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East Midlands Chamber News

Flexible working 'cuts cost to employers', say business leaders

DNCC President Ian GreenawayDNCC President Ian Greenaway is one of an influential group of British businesses to have signed a commitment to flexible working rights after finding that "agility" in staff hours and locations can cut workforce costs by as much as 13 per cent.

Sir Win Bischoff, chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, is leading the launch of a new group, the Agile Future Forum, whose aim is to revolutionise traditional working practices with a view to boosting the UK economy.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the 22 bosses, which include Ian Livingston, chief executive of BT, Martyn Phillips, chief executive of B&Q, Mark Ovenden, chairman of Ford Motor Company, and Adam Crozier, boss of ITV, say: "Our companies and organisations differ in size, sector and location but we share a common view that workforce agility is generating significant and tangible financial benefits for our businesses."

Other signatories include Peter Mather, vice president of BP; Stuart Fletcher, chief executive of Bupa; Jim Cowles, chief executive of Citigroup; Chris Bush, managing director of Tesco.
They argue that while 96pc of companies were already offering some degree of "flexible working" the term has gained a bad reputation for being "a benefit for employees and a cost for employers". They add: "This runs contrary to our experience: if implemented successfully by business leaders, workforce agility can offer sustainable business performance and engaged employees."

The AFF has been formed 18 months after Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, asked Sir Win to investigate whether UK working practices could be shaken up to boost employment and workforce efficiency.

Sir Win commissioned a report by McKinsey into the economic impact of agile working on companies, rather than employees. He said the founder bosses of the AFF wanted to see if there "a business case could be made" for less structured working patterns. " And it can," he said. "There is evidence of cost savings on one hand and revenue enhancements on the other."

In their letter the bosses say that the report "shows that in the areas we reviewed we are enjoying benefits equivalent to three per cent to 13 per cent of workforce costs, with potential to increase that by a further three per cent to seven per cent and, in some instances, sales uplift to 11 per cent.

Accountancy giant KPMG, one of the signatories, said it saved £4.7m during the recession by offering flexible working hours to staff rather than making redundancies. Another, law firm Eversheds, said 28 per cent of staff reported increased productivity when they gave staff freedom over their working models.

The AFF primarily wants to raise awareness of the economic benefits of agile working. But it has also devised a specific assessment tool to help companies test and measure the value of new practises. The AFF will run seminars and workshops to help small, medium and large companies overhaul working practices.

Mr Greenaway, who is supporting the scheme in his capacity as Managing Director of Chesterfield-based manufacturer MTM Products Ltd, said: "Like most other small businesses MTM faces daily challenges meeting changing customer demands, managing our financial position and cashflow in a difficult economic environment and wanting to do the right thing by our loyal employees.

"When considering how to make our business more agile MTM have always started with the business need before introducing flexible/agile working practices but we also look for a “win-win” solution which benefits both the company and our employees."

For more information about the Agile Futures Forum, click here.

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