As you can imagine, with the Olympics in London, business leaders in the UK were very concerned about the impact of the Games on their businesses from a variety of standpoints. Employee engagement was a big issue. Would there be traffic problems that made it difficult for employees to get to work, particularly in London? And most importantly, would workers be distracted by the Games and find ways to “skive?” (British slang for evading work). The Institute of Leadership and Management based in London has released a report based on a survey of over 1,000 managers about the impact of the Games on their businesses. The results are surprisingly positive. You may well say, “So? The UK has a different culture, the games were ‘across the pond,’ and a one time effect is not necessarily a new paradigm.” However, some things in this report really caught my eye as particularly relevant to all leaders of organizations, not just those in the UK.
A percentage of the companies surveyed took the Games as an opportunity to test various flexible work schedule options. To quote the report, “It is encouraging to find that businesses took the opportunity to trial flexible working practices and those that did found it far from being ‘a skiver’s paradise.’ Their people were productive and motivated. We hope that organizations continue to offer more flexible working which, when properly managed, is a powerful motivator and helps to attract and retain talent.” I see several key takeaways from this:
People rise, (or fall), to the level of expectations. Rather than being “evaders,” expecting people to perform well when given flexibility worked. Employees rose to the occasion and were responsible with their flexibility.
Providing flexibility is empowering and motivating. Giving people a chance to watch the Games and to work their schedules around traffic issues and such helped to raise morale and made them feel empowered.
The notion that everyone needs to be at their desk 9am – 5pm, Monday through Friday is simply outmoded.
Many U.S.A. leaders are already employing or seriously looking at flexible ways for employees to work. It’s empowering, creates increased productivity, and can solve some staffing issues by being able to access quality employees who can’t or won’t work regular hours every day in an office. Working moms and house husbands, for example, are great sources of talent and can feel very empowered by flexible hours, working from home and working partial weeks.
Since most surveys show that pay is not a motivator over time, perhaps shifting your beliefs and practices around how people work in your organization can give you access to a breakthrough in productivity. To fully access the opportunity offered, investigate your own limiting beliefs about trust, how people behave when you are not watching, what motivates them, and how accountability actually works.
If your head is in an empowering place and you are still reluctant to unleash people, investigate your policies and processes for determining whether work is getting done and how much is to be done by whom and by when. Fill in any missing procedures. Learn about “Self Generated Accountability,” (which we maintain is the only real accountability anyway), and how linking it with good tracking may give you the freedom to change how people work in your organization for the better.