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Workplace Flexibility: To Make It Stick, You Need to Focus on Results

From Recruiter - July 20, 2016

Back in 2008, the global tax services firm Ryanintroduced the myRyan program, a relatively radical approach to workplace flexibility, especially for a firm as large and established as Ryan.

Delta Emerson, president of global shared services at Ryan and one of RecruiterTodaystop 10 company culture experts, played a critical role in bringing myRyan to life. She explains that the basic principle of the program is to allow people to work any time, anywhere, as long as they get their jobs done. There are a fewrestrictions to the program,like the concept of role reality, by which Ryan recognizes that some positions do require a physical presence in the office, and therefore the model of flexibility for these positions is different than it would be for other roles. That being said, the nutshell summary of myRyan is that it allows people to not be bound to specific hours or their cubicle desks. They just focus on getting work done.

According to Emerson, the ROI on the program has been great.

Everything is moving in the right direction, she says. Revenue is up year over year. Turnover has gone down. Satisfaction ratings are up. Everything that matters to the CEO has continued to head in the right direction.

That being said, implementing a totally flexible work environment was no easy task. Emerson says that the team at Ryan spent a couple of years looking at the possibility of implementing such a high level of flexibility before making any decisions, and they spent six months designing the program before bringing it to fruition.

And even then, the rollout was not without its obstacles.

One of the biggest issues we faced early on [was with management], Emerson says. We trained people about the policies, but we basically just told the managers, Hey, this is going to be tough for some of you, and youre just going to have to deal with it. If you dont youre going to lose people.

The leaders at Ryanquickly realized that it should have taken more time to equip managers with the tools they needed to deal with the transition. Since then, the company has course-corrected and now spends a lot of time training managers to work effectively in the environment.

But increased training isnt the only reason why eight years later, myRyan is still going strong. Emerson has learned a lot about what it takes to makeworkplace flexibility stick. In the wake of some high-profile defectionsfrom telecommuting, the myRyan program may stand as an example of how the any time, anywhere work ideal can become a reality.

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Focus on Results and Leverage Your Culture

When asked what sets Ryan apart from other companies that have struggled to create and maintain similar workplace flexibility programs, Emerson points first to the fact that Ryan has done a really good job of facilitating results-based conversations, as opposed to letting people manage by gut feel.

If I see you in your office and Im in mine, and I assume youre being effective because youre there, thats a reallybad way to operate, Emerson says. We already had a lot of metrics sitting around, like client satisfaction rates and revenue, sowe pulledit all together.When were talking to people about their results, its an intelligent conversation, not gut feel.

Ryan keeps employees on track by framing all its conversations around concrete measurable metrics.Employees know theyre being evaluated against a specific set of criteria, and this guides them toward the right results. They know they cant rest on their laurels. They have to deliver.

Emerson notes that she cant sayexactly why a given company struggles with flexibility unless she has firsthand information about the company, but she guesses that most companies that see their flexibility initiatives fail lack the results-based focus on Ryan.

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