For many organizations, the workplace has never been more flexible. Ever since 2020, record numbers of employees have been given permission to work flexible hours, work remotely, and altogether decide when and how they work.
For many organizations, this has been successful and even broadened their talent pool. But for others, it’s opened up challenges around responsibility, accountability, engagement, and so forth.
We know that flexibility is important to the wellbeing and work-life blend of our team members – but at the same time there’s no question that some people take advantage of it. And that always impacts client experience and our bottom line.
So how can executives balance empathy for their team with profitability and client experience? Here’s a few thoughts to consider, coming from own experience, successes and failures in this area of leadership.
We Get What We Tolerate
As leaders, we have to be very careful with what we tolerate from our teams. If we give too much leeway, people are liable to continue to expect and take advantage of that flexibility.
In these situations, it’s key to be proactive, not reactive.
Rather than waiting until you have a problem with a team member who is using too much flexibility, set clear expectations up front. Communicate clear policies around flexibility from the very start.
That way, you’re not in a situation where you have to fix a problem, do damage control, and deal with the fallout of “taking away” privileges or perks.
Make Every Decision with Empathy, Profits and Client Experience in Mind
When making decisions, you have to balance all three of the above factors. They are all interconnected, and if you miss one, you are apt to make the wrong decision.
Not having enough empathy for your team can hurt customer experience, which in turn harms profits. But if profitability falls, you may not financially be able to provide empathy either.
It’s tough to balance these three, and you may not always get it right. You may have to course correct and reverse decisions later. But you should ALWAYS consider these three factors before making a decision.
When you have to tell a team member “no,” it’s important to remind them that taking care of the business is crucial to taking care of employees. If you’re not profitable or providing excellent service to customers, the success of the business will directly translate to success for team members.
Remember Your Obligation to Your Entire Team
When you’re dealing with an individual or even a group of individuals asking for more flexibility, you have to remember your obligation to the rest of your team, too.
Will this flexibility put an additional burden on the rest of your team? Will it affect the great customer experience that your other team members have worked so hard to create? Will it undermine the profitability that others have painstakingly driven?
The behavior of our team members always has a ripple effect, for better or for worse. A dedicated team member makes the lives of the rest of their team easier because no one has to pick up the slack. A passionate, engaged team member inspires others to deliver their best. And a team member that’s taking too much from our flexibility policy without giving enough back always hurts the rest of the team.
As leaders, we can’t control how our team members behave on the job – but we can set clear policies as to what we will and won’t tolerate. It’s our responsibility to set the tone and do our best to protect the health of not just our team, but the business as a whole.