28th March 2017

Talent Wants Flexibility at Work: Can the Board Rooms Ignore it?

Based on a conversation with Sandeep Kohli, National Director- Human Resources, Ernst & Young (EY). Sandeep is leading the talent function for EY covering more than 14,000 professionals across all its businesses. With over 25 years of experience, Sandeep has worked across the entire value chain of HR in multiple domains which include large conglomerates, consulting, IT &  manufacturing to name a few. His focus has been on building high performing teams and enabling his organisation to win by developing and deploying a business aligned people strategy. Sandeep has conceptualized several market leading practices & has played an important role in institutionalizing HR practices which have been recognized as Best in Class.

Talent market is demanding flexibility

Gen Y is already demanding partial flexibility at work & the Gen Z is expected to demand a much higher level of flexibility in jobs.  Employees are increasingly asking why their job designs can not be flexi about the place of work, timing and days when technology allows them to work from anywhere any time.  Several research studies have already proved that flexi policy companies are able to attract and retain better talent. What is more is that the productivity levels are reported to have gone up in these companies and costs have come down due to a better use of the costly office infrastructure. The employees too gain a lot by not having to commute daily or during peak office hours to work. This allows them a better work life balance.  The trend of choosing to free-lance has also caught momentum worldwide and this is expected to create a situation where a lot of talent would simply not be ready to work on a full time basis.

Do the employers have much of a choice?

Do the employers really have a choice, particularly, when the pluses far outweigh the minuses in terms of its impact on the bottom line?   Companies which are not able to hire top of the line talent will be able to do so by using the services of the best in class professionals on a flexi basis  with lower costs. On the other hand, the companies which would not adapt flexi work policies may fail to hire the services of expert freelancers and flexi time workers.  Attracting and retaining talent will be difficult even for large & reputed organizations as the employees are clearly giving a higher preference to work life balance then the pay packages and big brand names then they did in the past. This trend is expected to firm up with the induction of larger numbers from the tech savvy Gen Z joining the work force.  The writing on the wall is clear. The choice is to shape up on the flexibility front or ship out due to lack of high quality talent in future. 

Gen Y & Z prefer organizations with a flexi work culture

“ In the Generations Go survey, conducted by EY, covering nearly 10,000 people across the globe, it was found that flexibility and ambition go hand in hand - 75% of millennials (men and women) want the ability to work flexibly without stigma and still be on track for promotion. At Ernst & Young, we allow telecommuting & part time working by reducing the office work hours to 4 per day.  This allows a lot time for attending to home related responsibilities while still being able to complete the job with freedom to choose their own work time slots at home” said Sandeep Kohli. 

Flexi work culture requires a lot of preparation

Flexi work policies may not be applicable to all kinds of roles, jobs and individuals. A lot of preparation has to go in before introducing such a policy. Most important part would be to get the board room and the top leadership to agree as they would need to reorient themselves to a new way of managing people through processes and systems. Job designs as well as the individual employees would have to be evaluated and trained to fit into a new way of working where collaboration between people would be even more important.
Online and offline meeting time and collaboration for projects would need a highly disciplined work force which will have to be trained to communicate very efficiently based on the needs of the job. Flexi work culture would work well only if there is interdependence between the team members particularly in case of project based assignments. In certain roles, where face to face interaction is necessary, it may still be important to be present in the office. For example, in the healthcare sector, the emergency duty doctors and the nurses can work in shifts but their physical presence would be necessary. This only reinforces the need for a thorough audit of each role and the individual for redesigning the job descriptions for flexi working.

Flexi work policies are necessary to retain the competitive edge 

Indian entrepreneurs & professionals have globally demonstrated their unique capabilities in doing more with less through innovation and better cost management. More of this will be needed as the top line margins continue to reduce in the face of global competition. This competitive edge can only be created by attracting and retaining the best in class talent. Boards have to recognize the fact that the Human Resources Management today has more to do with profits and losses of an organization than ever before.  The HR community too needs to respond like the marketing community which reacts swiftly to even the smallest changes in the market place. Similarly if the talent market is demanding flexibility at work, the corporate leaderships have to respond swiftly before they begin to lose talent to the competitors.



Dr Manan Chaturvedi

Founder of Fortune Architect

Vijay Rai

Managing Director- Asia Pacific & EMEA Markets with Saviour US INC

Ajay Bhatia

Respected HR Leader

Shampi Venkatesh

Founder, P-Quotient

Deepak Bharara


Sugato Palit

Executive Director-HR & Admin, Experion Developers

Amarjit (Amar) Singh Dhull

Managing Director, UK Fostering, Founder, UKINDO International &

Rishi Srivastava

Promoter & Director, Rockland Hospitals Network, Delhi

Mr. D.P. Singh

Vice President & HR Head- India/SA at IBM HR Consultant

Runa Maitra

Founder and a principal consultant with People Talent International

Mr. Dhyan Chauhan

Mr Chauhan has held leadership roles in HR at leading multinational companies

Ashish Bajaj

COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon