by Mark Chillingworth

Be flexible now to retain talent

Oct 18, 20123 mins
IT Leadership

Flexible working is sold or depicted as essential to CIOs and organisations if they want to attract and harness the talent of the next generation of workforce. Dubbed Generation Y they have attracted an almost mythical status, as if they’re dexterity with Facebook will drive up revenue, or banality on Twitter will bring innovation or their YouTube clips lower costs. 
It’s true with every new generation of workforce new methods have to be adopted, like many out there I’ve lived through the move from dumb terminals to PCs, the introduction of the Internet, mobile phones and Smartphones. Along the way our working ways have changed to accommodate and benefit from them. And with every iteration of technology, new members of the team have marvelled that we lived through a per-Internet era – and survived. 
But flexible working must not be considered the preserve of the young, just because arthritis is a little further away for them than us. It is at the 30 to 59 age groups in the workforce where the benefits of flexible working may be most felt. These are of course the family and or responsible years. All of us at some point in this period of our lives will need to devote considerable time to caring or parenting. Yet thanks to a few bankers, giving up work to do so is an unlikely option. 
There is no denying that women take on the bulk of caring in our society and that shows little sign of changing. In 2010 the birth rate of girls was higher than boys and some believe this trend could continue. If our population is going to increasingly be female; then so too will the workforce. To ensure our future female workforce is not at a disadvantage they need to see that their mothers and carers are able to be flexible and balance their work and care responsibilities. 
Generation Ydidn’t create the financial crisis currently afflicting the world, it was our generation and we still has 20 to 30 years of productivity left in us to try and reduce the debt dependency. Technology can and is alleviating the economic pressures on organisations. And technology will increasingly play a role, especially in enabling flexibility to improve productivity. 
Organisations are studying and reporting frightening levels of lost productivity as a result of road traffic, yet workers can now work from a variety of locations rather than some dreadful business estate on the outskirts of town and at the end of a very long traffic jam. Rising oil prices are already driving Americans back into central city living and working, away from these out of town estates, but that is also right where office space is premium priced. In the UK utility, banking and retail companies are downsizing their office space as its one of their most costly overheads and they want the workforce out there with the customer. 
So don’t think you need a flexible mobile workforce to attract youngsters, ask your existing and valuable workforce how you can help them balance their commitments and be more flexible and therefore more productive.