Report: Flexibility Key to Employee Retention
March 10, 2016
How important is flexibility in the workplace?

Is your company flexible enough to retain top talent?

Want to retain today’s young workers for the long haul? Offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, compressed work weeks, casual dress or flexible hours. That’s the overwhelming conclusion of this recently-released report from the Society for Human Resource Management. 

Key findings:

  1. 55 percent of all employees surveyed say their ability to balance work and life issues are “very important” when it comes to their individual job satisfaction. That’s up 10 percentage points from the previous year.
  2. 42 percent report that if their employee granted them this flexibility to balance work and life issues, they would be unlikely or very unlikely to seek out employment elsewhere.
  3. Of those who say they do not expect to be looking for a new position over the next 12 months, 42 percent report that their ability to balance work and life issues was a leading reason. 45 percent of them cited salary/wages and other compensation as their primary motivation for not straying. So employees who pay well and who are flexible work arrangements can expect to retain talent.
  4. Over half of all employers now offer flexible work arrangements of some kind. According to the 2015 Employee Benefits report published by the Society for Human Resource Management, employers are adopting the following flexible work arrangements:
  • Casual dress at least one day per week: 62 percent
  • Telecommuting: 60 percent
  • Telecommuting on an ad hoc basis: 56 percent.
  • Flextime: 54 percent
  • Flextime during core business hours: 54 percent
  • Mealtime flex: 42 percent
  • Casual dress throughout the work week: 36 percent
  • Compressed work weeks (i.e., 4 x 10 hour days instead of 5 x 8 hour days): 31 percent
  • Flextime outside of core business hours: 26 percent
  • Full-time telecommuting: 22 percent
  • Shift flexibility: 21 percent.
  • Flextime outside of core business hours: 26 percent
  • Seasonal scheduling: 14 percent
  • Job-sharing: 10 percent
  • Alternating location arrangements: 8 percent
  • Results-only work environment (ROWE): 5 percent.

Deloitte, a multinational professional services firm with more than 225,400 employees, took a look at its own flexible benefits program back in 2003. The company canvassed its employees who said they would have left the company had they not been granted a flexible work arrangement of some type, and then calculated what the turnover effect would have been. Deloitte estimated that being willing to work with employees on FWAs saved it an estimated $41.5 million in turnover costs in that year alone.

In the same publication, the authors found that 96 percent of R&D and headquarters employees at AstraZeneca said that flexibility was a part of the reason they stayed at the company. 73 percent of them said that flexibility was “very important” to the decision.

The same organization reported that of the five organizations they studied that implemented flexibility for their hourly and non-exempt workers, employee commitment was 55 percent higher among those workers granted that flexibility. Conversely, these workers reported 57 percent lower stress and burnout levels.

The Role of Human Resources Professionals

The Society of Human Resources Management has identified these best practices for HR professionals when it comes to helping implement FWA benefits in the workplace:

  • Show management how FWAs can actually improve business outcomes.
  • Encourage FWA support among senior management
  • Support the embrace of FWAs as a strategic business decision and not just as a series of ad hoc arrangements
  • Educate workers and managers on how to implement FWAs while improving job performance
  • Conduct regular needs assessments, taking into account the needs of the workforce as well as the needs of the business.
  • Become subject matter experts in FWA administration and technology
  • Identify and track the key metrics required to assess the benefits to business outcomes and productivity.
  • Ensure that FWAs do not compromise the company’s compliance efforts on things like wage and hour laws, leave requests, etc.
  • Take on leadership roles in FWA ‘pilot programs’ within the organization.


For further reading: Leveraging Workplace Flexibility For Engagement And Productivity – SHRM Foundation