Q&A with Ben Elms: “Flexible Working is Part of Our Vodafone Brand Culture”

July 25, 20168:03 am1331 views

Challenging the norm of traditional-working models vs. the impact of flexible working policies on workplace culture, productivity, business profits, employee and cost-efficiency, Ben Elms, President – Asia Pacific, Vodafone Global Enterprise gets candid with HR in ASIA to share more details.

He firmly believes that companies in Singapore should implement a change management program focusing on four key areas: People, Processes, Space and Technology. Read on…

  1. How do you think organizations in Singapore can measure up towards introducing flexible working policies?

Here in Singapore, our “Flexible: Friend or Foe?” research showed that flexible policies are currently in place in 76% of the companies surveyed While this is encouraging, there now needs to be a focus on increasing its adoption rate. We have found that only 35% of employees in organisations offering flexible policies are actively adopting these benefits available to them.

Singapore companies need to think of a flexible working policy as a change management program with four focal areas: people, processes, space and technology.

  1. What are the challenges faced by organizations in Asia Pacific towards introducing and adopting flexible working policies?

Decision makers in companies without flexible working policies are concerned about the potential friction between staff, unfair distribution of work and lack of trust on employees, if they would be working with other companies as well.

Sometimes in companies that do have flexible arrangements in place, employees may not have the right tools to maximise working from home.

Ben Elms, President - Asia Pacific, Vodafone Global Enterprise

Ben Elms, President – Asia Pacific, Vodafone Global Enterprise

In addition, the cultural landscape in Asia is such that it often leaves workers feeling concerned, if utilising flexible benefits would negatively impact the relationships with their bosses and ultimately career progression.

In Singapore, for example, 16% of employees surveyed believe there will be this negative impact, compared to the global average of 7%.

Despite these preconceived notions and challenges towards adoption, our research has shown that 53% of companies in Singapore have increased their profits, 77% enjoyed better employee productivity, and 46% of companies improved their corporate reputation with flexible working.

Furthermore, there is a strong link between flexible working and trust amongst bosses and employees worldwide. For example, 63% of employees in the UK and 57% of employees in Singapore believe that flexible working has improved trust in their employees.

This is a positive sign to assure those, who for various reasons have not adopted this style of working – of the benefits that have been reaped worldwide.

  1. How do you think employers in Singapore can step up their efforts to introduce more progressive working policies such as to retain the fast-paced millennial generation?

Our survey found marked differences globally amongst respondents across age groups. A large majority of those aged 18 to 24 believe that flexible working would improve their work performance, in comparison to their older counterparts.

Rapid changes must be embraced in the workplace to remain competitive, and have flexible working practices. This will give companies a winning edge in retaining and acquiring millennial talent.

Decision makers need to find ways of working that are less focused on the amount of time employees spend at their desks, and more on the output achieved.

Millennials see mobile technology as a fundamental part of their lifestyles, and they often transfer these expectations onto the workplace.

They are also instinctively quick to adopt the latest technologies such as cloud services, advanced messaging and video conferencing – which are all viable modes of flexible working that employers in Singapore should consider implementing.

  1. How difficult is it for organizations operating in a traditional set-up to bring about transformation in the workplace culture, considering challenges in mindsets and cultural differences across geographies?

Transforming the management style of a complex organisation is not easy, particularly when it takes into account the cultural challenges of each market. The Asia Pacific region is very diverse, so nuances and local norms in each country will result in varying adoption rates across the markets.

While the general consensus may be that flexible workers are seen as less serious about their careers, leaders certainly do have a part to play in shaping that perception.

In order to change this mindset, inculcating awareness and staff training is the key to facilitate changes in workplace practices. Managers should act as catalysts, leading by example to inspire their peers and showcase the benefits of flexible working.

See: 53% Companies in Singapore Report Increased Profits Post Implementation of Flexible Working Policies

  1. Share more insights on how organizations can boost productivity, performance, efficiencies and thus achieve more profits by implementing flexible working concepts at work?

When employees are equipped with the right technologies to do their job in a more efficient manner, they will be more motivated. With the empowerment to respond quickly to changing behaviours and business environments, the end customers will appreciate the improved levels of service from better-connected and collaborative teams.

  1. Are organizations in APAC – Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Philippines in particular embracing the flexible working trend to establish more open and collaborative environments, wherein employees are inertly motivated to perform instead of clocked hours at work?

Our global survey has found that organisations in Asia Pacific are seeing the benefits. Citing few examples of companies with flexible working policies, 84% employers in Hong Kong have enjoyed raised productivity and 53% in Singapore have reported increased profits.

