11 September 2015

Guest blog by Kerry Fallon Horgan: Leaders making flexibility happen

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Many organisations have excellent flexible workplace policies but fail to deliver the promised work/life balance. Broken promises are even more damaging than not having the policies in the first place. Leadership is the key driver for change to a workplace where flexible policies are a reality.
To achieve a culture that will support flexible work practices, leaders need to walk the talk as well as being willing to openly discuss their work/life values and how they make them work. It’s this ongoing, authentic dialogue that enables a workplace that cares about its people.

As one banking corporation CEO said “it's important that the leaders in the organisation set the right example, both in their behaviour and in the way they treat their staff. As senior managers, we do this by talking about balance and about the example we set, the times of day we call meetings and when we expect people to be somewhere. We question whether we are flexible in our attitudes in terms of recognising that people do have to have a balance between work and family.

At a recent leadership forum, a Chief Executive described how just prior to his first meeting with the Board of Directors, he received a call to care for a sick child. He met the Directors, explained why he could not attend the Board meeting and showed great strength of character in acting on his values.
Another senior manager, when challenged about sending electronic mail messages from home at 11 p.m., described the reality of the situation "The reason I sent electronic mail messages out last night was yesterday afternoon I was with my architect. I got home from school speech night and I had an hour to kill while my wife was making chocolates, I thought I’ll catch up with my mail, and I sent out notices. I had no expectation that you guys would be out there answering them."
This is a vivid example of organisational culture change in action through dialogue. The catalyst for change works like this: assumptions behind strongly held views surface and, by talking them through, the reality of the situation becomes clear.

It has been found that the process of challenging old assumptions and cultural beliefs that underlie work and work–family integration frees employees to think more creatively about work in general and provides companies with a strategic opportunity to achieve a more equitable, productive and innovative workplace.

Current work environments require employees to continually raise the bar in work performance without the requisite resources to do so. More organisations are finding that a way to achieve this performance is through reciprocity. That is “you treat me fairly and well and I’ll go that extra mile for you”. For many this sense that the organisation cares about their wellbeing is in making flexible work practices a reality.
A key starting point for flexibility at work is ensuring leaders give permission for employees to use these practices by modelling and talking about work/life balance and making opportunities to do so at various forums both formal and informal. A facilitated dialogue with the senior leaders is an important first step in the process, I’ve found it is valuable to have an expert in this field facilitate at least the first of these important conversations.
Kerry Fallon Horgan will be speaking at the upcoming Attract and Retain Working Women Conference that will be held in Sydney from 29th September - 1st October 2015. She will be discussing the importance of leadership and overcoming the many challenges of achieving a flexible workplace culture. For further information on creating flexible workplaces go to www.flexibility.com.au.
Kerry Fallon Horgan has worked for more than a decade as a facilitator, coach and diversity advisor to organisations across the private, public and community sectors. Among her roles, she’s the CEO of the Women’s Healing Org International, which provides free resources on women's health, work-life balance and financial wellbeing.
She is the author of a book, e-learning program and guidelines on implementing flexible work practices. In a government capacity, Kerry has worked for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and chaired a major advisory body to NSW government on women's issues, the Women’s Consultative Committee. She was also a board member of Women & Management and on the Executive of the NSW EEO Practitioner's Association.
Her clients have included the ABS, AMP, ANAO, ANZ Bank, APSC, Australian Securities & Investment Commission, Chandler & Macleod, Citigroup, Chevron, Leighton Constructions, Lend Lease and NSW State Records.

1 comment :

  1. I agree that getting senior leaders to model the desired behaviours is paramount to the success of these policies.