When it comes to growing a successful business, flexibility is usually a consideration that a lot of companies focus on because it relates to how adaptable the company is. A flexible business is one that places a high priority on the quality of its products and services instead of how those results are achieved, but there can be issues that stem from having a bit too much flexibility as well.
In this post, we’ll be covering some of the hard truths about flexibility in business and why it’s not as simple as you might think to implement.
The core ideas of what a flexible business is
Flexibility in a business can often be misunderstood, so here are a few barebones concepts to help to get a better understanding of what it really means:
- Prioritising the end product over the process.
- Offering independence to employees.
- Being more accepting of change.
- Adopting scalable options when possible.
These are four simple principles that form the foundation of a flexible business. It’s important to understand that these are fundamental that must be practised before your business is able to fully commit to a flexible working arrangement. There is a lot more nuance to each of these practices, but it should give you a quick idea of where you should focus your attention.
Now, let’s break down each of these core concepts and explain them in a little more detail.
Prioritising the end product over the process
A lot of businesses focus a lot on creating super-efficient business processes in order to save money and optimise the work their employees do. This is understandable as there are many business metrics (also known as key performance indicators) that can be used to evaluate an employee’s performance and how much value they produce for the company. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of dehumanising employees and stripping individuality away from workers.
If you want to adopt flexible business practices, then you need to separate the process from the end result. Staff will want to work in different ways depending on how they like to approach problems. Some staff prefer a more direct way to solving challenges and will put their head down to work on a solution. Others much prefer to ponder a problem in a more relaxed environment and communicate with team members to find the ideal solution.
There are many different approaches to solving an issue and while some can have their efficiency measured objectively, we need to think about the human behind the work as well. Failing to do so can lead to poor communication between staff and managers, resulting in disputes and further problems that could’ve been avoided. At the end of the day, we all want to work in our own way and forcing these processes creates a daunting environment that is difficult to work in and scares your staff away.
When we prioritise results over the process, we get a better understanding of how our staff want to work and we start to focus on other metrics such as individuality, we place a heavy emphasis on accepting change, and we start looking at scalable options.
Offering independence to employees
Independence is a huge deal to employees. It shows that you’re willing to give them more control over how they work and it encourages them to be more creative with the solutions they come up with. When you strip employees of independence, they’ll feel like they’re being pigeonholed into your business’s processes and it becomes difficult to differentiate themselves.
Talented employees are difficult to retain because they’re always searching for ways to differentiate themselves. They’re always seeking unique ways to stand out from their peers and they’ll jump to a better opportunity when given the chance to. If you want to retain your top talent and create a more flexible business where employees have more control, then you need to start offering more independence.
Being more accepting of change
Businesses should be more accepting of change, especially when it can provide positive benefits. There are many different ways to implement change, but it’s often best if you have flexible solutions in place beforehand so that adopting changes can be much simpler and cause less disruption. These are arguably the two biggest reasons why people tend to avoid making changes to their business.
A great example of this in an industrial setting would be the use of food grade flexible packaging. Packaging is usually something that needs to be created for a specific product, but if you have items that differ in shape and size such as food, then it’s best to look for a flexible packaging solution. Switching to something like this if you have rigid processes can be challenging, but having a company culture that is more accepting of change can help facilitate these changes and lead to a better foundation for your business.
Adopting scalable solutions when possible
A business will never have a static number of employees that they can’t deviate from. Similarly, a business will never want a cap of 1,000 customers that they can’t grow past due to technical limitations. Business solutions need to be scalable if you want to have a flexible business. You need to start looking for solutions that enable you to grow and shrink your business processes as needed. This can help you save a considerable amount of money (especially when it comes to expensive services) and also leads to more efficient work processes.
For example, many businesses tend to manage their employees with manual paper systems because they’re extremely simple to use when you only have a few people working for you. However, you need to scale this to a fully digital system when you have dozens of employees because managing paper records can lead to errors in the future and will likely cause inefficiencies. The beauty of a scalable solution is that it can easily be used by businesses both small and large, making this an applicable solution regardless of the size of your company.