September 19, 2010 at 8:27pm
Several years ago, Company X moved away from having part-time employees in their operations and customer support departments. Is now the right time to bring back part-time workers as a "flex-team?"
Company X is a privately held financial services firm in the mid-west. The company grew rapidly through the 1980's and 90's, led by an inspirational founder, but has faced more difficult times recently as the company matured, the founder's retirement led to senior management turnover, and its markets have matured. The company's operations and support department is a cost center faced with continuous regulatory and technology changes.
The pressure to reduce costs (primarily through headcount reductions) has left the operations department struggling to keep up with workloads, while requirements for transaction processing speeds and high-customer support quality continue to increase.
Key Innovations & Timeline
Company X's operations department is exploring the idea of moving away from specialist roles and moving toward a "flex-team" structure, where employee responsibilities will vary from the people-centric role of call center support to the number-crunching role of trade processing and accuracy checking. Although the change has yet to be implemented, the move to a more flexible workforce is expected to provide a greater variety of work to employees who may more quickly feel burnt-out from doing repetitive work over extended time-periods. In addition, employees trained across numerous different functions can be dynamically allocated as the intensity of work-loads changes across job functions. The reemergence of part-time work options will provide employees with a greater degree of flexibility to address non-employment life priorities if they choose, as well as save Company X on salary and employee benefit expenses.
Challenges & Solutions
The key challenge of implementing such a change is the need to change HR hiring practices. Generalist employees need to have a much more well-rounded skill set than specialists, which might be a challenge in current pay-ranges. Employees in the specialist role will have to go through substantial training to become proficient at their new job requirements.
Additionally challenging is communicating the impacts of such a change to other departments within the organization which rely on the performance of this Operations group. Changes in one department can have ripple effects across the organization and all stakeholders need to be aware of the changes and potential implications for them.