Millennials are leading the way in desire for more work flexibility, and EY’s D&I chief offers tips on making it happen.
By Sheryl Estrada
The need for flexibility at work is often seen as a U.S. and UK phenomenon, but it’s actually a global issue.
It’s a desire EY, No. 3 on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, sees in every country where it has employees.
“We did do a survey this past year, which validated the fact that flexibility is the new norm across many countries around the world and the need for that in order to sustain business,” said Karyn Twaronite, EY’s Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer.
While flexibility, she continued, is important to all generations, it is millennials, in particular, who are looking for more work-life fit. The ability to have flextime is pretty significant for 20-somethings and it’s right up there with pay and advancement.
“Three of the six reasons millennials say why they would quit their job is based on flexibility issues. They’re either working too many hours or they don’t have a manager or team that allows them to flex,” she explained.
Part of what may be driving this, is that millennials as a group are one-and-a-half times more likely than Baby Boomers to be a part of dual career partnerships and families.
“Seventy-eight percent of the millennials in our survey are part of dual career,” Twaronite pointed out. “That’s a big shift and a big stress on the system. And if you work for a Baby Boomer, or a boomer organization that has boomer-type policies, you can easily see where there would be a potential empathy gap.”
And these dual career couples are largely two people working full time, not one or both working part time. “That’s a dynamic shift when almost 80 percent of your work place has that need; companies really need to stay on top of these things. And what does that mean? Does that mean that people need to work less?,” she asked.
Twaronite offered her take on ways to make work flex work.
Implement scheduling tweaks. At EY they discovered most of the flexibility needs involve employees wanting to have a little predictability and control at times; for example, the need to be able to commute slightly differently.
“Something like a 15-30 minute change is all that a team member or colleague might need,” she said. “Now that’s a relatively inexpensive fix, right? But that’s huge to a family to be able to accommodate that.”
Offer time off during the day. In regards to performing in a global environment, employees and managers, millennials included, are being asked to work across multiple time zones, manage teams that work across multiple time zones and handle customer matters at all hours of the day. Twaronite said that although that might sound like a bur- den, it’s also very exciting. However, there has to be some give back from a company to make that sustainable.
“So, that might mean you take off at 3 o’clock to go to a child’s game,” Twaronite explained. “Or you want to attend a yoga class at 5 o’clock. This is something that might have been unheard of 10 years ago. But now it’s a way to sustain holistic wellness in order to sustain work in a global environment.”
Make work-life transparent. “One of the most important engagement questions that we ask all of our 215,000 people every year, and we measure our leaders upon, is, ‘Do I feel free to be myself at work everyday?’” she said. “That’s a very important question for diversity and inclusiveness and for authenticity and transparency.”
During Twaronite’s long career at EY, she has always gotten encouragement to be herself. In a sense, she noted, “EY has always been a part of my family, and my family has always been a part of EY.”
“I’ve worked here through making partner and having children. I have a full-time working spouse in financial services as well, and we have a busy life.”
When her son was an infant, he would sometimes travel with her and her work colleagues at times, so they got to know each other. “My home life was very transparent. And I was still able to accomplish a significant amount. Many of my work colleagues are my closest friends. [Many colleagues visit] my home and have been for many years, including bosses and team members. That’s also been very important in my son’s comfort level.
“There’s something very appealing to a child to also have seen the transparency and authenticity to know that EY is a part of my life and that my EY colleagues and teammates are also my friends,” Twaronite said. “That transparency has helped a lot.”