We are definitely seeing a positive trend towards new working arrangements on a global scale, boosted by the desire from workers themselves to see these changes coming to effect.

Among the surveyed respondents in Singapore, majority of employers believe that their job satisfaction and overall happiness would improve. This is a key for employers to raise motivation levels amongst staff, to positively influence productivity gains and profit.

  1. Share with us some of your noteworthy observations – resulting in talent retention and happy employees at work by introducing flexible working policies?

Based on our findings, 67% of employees in Singapore view a better work life balance as an attractive option when exploring new job roles, which is 13% higher than the global average.

70% of employees believe that job satisfaction would improve with flexible working, and further 78% believe that their overall happiness would improve.

The positive effects of flexible working have been noticed by management, with 86% of decision makers believing that working flexibly has had a positive effect on their companies.

  1. Change management in organizations is never easy. How can organizations manage and navigate through changing business dynamics and support creation of agile workforces with flexi workplace culture?

At Vodafone, we understood the importance of a digital workplace in today’s rapidly evolving business environment. We adopted a flexible and open approach to working internally.

For instance, when we introduced flexible working model at our UK headquarters, we moved away from an assigned desk type of workplace culture, to help free-up employees and allow them to take full advantage of the mobile solutions.

This places significant efforts into promoting flexibility and creativity, by providing employees with the right tools to work beyond the traditional desk-based models. This helps measure people output and results achieved, and then work becomes what you do, not just where you are.

We understand how other organisations are interested to follow suit, and our own experiences have provided valuable lessons to help others change the way, they work too.

The first step for the management is to work out what their goals are and how it aligns with their overall business strategy. The objective could range from enhancing customer service responsiveness, improving employee work-life balance, or reducing company overheads.

Next, they would need to map out where the organisation currently stands and identify what their priorities are to reach their goals. Metrics to gauge the success of flexible working and business audits to access how ready the organisation is in implementing flexible policies are also essential.

While the conversation amongst the management may still be at high levels from the beginning, all line managers and staff need to get involved with a detailed communications plan for each phase of the decision making process – as they are the ones who will turn these ideas into practice. More communication and consultation would only ensure that all employees are aboard and more likely to help implement successful change.

  1. Suggest some of your key recommendations for businesses based in Singapore to adopt flexible working policies and processes for implementation.

Our survey has found that although a majority of companies in Singapore have flexible working policies, people are hesitant to use them due to the fear of negatively impacting their career progression.

There is a need for decision makers in Singapore to communicate the benefits of flexible working, and to assure their staff, that they are trusted to work flexibly to improve their performance.

Leaders should encourage new behaviours and provide new metrics to measure employees’ success. Decision makers need to relook at their processes such that working practices can accommodate changes to data security or employee contracts.

Allowing employees to work flexibly would require less space in the workplace and keep costs low. Finally, the right technology and solutions must be in place to ensure workers are able to do their job in the most efficient manner from wherever they are.

Vodafone has produced a how-to guide that takes businesses through what should be considered to get the best out of flexible working. It can be downloaded at: www.vodafone.com/WorkFlexi

  1. Take us through the Vodafone Global workplace culture in Singapore and has the organization implemented flexible working policies in itself. Share with us some success stories and the evident impact on business witnessed, since its introduction.

Flexible working is part of our Vodafone brand culture. Its how we work and is part of our DNA. Looking at all levels of our organization, we support flexible arrangements, where possible as long as it works for the individual and the team.

Our offices are optimized for ‘hot desking’, with integrated fixed and mobile communications to enable seamless working across multiple devices.

We integrate secure, real-time cloud collaboration and knowledge-sharing to create flexible workspaces that allow us to work wherever, whenever as per work demands.  Our technology further facilitates for secure connections from home to ensure confidential company data is kept safe.

Here at our Singapore office, we have had a new mother who benefitted from global maternity policy of 16 weeks paid maternity leave, followed by a 30-hour working week at full pay for 6 months, after returning to work. She was very happy to have enjoyed essential time with her newborn without sacrificing on her career progression goals.

  1. What are the workplace trends of the future you would like to indicate for companies in Singapore to prep up efforts for the challenging times ahead?

The labour crunch in Singapore would be increasingly felt not just by certain industries, but across the board from a generational perspective.

The retirement age in Singapore is increasing, and there will be an estimated 900,000 people aged 65 or older by 2030 – which is four times more than 15 years ago. Apart from attracting millennials to the workplace, flexible working should also be seen as a critical area of concern to retain the existing talent pool of experienced candidates in your workforce.

Disclaimer: This exclusive interview coverage and content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.

Also read: Rapid Adoption of Flexible Working by Companies Globally: Survey Reveals

Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)