A few weeks ago, I was having a normal afternoon browsing industry articles on flexible working…fascinating, I know.
I came across an article about Shawmut, a construction management company with a flexible working program, called Shawmut Flex.
A construction company with flexible working? How does that work? Don’t they have to do, you know, construction?
I knew that I had to talk with Shawmut to get the inside scoop. Soon after, I had the pleasure of connecting with Kara Cronin, the Director of Work Life Strategies.
I first asked Kara how she came into what sounds like a very unique position.
Kara explained that she has had a non-traditional career path. After 14 years working in a variety of roles with Shawmut, Kara came out of the Leadership Development Program and was tasked to work on a cross-functional team to help set up Shawmut Flex.
She told me she became very passionate about changing the culture and the way Shawmut employees work for the benefit of all.
Shawmut Flex began officially in January 2016.
Instead of going the traditional route with a pilot program, Shawmut decided to go “all in” and open up flexible working to the entire workforce.
Shawmut Flex has its roots in an employee engagement survey launched approximately two years ago. The survey results showed that employees were spread too thin with long commutes and a “first car in, last car out” mentality.
With multiple existing learning programs including a Leadership Development Program, Shawmut was eager and ready to meet the challenge reported by employees.
When I asked Kara what the biggest obstacles were to implementing flexible working, she stated that management at first, was scared. They were very used to having bodies in seats.
Adding to that, the company just went through implementing an open office work model, and there were concerns that no one would be working there.
However, Kara and her colleagues were ultimately successful in gaining buy-in from management and were very methodical in establishing Shawmut Flex, taking their time to create the program.
They established formal training for managers and a system to track employees by their type of flexible working arrangement.
While talking to Kara, she stated something that you don’t always hear when it comes to flexible working.
Collaboration actually improved at Shawmut. She went in detail in explaining that when you don’t have the luxury of swinging by someone’s cube, you have to be more deliberate in your communication practices. Communication and meetings got more focused and pointless meetings were eliminated.
Since the program began in January 2016, employee retention has increased by 3 basis points.
Additionally, Kara told me that the ability to recruit talent from anywhere has also been a major benefit.
Chief People Officer Marianne Monte hails from Providence, Rhode Island and wouldn’t be able to work for the Boston company without flexible working.
The Chief Marketing Officer was also able to hire staff in California that otherwise would not be accessible.
Shawmut Flex in Review
Kara and her colleagues took all the right steps in formalizing their flexible working program.
First, they gathered professionals from a wide variety of departments including business development, payroll, and other departments to work on the Shawmut Flex team, so that no voices were excluded.
Second, they were able to communicate the benefits and address management’s concerns to gain critical buy-in.
Third, they instituted training for all managers before employees knocked on their door asking for a flexible working arrangement.
Although the program is still young, it appears Shawmut’s hard work is paying off. Talent attraction and retention has strengthened and collaboration has improved, illustrating the benefits of flexible working for employers.
We look forward to seeing the continued success of Shawmut and their flexible working program.