I count myself among those who believe that organizations can adapt and respond to fast-changing employee needs. And indeed, many organizations do provide a range of programs and supports geared toward meeting some of these needs and keeping their employees happy or, at least, helping them to better manage their work/life responsibilities. Yet there is a critical piece of the equation often lacking yet it surfaces periodically in articles and commentaries about today's work environment and deserves more focus -- the importance of training and supporting those charged with actually implementing many of these programs and supports. Take flexible work options, for example. Policies may be in place for employees to be able to work flexibly yet many state that they do not take advantage of these policies for fear that it will preclude them from ... fill-in-the-blank -- being considered for the next promotion, being assigned the upcoming project, or being asked to travel unexpectedly to a client site.
Policies that are not utilized need to be examined and more times than not, there are obstacles both on the "giving" and "receiving" side. Without question, the obstacles are rooted in a lack of understanding, familiarity, and skills to enable both parties to have a win/win so that the programs and supports -- often touted as being a critical part of the organization's retention efforts -- are actually used. With the ever-increasing competition to be recognized as a "best" company, organizations need to move beyond the offering stage to ensure that what's offered in writing is being used in practice.
If a manager has never managed someone who is telecommuting two days per week, they need training to understand how to do it. This makes the policy sustainable because, well...it's being used. If an employee needs or wants to utilize a program or service yet is reluctant to do so for whatever the reason, internal communications vehicles need to assess this and determine three things:
- What is the obstacle (or obstacles);
- What is the reason for the obstacle/s; and
- What do we need to do to remove the obstacle/s to generate and increase usage.
It usually falls to an employee's manager to give the "go-ahead" whether verbally or otherwise to proceed. And while the words can be "yes," more times than not it's the non-verbals that convey otherwise. Organization-wide training is essential when any new program or service is offered and the training needs to go well beyond describing what it is, who can use it, how much it will cost, and when it begins. The training needs to continue well into implementation for there's a huge difference between offering something and using it.
Value-added training drills down into the culture of the organization to understand the opportunities and barriers. It enables organizations to know how change needs to be introduced and what adjustments need to be made along the way. As we all know, change often comes slowly and this is definitely the case when an organization is providing employees with an opportunity to do things differently. Even with the good stuff, it's essential to train in order to sustain and to retain.