Radical Flexibility

Our friends at Employee Cycle, an HR analytics solution, recently invited PBO Advisory Group’s Chief People Officer Nicole Devine to participate in a webinar on radical flexibility. The following Q&A are excerpts from that webinar, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

What is radical flexibility?

Nicole – Basically, radical flexibility allows an employee to decide when, where and how they work. Employers provide trust, autonomy, and flexibility for the employee to achieve this. Remote work and radical flexibility have been used interchangeably, causing some confusion. However, they are two different things.

It is important to note that radical flexibility is not a viable option for all companies and industries. Financial institutions, professional service providers, and technology companies are among the early and easy adopters. But other types of businesses need employees on site, such as restaurants or craft breweries, which will require them to get creative when offering flexibility. 

What is the difference between remote work and radical flexibility?

Nicole – Remote work is precisely what it says it is – an employee working remotely but not necessarily without some guardrails placed on them by the employer. With radical flexibility the employee is not confined to any schedule or location, and is free to work how they like, as long as they are delivering the value they were hired to provide. The confusion lies within the assumption that because an employer offers remote work, they will have radical flexibility along with it.

Oftentimes remote work is not absent of micromanaging by the employer, making it a less flexible working environment. With radical flexibility, the employer encourages autonomy and trust professionals to perform as they see fit to accomplish their goals. It may require employers to redefine what productivity looks like and how it is calculated. And these new definitions may be personalized to each employee.

How personalized can radical flexibility be?

Nicole – Radical flexibility isn’t one-size-fits-all and not everyone wants the same type of flexibility. You need to find the right people for your model. And it isn’t a free-for-all. It’s ok to have guidelines that employees must operate within, such as deadlines, setting goals, etc. It does, however, require leadership to “get out of the box it is in” and think in new and different ways. An organization needs to be true to themselves and make changes that are genuine and sustainable.

How do you begin the process of radical flexibility?

Nicole – From a strategy standpoint, it is important to look at company culture and what employees really want. Your employee is your customer so it’s imperative to focus on what is important to them, not what the organization assumes is important. After evaluating if you can align the two, you can then build a strategy that’s hyper-focused on one or two elements that will give your plan momentum and data to validate the concept. The most critical part is to align the people and the values within the organization to sustain a radically flexible work model.

It is important to understand that this is not something you do overnight. This is a long, thoughtful process. Often companies want to start at 60 mph, yet what is really needed is a baseline to see what 0, 10, 30 mph look like.

How can a consultant assist a company in creating its radical flexibility structure and program?

Nicole – Consultants have the value of a wider scope, big picture perspective. They typically work with multiple businesses, industries, platforms, etc. Consultants bring their knowledge to the leadership and understand the strategy the company is trying to achieve.

A good consultant won’t try to give companies too much to do all at once. Rather, they will help a client put one foot in front of the other as they walk through the process together.

If you are interested in exploring a radical flexibility program for your company, please contact Nicole Devine.

Nicole Devine
Consulting Chief People Officer
858-622-1681 Ext. 287