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The Missing Link

Date: 16-Dec-2013

Amit Mallik, Director - HR, Aviva India

The Financial Express

The 21st century has witnessed corporations focused on creating agile organisations. But what is an agile organisation? It is the one that is capable of continuously adapting itself to the business environment. Such organisations are characterised inherently by flexibility and change acceptability.

Economic advancement has been the key driver of shift from manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy. This change has brought to fore a challenge for managers to understand and deal with the shift in focus from an assembly line system to a more complex knowledge-based work interface. This new interface has key linkages to more variables and decisioning factors than in an earlier environment. In today’s workplace, both the employer and employee are experiencing a shift in relationship based on different expectations, enhanced ambiguity and is driven by variables, external as well as internal to the organisation. Employers have been looking at imbibing upon flexibility in structure, culture, policies, processes and practices in order to strengthen the relationship with employees. Flexible work arrangements are among the most discussed initiatives/outcomes of the effort.

Flexible work arrangements encompass a range of practices such as flexi-time, flexi-work week schedules, telecommuting, working from home etc that offer employees the flexibility to plan their work. However, just as no two organisations are the same, no two individuals would be. Hence, flexi-work arrangements need to be implemented in the specific context of the organisation as well as the individual rather than as best practice that is fashionable to adopt.

Flexible work arrangement needs would differ for employees across different functions. A unit focused on customer operations where the workload intensity is uniform and the job resources are available only on-site would have very little scope for flexible work arrangements, while a unit working on group functions or even sales may have a larger scope for the same given the nature of work.

For us, the most important consideration is the overall organisational performance and our employees and managers clearly understand that flexible work arrangements are only looked at if there is a clear linkage between the two, else they could become counter-productive to the organisation goals. For example, at Aviva, we have been able to create an agile workforce by fostering a work environment that empowers individuals to lead themselves. In fact, the relationship of exchange is based on mutual trust and acceptance which is the cornerstone of a progressive organisation.

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