First, to understand the relationship between flexibility and open innovation, we must have a clear understanding of both concepts to know what we are referring to. Flexibility is a fundamental factor in any field, including the workplace.
What is flexibility?
The labour flexibility model, in the face of social and cultural transformations, proposes, as a crucial element for its implementation, a ‘deregulation’ of the labour market. In view of the fact that the labour market has historically been shaped by trade union laws and achievements that are not very well accepted by companies. These could be an obstacle for companies to adapt to the modern world.
However, the flexible work scheme has been gradually introduced in many companies. It should be noted that there are those who argue that such labour flexibility has its downsides. They argue that not all measures regarding employment contracts and freedom of contract are really in favour of workers’ rights.
Labour flexibility has been the form implemented during periods of economic crisis. Its practice is justified on the grounds that in these crisis situations it prevents workers from losing their jobs and companies from reducing their production.
Requirements of flexible labour market policies
The model is aimed at acting on three sensitive areas of the labour market. Specifically, it requires:
– Flexibility to increase or decrease employment levels in firms with legal freedom.
– Flexibility in the geographical mobility of jobs.
– Flexibility to increase or decrease wage levels according to the given situation.
– Flexibility in the modification of working hours.
It is true that the flexible working model differs from company to company, but, in general, the three possibilities mentioned above remain fixed in the company’s usual flexible working conditions.
There are also other formulas, such as the possibility of choosing holidays without being limited to predetermined dates, or even the possibility of not working based on hours but rather based on tasks, projects, or other objectives.
Flexible working encompasses infinite possibilities that vary according to the needs of the business and its employees. Finding the right formula between the interests of the company and the employees requires empathy and communication.
Relationship between Open Innovation and flexibility.
Open Innovation is an innovation strategy under which companies leave their comfort zone and open up to the world. This strategy conceives innovation as an open system where internal and external agents participate in the process of innovating and improving the competitive possibilities of the organisation. It is not so much a technological challenge, but rather a change of attitude and process in the organisation.
The keys to open innovation are the opening of the organisation’s mind and doors to be able to collaborate with people from outside the company, allowing creativity to be sought and promoted jointly.
Innovation and creativity are fundamental to make a company sustainable nowadays. We are facing a paradigm shift due to the advance of technology, communication, change in business models and consumption.
All of this means that we live in a situation of uncertainty and constant evolution. Hence the need for companies to be flexible and able to adapt quickly to change.
These concepts are so important and so fashionable that we find a multitude of types, definitions and even innovation processes.
More and more corporations are applying the concept of open innovation and using different models to accelerate internal innovation through the input and output of knowledge.
That is why open innovation and flexibility are two disciplines that are closely linked, as they feed off each other: one cannot exist without the presence of the other.
Speed, flexibility and a lot of open innovation. These are terms that have invaded conversations within the business environment. They underpin the opinions of both entrepreneurs and management teams. Behind these words there is no lack of intentions. There is a rush to adapt the business model and to position themselves in the most advantageous conditions in the digital economy. The evolution of the business is essential to further develop a business strategy for growth.
Digital transformation and change management have become the most important concern for any manager. Because it is about survival, but also about being prepared to face everything that is coming. All companies, and now without exception, allocate funds to boost their corporate strategies. They even form open innovation units to accelerate innovation and business transformation. Because transformation is a fundamental element to bring more freshness to business strategy and, above all, to increase the effectiveness and speed of innovation strategies.
However, transformational innovation and open innovation models represent a management difficulty for companies. Because it involves doing things differently and working differently. It also requires more talent and new skills, less isolation and more collaboration with other business ecosystems, more ambition and exposure to risk and, above all, a management model oriented towards business transformation and without the limitations of a model oriented towards core business exploitation.
These are the reasons why open innovation units often fail. However, for an open innovation model to work and succeed, the design of governance structures and management of the innovation portfolio must be radically different from the traditional one. It is vitally important to align strategy, investments, and expectations, allowing for a high degree of uncertainty. Preparing the management team to manage risk and the dynamics motivated by the speeds and back-and-forth of an environment of collaborative projects and of a more disruptive or experimental nature.
Relationship between flexibility and Human Resources
Human resource flexibility is important because its different dimensions or practices can influence the innovativeness of firms. For example, functional flexibility practices, such as cross-functional teams, can contribute to greater knowledge diffusion to enhance the innovative capacity of employees. can contribute to a wider diffusion of knowledge to enhance the innovative capacity of employees.
Similarly, firms that outsource knowledge-intensive services to external professionals can reduce barriers to the innovation process.
However, the literature has not established consistent relationships between human resource flexibility and innovation. While some theoretical perspectives and empirical research suggest the need to develop and support full-time, permanent contract human resources, others argue that flexible employment relationships are beneficial for innovation.
The absence of moderating effects – such as that of environmental dynamism, which describes the pace and unpredictability of change in the firm’s environment – could explain the lack of flexible employment relationships.
Implementation of flexibility.
Flexible working arrangements provide enormous benefits to both employees and companies, but they also pose a challenge for human resources. While the concept has been around for years, its application was very limited and employee requests were reviewed on a case-by-case basis. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, companies have been forced to accelerate their flexibility policies and to drive their digital transformation in a more agile way to adapt to the new context. Companies have been under great pressure to regularise flexible working practices effectively. This is where HR needs to provide the right structures to make flexible working accessible and employable for workers and managers.
Alternative working arrangements are on the rise. Thousands of studies show the benefits of flexible working for companies and employees. The numbers continue to grow, and rightly so. In Europe, between 50 and 90 per cent of employees can take advantage of these working practices. HR professionals have a key role to play in implementing the new telework to help both employees and companies effectively enter the new normal. But how can it be implemented correctly?
- Do a needs assessment: it is advisable to start with an organisational assessment to determine which types of flexible working best suit the strategic needs of each organisation.
- Define a flexible working policy: a policy should provide clear guidelines and procedures on how the conditions work and who can participate. They should indicate, for example, whether flexitime positions will apply to all staff, or whether employees who want this benefit must request flexible working. Finally, of course, human resources must ensure that the policy is legally enforced.
- Train managers: Managing flexible workers is crucial to the success of a policy. But it is different from managing people in a traditional work environment. It is advisable to organise training for managers on topics such as supervising remote staff, managing virtual teams and evaluating the performance of remote employees.
- Use a tracking tool: How can organisations ensure that employees working from home, part-time or flexitime are doing their job? It is essential that attendance tracking is easy and accessible, and this requires a self-service tool that allows employees to record their attendance and absences and allows managers to track this data.
- Establish communication tools and rules: good communication is an important success factor in flexible working. Therefore, first of all, make sure that everyone has access to team collaboration software for instant messaging, remote conferencing, project management and document sharing. As HR managers (and also for flexible employees), make sure you also have an accessible tool for tracking employee data. It is also good to encourage managers to establish communication rules, such as daily or weekly check-ins with individual employees, and monthly team meetings (virtual or in person).
- Awareness: Finally, HR needs to make staff aware of their right to request flexible working hours or workplaces, and the benefits of this policy. You should also highlight this benefit as part of your employer branding strategy.