Good practice guide to internal flexibility policies in companies

2009 – The European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions has published the ‘Guide of good practice on internal flexibility policies in companies’. TNO is the author of the guide. The guide  translates the European flexicurity strategy to the level of the organization. It is interesting to see how organizations deal with the pressure for greater flexibility and reach different internal flexible solutions.

Flexicurity involves creating flexibility and security for organizations ánd employees simultaneously. This guide describes how organizations can respond to short and long term changes in their environment more quickly. And it describes how they can provide more room for employees to develop themselves, to stay employable and to find a good work-life balance. The focus is on increasing internal flexibility, in particular organizational flexibility and flexibility in working time.

Functional flexibility
In organizational flexibility (or: functional flexibility) organisations increase their adaptability through a flexible design of processes, adjustment of functions and tasks, and by a wide deployment of the personnel. This can be done in several ways , however, with flexicurity in mind companies choose the ‘high road’. This differs from the ‘low road’ because the focus is not ( only) on costs, but rather on work place innovation. This means better quality of work with much attention to the development of competencies, to the autonomy of employees in their work, to new ways of management and new forms of labor relations and to management based on trust.

Flexibility of working times
Flexibility of working times involves the deployment of personnel (capacity) at times when this is necessary for the company and at the same time attention to individual needs of employees. In line with flexicurity, companies strive for a balanced flexibility, with an optimal mix between the needs of the organization and the needs of the employees. Again, employee participation and dialogue plays an important role.

In practice
Each EU country and every organisation should have its own mix of measures that suits the specific situation. However the measures should always come about in dialogue. In all cases, to achieve balanced internal flexibility it is important that all parties are involved in the process of change and that change is established with the intention to achieve a win -win situation.
The guide describes a number of examples including:

  • Dexia Bank ( Belgium) introduces flexible work and telecommuting desiring to be an attractive employer, to save on office space, to achieve higher productivity and to have less environmental impact.
  • GKN AutoStructures ( UK ) increases the adaptability of workers and management and the broad employability of employees, with the aim to respond better and faster to changing market conditions. This organization also ensures that employees stay employable for a longer period.

The examples show that every business understands the concept of flexibility in a unique way and puts its focus differently. Operating in this way the companies aim at different results and reach different results. In all cases, however consultation (collective or individual) has taken place; so the results are supported by all stakeholders. The broad support for the interventions and the results achieved will determine the success of the measures to improve internal flexibility.

Reference: Goudswaard, A., Oeij, P.,  Brugman, T., Jong, T. de. (2009) Good practice guide to internal flexibility policies in companies.European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions. (see attachment).