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How To Persuade Management to Create Flex Schedules?

  August 6, 2010

A while back I wrote a series of posts on motivation and how to increase motivation in your staff. One of the key principles in that series of posts on motivation was that in order to get someone to do what you want, you need to look first at what they want. This is beautifully displayed in a question to Workforce magazine this month that I am referencing below.

Here it is...

Start with a business problem that has a natural and rational link to a flextime solution.

Question:
My company doesn't have an official flex schedule policy, which means that some departments are able to have a flex schedule while departments such as mine do not (I work in human resources). What is the best way to present a request for consideration to our human resources executives to see if this arrangement could benefit us?

—Nimble We're Not, HR generalist, financial/insurance/real estate, Iowa City, Iowa

Dear Not Nimble:

Here are some facts from your statement, slightly rearranged:

1) Your company does not have a formal flex policy.
2) Some departments use flex schedules anyway.
3) You work in human resources.
4) You view flextime as a benefit and want your department to get the benefit, too.
5) You seek assistance in designing a pitch to your line executive.

To start: Instead of trying to see how flextime can benefit you, see how it can benefit your customers. Start with an important business need in which a flextime schedule would improve some aspect of customer service.

The human resources department is visible to all in the company. Limit your self-interest and you will build more respect for the HR function. Don't make flextime simply about the HR department.

During my 20 years as head of HR for an S&P 500 company—incidentally an early adopter of flextime—we followed a guideline that our HR people would not have the most favorable cases for any company benefit. We (and most others) found that flextime could not be structured the same for research scientists, manufacturing assemblers, building maintenance mechanics, administrative services like HR and others..

Real-world examples: Our assemblers liked to start early (together), take short breaks and leave at 3:30 p.m. That fit their work pattern. Service functions needed long hours of coverage. Those departments tended to have some early starters, some later, with all present during “core hours” from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

To get your proposal together:

1) Forget about the most exotic flextime alternatives, like 4/40 schedules, three-day weeks and so on. Start with a business problem that has a natural, rational link to a flextime solution. Think of some ugly problem that your customers complain about or some service improvement that might be achieved by a conservative use of flextime.
2) Come up with the most concrete business rationale you can.
3) Do your research to be absolutely sure that nothing in your proposal violates or fudges any Fair Labor Standards Act rules or applicable state laws, especially for nonexempts (overtime-eligible employees).
4) Rather than box in your vice president of HR with a formal memo, meet briefly face to face after you have developed a business rationale for flextime.

SOURCE: Harold Fethe, organizational consultant, Half Moon Bay, California, June 1, 2010.

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