the best companies to work for. Work-life balance and flexible scheduling is often mentioned as a contributing factor for those at the top. Ranked #12, Intuit’s “employees regularly include among the advantages they appreciate most are the healthy work-life balance and the ability to work from home when necessary.” Nvidia ranks #5 “largely because of its flexible hours and healthy work-life balance.”
Of course, there are departments and positions that must have set schedule to function, such as firefighters, manufacturing line workers and ER doctors. But even with these positions, there’s a way to make scheduling more flexible with technology that enables vacation and ad hoc training requests, shift swaps, short notice requests for doctor’s appointments and more. To be successful, re-examine your policies and procedures specific to scheduling and pair that with technology. Focus on building in as much flexibility as possible.
Back in May, I had the opportunity to hear Rochester Regional Health share how they found success by centralizing nursing and other back-office departments in order to better provide patient care. One of the many benefits was that there is now a way to request and schedule holidays at their 24/7 hospitals and other care facilities. It used to be arbitrary and handled different depending on department. Today, using a new application, employees make holiday requests a year in advance, and it’s more fair and equitable.
If you’re responsible for hiring and retaining employees, it’s no surprise that it’s getting difficult to keep them. But I believe that by combining the right approach with tools that enable schedule flexibility, you may find your employees sticking around longer because they simply enjoy their jobs.
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