Until now, or yesterday if we’re really honest, operations-based roles have dodged the rise of flexible ops teams, remote work and the cultural shift regarding employee expectations when it comes to job flexibility and creating. It has been an easy call for many frontline teams to look at the obstacles that operations-based roles face regarding flexibility, and declare that things are ‘just too hard’ to change.

However, we now have numerous examples of how flexibility is being successfully incorporated into operations roles as well as evidence that there is a flow-on effect of positive outcomes for businesses. With an estimated 70% of the Australian workforce unable to work remotely due to the requirements of their roles[efn_note]Champions of Change Coalition, 2021, Shifting Expectations – Flexibility for frontline, shift and site-based roles.[/efn_note], the need for flexibility within operations roles will continue to grow.

A key learning from the knowledge sharing we facilitate at NAWO forums, has been a deeper understanding of the many win / win outcomes that greater flexibility (and gender equality) bring to a workplace. We have seen that flexibility is both a retention tool and a recruitment drawcard. On top of that, offering flexibility as a priority can bolster a company’s reputation within their community and more broadly. 

Flexible ops teams at DON KRC

We’ve recently highlighted the example of DON KRC as a way to show what flexible ops teams can actually look like on the ground. This is one of the key features of the NAWO community: we are not out there alone navigating these challenges in isolation; we can learn from each other, lean on each other and truly pull together to meet the needs of a changing world in a way that supports employer and employee. 

If you haven’t read our specific Knowledge Share Forum overview, DON KRC made the following changes as a result of asking pertinent questions regarding their staffing shortages:

  • Implemented a ‘School hours’ production shift from 8:30 / 9am – 3pm.
  • Began an “After 5pm’ shift program supporting parents to work a late shift and still see their children after school.
  • Shifted their community relationships to reach previously underrepresented employee demographics.
  • Enhanced the regularity of their company training programs once production was supported by the school-hours work force.

It’s common knowledge that people are a business’s greatest asset. There are significant costs in recruiting, training and equipping each employee with the skills and company-specific knowledge to be truly competent within a role. This is why high staff turn-over is a major problem for many organisations. Employee retention is one of the tangible benefits that increased flexibility brings to a workplace. 

As DON KRC found, being able to commit to regular training was another direct outcome of their shift restructuring. Ongoing training (and subsequent career progression) has been shown to lead to better employee outcomes and a sense of greater satisfaction at work. As mentioned by James Fazzino, Chair of Manufacturing Australia, the first-in companies who are “cracking the code” when it comes to flexibility in frontline environments, will be best-dressed regarding accessing new employee demographics.

So how will you know when the changes you’re implementing are working? Looking at the Champions of Change Coalition report on flexibility for frontline, shift-based and onsite roles, you’ll notice these three things

  • Retention of existing talent
  • Attraction of new applicants
  • Stability in your workforce 

Another point to note is that cultural barriers to increasing flexibility and creating flexible ops teams can be as challenging to overcome as logistical barriers. Internal push-back and challenging conversations on the road to greater flexibility and equality in your workplace seem to be part of the journey. The advice from Louise Weine (CEO of NAWO), is to find the ‘First Followers’ within your organisation; these are the people who are open to change and trying new ways of doing things. Once identified, embrace them as key players in successfully implementing your new initiatives; then get out there and take some small actions in the direction you want to go. Don’t forget to share any and all small wins along the way, loudly and proudly within your organisation. As Paul from DON KRC shared, he now has team leaders within most parts of DON ringing him and asking for ‘school hours’ shifts to be included in their department, as they’re hearing such positive things about the new employees and the flex program. 

We’d love to support you to brainstorm any ideas you have that are relevant to your specific scenario. We can also put you in contact with an industry peer who is a little further down the road; so don’t hesitate to reach out to NAWO and let us know what you need.


Become a member with NAWO

If you want to transform your current organisation into a truly inclusive and balanced workplace at every level of operations beyond, NAWO can support you.  

NAWO works with an engaged network of individual and corporate members who share our commitment to inspire and drive positive change in leadership gender diversity. We help our members achieve their goals through: 

  • NAWO national webinars & events 
  • The NAWO mentoring program 
  • Industry solutions 
  • Professional development programs 
  • Company brand recognition 
  • Online member community & resources 

Contact us here for more information.