Leading a culture of care
Record levels of employment allied to the increasing social conscience demanded by those from Generation Z who are entering the workforce amount to one thing; businesses will have to take a step up if they want to attract and retain the best people. And we’re not talking here about simply increasing salaries; although, according to the ONS, weekly average earnings went up by 3.4% in the year to December 2018 and analysts expect pay rise levels to remain above 3% in 2019.
Why are competitive salaries no longer enough? Well, partly that’s down to millennials and Generation Z and partly to the increasing demands placed on us by a multifaceted lifestyle. Quite simply, the pendulum has swung and people no longer live to work, no longer see themselves as defined by their job title. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be engaged in and absorbed by their work; but that work is now one element of an overall lifestyle.
So what can leaders do in order to create a work culture and ethos which better meets the expectations of today’s workforce? For many businesses one of the simplest changes would be in moving towards offering a more flexible working pattern. Something as simple as offering the option to work early or later around core hours, extending the working day in exchange for a four-day week, or working from home or an alternative site can make a measurable difference to the way in which people engage with work.
And this needn’t come at a cost to the organisation. In fact, quite the contrary. At the time of writing New Zealand financial services company Perpetual Guardian has just released an analysis of the results of an experiment to switch staff to a four-day week and maintain their pay. Not only did employees benefit with stress levels down from 45% to 38% and work-life balance scores up from 54% to 78%, the company also benefited from a 20% increase in productivity.
Sadly for some people any move towards a more flexible working pattern has come too late. Research by Carers UK has revealed that more than 600 people a day leave their jobs because of the demands of being a carer. The same report reveals that some 5 million workers in the UK are trying to balance work and care responsibilities. Each of those workers will bring a unique set of knowledge and skills to the workplace so that is 5 million reasons why leaders should take steps towards creating a culture of care in their organisation. Let’s look at three simple steps starting with:
- Flexible working. We have shown above how flexible working bring benefits both for a business and its people. For carers those benefits can be profound, enabling them to provide care when it is most needed and still maintain a fulfilled worklife.
- Empowerment. It may seem a simple step but empowering people to take decisions about their workflow and priorities can have measurable impact on the way in which they juggle work and caring duties.
- Support. It doesn’t take much to show people that as an organisation you are there to support them in their daily lives. Giving people access to a mentor or a ‘discussion buddy’ provides them with the opportunity to open up and discuss their challenges and needs. Providing information about budgeting and financial planning can help to mitigate finance stresses whilst linking with local care organisations can help to deliver solutions which individuals on their own may not have discovered.
Leading a culture of care isn’t an exercise just for carers. It’s about valuing and respecting your people, and delivering a mutually beneficial work life balance.
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Helen is a collaborator, a deadline demon and a diplomat. She is often described by her colleagues and clients as the glue in their projects. She can be contacted via www.questleadership.co.uk or E-mail: [email protected]...