Flexibility at Work – Building a Competitive Advantage in Polish Companies

Flexibility at Work – Building a Competitive Advantage in Polish Companies

June 16, 2023

In the face of volatility and uncertainty, the winning company will be the one that creates agile organizations acquiring competencies and talents that contribute to its business success. In April 2023, GIGLIKE and EY conducted research on workforce flexibility in Poland and published a relevant report. I see the value of this report in three dimensions: the relevance and significance of work flexibility for building a competitive advantage for companies, the creation of the GIGbarometer index, which will better allow us to understand the essence of workforce flexibility, and the addition of opinions from entrepreneurs and experts that will direct our attention to the near future, indicating the challenges we will face. Reading the report has enriched my understanding of the essence of workforce flexibility changes that await us and its impact on the success of Polish companies. I will not discuss the report itself, but I will share insights from its analysis.

I will start with labor market trends and their consequences for the business development of Polish companies. The generational shift we are currently witnessing brings revolutionary changes in the ways work is performed, driven by global megatrends. As a result of this change, with the departure of the Baby Boomer (1946-1964) and the ongoing decline of the post-war baby boom generation, by 2030, 75% of all employees will be from Generation Y (1981-1996) and Generation Z (1997-2012). These two generations have a different approach to work and its role in their lives compared to their parents. They do not rely on a “work culture” or become “addicted” to it. I agree with the opinion of Olga Legosz, an entrepreneur and HR expert, who describes this group as well-educated, valuing their own worth and being conscious of making career and life decisions. They do not respond to classical motivations like “carrot and stick.” They expect to participate in determining how the company operates and builds its success. They prefer to be inspired rather than motivated. Financial motivations alone no longer work on them.

Job satisfaction has become a priority.

It is time for a real partnership with employees. Employers who quickly understand this will win in acquiring competencies and talents.

Business digitization is the key to improving productivity, work efficiency, cost optimization, and building added value for customers. A company that relies on data is on the right track to building a competitive advantage. This will entail a series of consequences for the labor market. The requirements for leadership and employee competencies will change. This will not only involve IT system skills but also effective utilization of these tools in management. The profile of employee competencies will significantly change. There is a high probability of reducing the number of required employees, shortening working hours, or changing the way work is performed, for example, through part-time work or replacing permanent employees with the purchase of specific services on the market. Significant flexibility in the labor market will be necessary both at the systemic/regulatory level and within individual companies. 59% of Polish companies do not plan any employment changes related to digitization in the next two years. Globally, the situation is different, with plans to reduce 300 million positions. EY research shows that work tools and IT systems will have the greatest impact on workforce flexibility. However, currently, for most Polish companies, the motivation for a flexible approach to work is the financial situation of their companies and tax issues for employees. This is certainly an aspect that will change. PwC research confirms that 48% of Polish family businesses consider digitizing their companies a priority within the next two years. The remaining 52% of companies will also understand this quickly.

Flexible Approach to Work

The world is changing, and the COVID pandemic has changed our work habits. The widespread use of various forms of hybrid work has taught us to better utilize IT tools and systems in management. We have tested the advantages and disadvantages of remote work, and many companies have developed their own effective hybrid work models and introduced new flexible forms of employment. The pandemic may be over, but the experience and habits remain and are being developed in various forms. Many employees have realized that they can work differently and have left corporations. This phenomenon is noticeable on a global scale. They work independently as entrepreneurs providing services to multiple companies. Rafał Brzoska, CEO of InPost, confirms this with the example of his company. We attract talented individuals with flexible working conditions. 48% of the company’s employees prefer hybrid work. A flexible approach to time, form, and place of work can help maintain a balance between personal and professional life.

A flexible approach to work means activating companies to introduce flexible forms of work, which requires taking into account new trends in the labor market. Currently, these trends have marginal significance, but in the future, they may become significant. I will discuss the three most important ones: Quiet Quitting, Quiet Hiring, and the GIG Economy/GIGers.

Quiet Quitting – without engaged employees, achieving good results is impossible

Quiet Quitting is a trend related to the generational shift and the work approach of Generation Y and Z. It involves completely abandoning the belief that work is the most important value in life. This does not mean quitting work altogether, but rather resigning from ambitions that go beyond basic duties. Employees do not want to take on additional tasks and responsibilities. They also do not want to participate in new projects. They are rational, not emotional, in their work approach. They strive to regain a balance between their professional and personal lives. This means that we have employees who will not engage in their work or in the company’s success.

In 2022, Gallup conducted research on employees in Europe and published the “State of the Global Workplace” report. The research showed that only 14% of employees are engaged in their work and derive satisfaction from it. Research in Poland shows that only 40% of employees identify with the success of their company. This is no longer a marginal phenomenon! It is a serious warning! For Generation Y and Z employees, finding job satisfaction becomes a priority. They stop emotionally engaging in work and focus more on their families and themselves. They try to avoid excessive stress resulting from workload or responsibilities. Research by the Polish insurer Nationale-Nederlanden indicates that 75% of Polish employees experienced increased work-related stress in the past year, negatively impacting their mental health. This is also a result of the pandemic and remote work, which increased the number of hours dedicated to work. The pandemic has also prompted many people to reflect on their values and priorities. Many employees have developed a sense of being unappreciated and demotivated. The pandemic may be over, but the problem remains. This is a serious signal for employers to make changes!

Without employee engagement, they will not take responsibility for the company’s success. Responsibility and risk will remain with the leaders, making it impossible to build a competitive advantage. We need to seek solutions that meet employees’ expectations and provide them with satisfaction in their work. As mentioned earlier, Olga Legosz sees the solution in building partnerships with employees. I fully agree with this stance. How can we achieve that? Partnership involves a series of actions that go beyond flexibility in terms of time, form, and place of work. It involves building self-managing organizations. I had the privilege of working at Centravis, a company that successfully implemented a range of initiatives aimed at empowering employees, providing them with satisfaction