Embedding Flexibility in a Firm’s DNA

ISS, Intercom and WorkMeter describe CFR policies

15/05/2013 Barcelona

Joan Pons, Antonio González-Barros, Joaquín Borrás y Nuria Chinchilla

"As our main value proposition, we sell the values of respect, investment in people and dialogue as tools for achieving commitment with the company and the client. These bring about greater productivity and profitability," said Joaquín Borrás, executive president of ISS Facility Services, as he described his company’s philosophy.

Borrás took part in the panel discussion "Corporate Family Responsibility: Company Support for the Family," along with Antonio González-Barros, president of Grupo Intercom, and Joan Pons, founder and CEO of WorkMeter, during International Family Day, held on IESE’s Barcelona campus. The event, held on May 14, was organized by the school’s International Center for Work and Family (ICWF), under the theme, " Paternity/Maternity and Work: Goals for the 21st Century."

Prof. Nuria Chinchilla, director of the ICWF and moderator of the panel, asked panelists how and why they decided to implement flexibility policies.

"In our case, it was not something planned: we are just an SME and it’s the way we are. Why be rigid if there’s no reason to be? We don’t see the logic behind being inflexible. It’s about putting yourself in another person’s place and trying to treat others as you would like them to treat you," said González-Barros.

Joan Pons stressed three motives behind the company’s CFR policies: Respect for people, improved performance and better organizational dynamics. "Work is not a place, it’s an attitude," he said, and firms should help employees be proactive.

All three speakers said they began putting flexibility policies in place in a natural and spontaneous way, but later they were formalized. Antonio González-Barros described several measures that his organization implemented such as highly flexible maternity or paternity leaves, afternoons off for children’s birthdays and time off when a child is sick.

However, he admitted to making some mistakes: "Sometimes we found people who think that to reach their goals, they have to avoid work flexibility. So the mistake was to implement it from the top, without getting the opinions of everyone in the company and the collaboration of the whole team. It doesn’t matter if the idea is good or clear, there are people who will not think the same thing," he said.

Dialogue with employees is crucial, said Borrás, who added that asking for opinions and then taking these into account has served to boost commitment within the company. Pons explained the main principles focused upon at WorkMeter: fostering trust (between the team leader and members of the team) and co-responsibility.

Yet there are obstacles. Sometimes this is the company itself, said González-Barros: "Sometimes we are very flexible and sometimes we go too far. Neglecting to measure results can be a problem; things can get out of hand."

There are also legal issues to consider. Pons said much progress still needs to be made and noted that while the government provides support for training and other initiatives, it does not provide similar means for workplace flexibility.