Confessions of a flex worker: leading the way to culture change

Donna Jones
Donna Jones | November 28, 2018
Fairness & Inclusion
Confessions of a flex worker: leading the way to culture change

It’s 6:30 on a Sunday morning and I’ve just tiptoed downstairs, made a coffee and sat down to write. I am Donna Jones and I flex all of the time.

I know the business case for flexible working – higher engagement, greater attraction and diversity of applicants, greater employee wellbeing, productivity and safety outcomes etc.  From a retention perspective, workers value their personalised flexible working arrangements over salary increases; women are more loyal when they have this invaluable agreement in place.  All of this sounds great! But why are we, the transport industry, still designing staff rosters around the sole breadwinner – male, naturally who provides for his family? WHAT? Isn’t this 2018?

This is where I come in. I am a flex champion because I have had the great fortune of working flexibly for the past 15 years.

Living the flex life

For me, balancing work and family commitments is a never-ending juggling act that requires flexible working solutions.  Working in senior management roles, I provide vision, design strategies, and implement the action plans.  I have to absorb information quickly, make decisions on that information and generally reprioritise my work what seems like every 5 minutes, all while batting endless travel demands.

To support the revolution of public transport, our company needs inspired strategies.  For me this inspiration comes from music, podcasts, books, Pilates (usually first to go), cooking, movies, politics and just being outdoors.  Making time for most of these activities is a necessity. Sitting in an office KILLS curiosity and is not good for developing vision, strategy or creativity.

I also have 3 kids 6-14 years who are very active, growing up quickly and who need ME. (Disclaimer: they are healthy, I have an au pair and I do have a very busy spouse who travels). I choose to be an involved parent who knows her children and actively participates in their lives. Flex means I can be my best self at home, and at work. But flex is not only for parents; it benefits the entire workforce.

Building a flexible culture for future-proofed business

Our industry is largely blue-collar and male dominated. Companies have done the same thing the same way for many, many years, and for much of that time nobody really considered employees’ family, health or social needs.

Flex for us is a significant cultural change and required a lot of groundwork. I’ve developed tools, aids, portals, policies, worksheets, sited appropriate legislation and documents, and consulted, and consulted, and consulted.  Consequently, I am frustrated when I hear some of our managers say, “What if they aren’t really working at home”?  “What if they are on Netflix all day?”  “We can’t create a new roster for every single mother who wants to only work morning's” (our male employees are now seeking flex working arrangements due to custody agreements).  “I worked from home a few years ago and it doesn’t work.”

The importance of leadership commitment to culture change

It’s not easy to change culture that’s been imbedded for years – it certainly won’t happen overnight. If you want to sell your company on the benefits of flex (or other non-traditional ways of working), here’s my list of essential success factors:

CEO Advocacy and Support

  • Cultural change requires sustained commitment and advocacy –
  • Flex role modelling and support starts at the top
  • Employees need to see that it is “safe” to work flexibly

Financial Commitment

  • Flex working requires commitment and does come at an initial cost (the financial rewards far outweigh the initial set up costs)
  • CFO and budget owners need to be on board and committed to support this change

Education – why is flex right for your business

  • Every business has its own unique reasons to implement flex
  • Talk to your people (host focus groups and 1:1 conversations) and develop tailored solutions that meet the needs of your workforce

Data and analytics

  • Understand your turnover, your attraction and recruitment metrics
  • For rostered workforces understand current practice and any perceived barriers to change
  • Partner with external analytics bodies that can support where in-house capability doesn’t exist. Transdev will partner with Monash University to develop sophisticated data analytics on our rostering and scheduling practice

Leadership Refresher Training (non-judgemental and empathetic)

  • Not all managers are on board with the change in way of working and may be uncomfortable – get to know their fears
  • Use your advocates to help influence them to get on board as flex should be open to everyone not just people working for managers who support this change

Get a role model

  • You will need support as this is one step of a cultural change that can tiring – we are all in this together

The transport business is moving faster than ever before and we require a savvy, innovative, and agile workforce so we don’t get blindsided by a new disruptor moving into our sector.  Our business is very lean, and continually places challenges and additional projects on our people. We need to deliver more with less, and flex is what enables us to get it all done.

Now, I need to on to that online grocery shopping…