“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” ~ Albert Einstein
There is hard research evidence that organisational culture, flexible working, inclusive and collaborative working environment are critical for an organisation business success and has direct impact on talent retention, employee’s performance and productivity. Some reports such as PWC, Regus and Ernest & Young suggest that we are entering a global talent crisis that businesses will struggle to survive if they do not urgently adopt a major paradigm shift in the way they embody the organisation’s culture and values to address this.
Many organisations invest resources, create functions, write policies, set up special committees and so forth to address things like flexibility, inclusion and collaboration. But despite the huge amount of investment and effort, the results in many organisations are still somewhat limited. Why?
I would like to address what I think is one of the thorny inhibiting issues to this problem and that is: shortage of personal example or role model by managers.
Promoting flexibility is not about sending an employee to read the corporate policy on working part time or coming casual on Friday, inclusion is not about having a gender diverse team (it is not Noah’s ark that you need a couple of each). It starts and ends with personal example.
Not everyone is interested in flexible working, some people thrive on a 12 hour working day, every day, in the office- and that’s ok if that’s their choice. The challenge is when you have a management team which consists of long office hours managers who do not practice any form of work flexibility while your organisation is trying to drive a cultural change. That sends the wrong message to the team no matter what they say to promote flexibility.
The unfortunate reality is that we can say all the right things (talk the talk) but without the personal example, we are in fact sending an underlying message that management positions are not for flexible workers and by that creating a non inclusive environment.
Be the change you want to see. It is not ‘corporate’ or HR responsibility to promote this culture, it will only happen if everyone takes the personal responsibility to live and act according to those values, no matter where you are in the organisational hierarchy.
Workplace flexibility is about when, where and how people work. It is not just things like working part time or from home, it can also be simple things like altering the working hours in the day to better accommodate your personal needs.
Here are few simple suggestions that can help demonstrate personal example and promote a better culture –
- Try to keep scheduled meetings between 9am and 5pm- avoid scheduling early or late meetings.
- When recognising someone, make sure you recognise them for a job well done and not for ‘putting the late hours in the office’- remember, the job could have been done anywhere…
- If you are catching up on work over the weekend, just make it clear you are not expecting a response from others during the weekend.
- Need to leave early for a personal commitment? Don’t just sneak out, don’t try to hide it. It may not be other people’s business, but sharing the fact that you have a personal commitment makes it ok and acceptable (after all, we do have personal life outside work).
Would love to hear your views, suggestions and especially stories of good role models that demonstrate the great affect they create.
By Ayala Domani