Issue #54
#54 - "Be Like Water, My Friends": Get Flexible At Work 🧘🏽‍♀️
February 17, 2023

#54 - "Be Like Water, My Friends":

Get Flexible At Work 🧘🏽‍♀️

What’s up, everybody?

The underlying theme of this newsletter is change: asking what a radically evolving work landscape means for us, as individuals and leaders, and exploring how to best respond. Of course, in practice, that response often entails flexibility and adaptation.

But it's not just individuals who need to adapt. This week we ask what it means for organizations to become more flexible. And we use our 3 Stories to hone in on:

  • The rationale: why employers are feeling the pressure to adapt, and offer more flexibility.
  • An example: a surprising move by a large, well-known -- and conservative -- company, made as a gesture of flexibility to its team; and why it's so insightful.
  • The lessons: what one of the consulting giants learned from its systematic effort to offer more flexible work to its 330,000 (!) employees.

Thanks for reading and exploring with us -- and have a great week!

Aki + Usman

P.S. The podcast link to our discussion of newsletter #53 -- “Shifting Demand, Shrinking Supply " -- is right here.

#1

#Flexibility #CorporateAdaptation #LaborSupply < LaborDemand

To be clear: firms beginning to offer more flexibility is not an act of spontaneous corporate goodwill. 🙃 It's a response. Last week, we highlighted some of the demographic trends -- like declining birth rates, restricted immigration, and boomer retirements -- that have caused the demand for labor to far outstrip a dwindling supply. Meantime, when asked to name the benefits that are most sought-after by employees, a group of industry experts cited 👆🏻 remote work (a form of flexibility) followed by "flexibility" itself. In short, talent now has the leverage to demand more flexibility, and companies are beginning to respond in kind.

#2

#Flexibility #SideHustles #LaborSupply < LaborDemand

Matsui is an 80-year old firm that just lifted a decades-long ban on employees having a side hustle. The company even went so far as offering a few suggested forms of hustle: hacking on a tech startup, or becoming a YouTuber, artist or coach.

The fact that Matsui is headquartered in Japan should be telling, btw: Japan faces among the most precipitous population declines in the world, and its rapidly retiring older workers make the need to attract and retain young ones all the more urgent. A clear example of a shrinking labor supply forcing companies to respond in order to compete.

#3

#FlexibilityMeansNoRules #Leadership #Intent

PwC spent years making a conscious effort to instill a culture of flexibility within the firm. In this piece, Anne Donovan -- who was then a key people leader at the firm -- shares some fantastic insights and lessons from the experience with us. We'd encourage you to read the whole thing, but for a quick synopsis:

1. Flexibility means different things to different people, at different points in time. This reduces the effectiveness of a formally-stated "policy" or set of rules.

2. Everyone deserves the same degree of flexibility. And it's a generation-agnostic requirement. So in practice, this means not singling out anyone group or subset of groups for eligibility.

3. When it comes to flexibility, trust is granted, not earned. You trusted the person enough to hire them into your org, and need to lean into that trust, first; versus requiring your team to "prove" they deserve flexibility.

4. Flexibility is a two-way street. It's modelled from leadership at the top, but it's actioned from below. And just as PwC grants flexibility when employees require it, the company also asks that employees reciprocate when its business demands it.

By the by, kudos to PwC for embarking on this journey so well in advance of Covid: Anne penned this piece in January, 2019, a year before the pandemic hit. One wonders whether intentionally working on their "flexibility muscle", when they did, may have paid dividends for PwC's employees and leaders during the event itself. 🤔


Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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