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Embracing Radical Flexibility and Other Workforce Changes: How One Large Company is Innovating

In my last article, I discussed the one big factor that company leaders need to provide their teams as we continue to move into the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

That factor is flexibility. And one large company we’re connected to here at SCLA—Rich Products Corporation—has been embracing what Director of Global Markets Ken Kwasniewski calls “radical flexibility” in the approach to building up and managing its teams.

Today, we’ll explore that approach based on a fantastic presentation that Mr. Kwasniewski recently gave to our Think Tank group.

What Does Radical Flexibility Mean?

For office staff and other non-frontline workers, radical flexibility is about giving team members a variety of options to work how they want. This means expanding the ability to work from home—or “work from anywhere”—and fully supporting workers who choose to be remote even when full-time in-person work is available.

That always raises the question of how to address team-building and the undeniable benefits that come with in-person work.

Mr. Kwasniewski shared that “We recognize the need for relationships and building connections within the office. As we come out of the pandemic, we’ll move towards a more hybrid model—being in the office a few days per week. In the spirit of flexibility, we will not stipulate which days people will have to be in the office. Managers will manage that depending on when we need people in the office. There will also be options for full in-office or full remote [work].”

For frontline workers (who can’t necessarily work remotely), the story is a bit different. However, radical flexibility might be a good label for essential re-skilling and up-skilling initiatives that are underway as AI and other new tech are being introduced in an intentional move toward the “smart factory” model.

Empowerment is the name of the game here, as leaders take on a coaching role and actively work to bring down barriers so associates can control more of what is going on around them in plants and DCs.

Changing the “9 to 5” Mentality

By now, it’s clear that giving our team members options to control many aspects of their individual work schedules, environments, and work-life balance means that we can keep them engaged and performing at their best.

Mr. Kwasniewski spoke to the management-style change that is also underway in his organization to allow radical flexibility to become a reality. He mentioned that trust is a huge factor—and changing the old “9 to 5” way of thinking. (Luckily, teams around the world have been proving how much they can be trusted to get things done throughout the pandemic.)

In essence, that way of thinking relies on managers to carefully control details like work schedules and hours. Mr. Kwasniewski noted, “We’re moving from controlling schedules, workplace, work hours, and tasks/activities to more ownership of outcomes—understanding team well-being and driving change management, culture changes, etc. It’s a shift in management style. Everyone is in a different place within that journey re: the day-to-day stuff and wanting to get involved versus trusting your associates to get the job done and working with them to get them what they need.”

Preventing Burnout Is a Critical Goal of Radical Flexibility

Though he didn’t talk about it directly, the underlying message of Mr. Kwasniewski’s presentation was that making all of these changes throughout the organization would ultimately be good for team morale. And, as we’ve seen in the past, flexibility—and an open communication style embraced by management—appears to be the antidote to burnout.

As we innovate our way to the so-called workplace of the future, we can’t forget that our hard-working team members are only human. Protecting their psychological, emotional, and social well-being is more important than ever before. If we can alleviate burnout and attrition through more mindful management, shouldn’t we?

What are Your Thoughts?

Is your company embracing radical flexibility as we move into the post-COVID future? I would love to hear how your organization and teams have been changing throughout the last year and what sorts of challenges you may have faced. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow SCLA to join the conversation!


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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

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