James Hyndman

Flexibility could define your employee value proposition


The phrase “there’s an app for everything” is now almost unnervingly true, with the smart devices we all carry around now a direct link between people and their next job. For some businesses, the new wave of both skilled and unskilled contractors will be a living nightmare, sapping what’s an already tight talent market. With the largest generation in the current workforce, millennials, defined by short employment tenures, is it worth joining the trend and focussing employment efforts on contractors and interim workers?

While often considered a tool for retaining permanent staff, organisations such as Uber have proved that an employee value proposition is just as valuable in the creation of a more fluid workforce. However, is there a similarity between what short- and long-term staff desire from their employment opportunities?

Controversies Aside, Uber Knows How To Build A Workforce 

Uber has been the figurehead for this generation’s business world, representing everything people come to think of upon the first mention of disruption. While much of the discussion around the company centres around its effects on the taxi industry, it’s also built a diverse workforce primarily drawn by its inherent flexibility.

The average time worked for Uber drivers is 28 hours a week.

Essentially, Uber drivers work when they want to, where they choose to do so, and for a time period of their choosing. It may be an extreme example in the drive towards a greater acceptance of flexible working opportunities, and it certainly won’t fit every organisation, but it does indicate the power in giving employees choice.

Uber published statistics on its workforce, revealing that, when given a certain degree of freedom, workers don’t slack off as some might expect. The organisation found that the average amount of time spent in the app for drivers was 28 hours per week, a fact it attributes to people treating the role as a part-time one.

The findings also revealed a small contingent (7 per cent) never actually plan their work with the company, instead working completely on the fly. It’s a stat that reflects the fluid nature of Uber’s workforce, and gives it almost a crowdsourced feel. If people feel like they want to jump on the network and help meet demand, they can. If not, the work is left to active drivers to complete.

How Important Is Freedom To An Employee Value Proposition?

While freedom as a trait on its own works for an enterprise like Uber, it’s not immediately transferrable to other more static businesses. However, another company whose name frequently arises in discussions of innovation and forward-thinking, Netflix, still manages to bring the concept of freedom into its employee value proposition.

To ensure the company doesn’t get stats like Uber, where 7 per cent of employees only work when and if they feel like it, freedom is paired with another equally important engagement driver: responsibility. Netflix expects employees to essentially be self-motivated and self-disciplined, and notes that while this is something that is frequently curtailed as a company grows, it believes it will be able to buck the trend and continue offering an empowering workplace.

What does freedom look like in the workplace?
What does freedom look like in the workplace?

It’s a concept that could help to alleviate one of the main concerns an employee value proposition is expected to combat: eternal job-hopping. A survey from Gallup noted that while it is true the majority of millennials do fit this bill, the problem isn’t necessarily with them, but instead lies in the way they are treated within the organisation.

Gallup urges employers to understand what it is that makes millennials stay – like development opportunities and flexible work hours – and ensure these are clearly communicated in its employee value proposition.

Whether organisations are looking to attract full-time workers or maintain an active contractor base, traits such as flexibility are arguably more influential than remuneration prospects.