Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are significantly higher in organisations where flexible working is widely used, according to a recent report.

It found that firms benefit from reaching a tipping point when flexible work arrangements become the norm rather than the exception – with the NPS increasing significantly from negative 3 when flexibility is rarely used to 16 when it is widely used.

The NPS for the organisation as a place where women can progress to senior levels is significantly higher when flexible working is widely used, according to the research report which was conducted by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women.

There is a 72 point difference between organisations with no flexible arrangements and those where they are widely used (negative 59 versus 13), while organisations where flexible working is available but rarely used averaged a NPS of negative 22.

By actively encouraging flexible arrangements and ensuring they are widely used, the research found organisations stand to gain 35 advocacy points.

“By actively encouraging flexible arrangements and ensuring they are widely used, organisations stand to gain significant employee advocacy”

The report also found there is an equally strong correlation between the adoption of flexible working arrangements and employee advocacy.

Where flexible arrangements are widely used, all employees are four times happier than in organisations with no flexible options.

However flexible work arrangements are not driving advocacy or confidence for men, despite strong interest in their uptake.

“By actively encouraging flexible arrangements and ensuring they are widely used, organisations stand to gain significant employee advocacy,” said Melanie Sanders, Bain partner and co-author of the report.

“However, there are barriers still in the way of men accessing flexible work which suggest that they are suffering the stigmas and biases that women experienced more severely in the early days of their use of flexible working.”

Role models play an important part in convincing employees that working flexibly is a viable option, according to the report, which suggested that if women can see successful examples of others progressing while using flexible arrangements, they will be more convinced that their organisation is truly committed to removing barriers to increased gender diversity.

“The message here is clear: If organisations want to be known for helping women progress to senior levels, they must go beyond simply offering flexible work policies,” the report said. “They must actively encourage and role model the widespread use of flexible working arrangements.”

The research report also debunked the myth that women seeking flexible options are less ambitious, and it found that women who work flexibly are equally – if not more – serious and committed to reaching their full career potential than those who don’t.

Furthermore, those working flexibly want to advance as far as possible, but they are willing to take different routes to achieve their career goals.

“We need strong leadership from the CEO and active support from all managers and significant role models to make flexible working a success”

In order to advance gender equality in the workplace, flexible work arrangements must also be available to and actively supported for both genders.

Currently, less than 50 per cent of Australian organisations have a workplace flexibility policy and even when such policies exist, there are barriers to effective utilisation.

The right culture and active support are fundamental to improving employees’ experience of flexible working, according to The power of flexibility: A key enabler to boost gender parity and employee engagement report, which took in more than 1000 professionals from the business, government and not-for-profit sectors.

Proof of the potential to progress one’s career, visible commitment by the CEO, leadership and colleagues, and respect for boundaries are the most important factors in the flexible working experience.

“If we aspire to adapt to the workplace of the future and the increasing desires of both genders to play meaningful parenting roles, then we need strong leadership from the CEO and active support from all managers and significant role models to make flexible working a success for men and women,” said Meredith Hellicar, CEW spokesperson and report co-author.

There are a number of key actions to normalise and accelerate the success of flexible working, according to the report, which said organisations must:

  • Actively encourage and role model the uptake of flexible work arrangements
  • Ensure flexible arrangements are supported and working successfully for both genders
  • Create the right culture and support employee priorities of career progression, visible support from the CEO, leadership team and colleagues, and respect of boundaries
  • Create clear policies around promotion and compensation when working flexibly
  • Ensure technology and an agile work environment are in place and working well

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