Fact: Flexibility needs differ across employee demographics. Also fact: Not all employee groups have sufficient access to the flex they need to do their best work. That's why we designed our people analytics platform to give companies the ability to break down their flexibility gap by a variety of demographics. Meaning, we give our partners the tools they need to identify which pockets of their people population need access to flexibility, which flex types are in highest demand among those groups, and which folks are struggling to obtain the flex they need compared to their peers. These demographics can include gender, generation, race, location, and business unit, to name a few.
We encourage companies to examine their flex gap across demographics because we know and understand the importance of equity. When we talk about diversity and inclusion, too often the inclusion part is misunderstood or gets ignored, and that's why so many D&I programs today fall short or fail entirely. Inclusion doesn’t just mean creating a safe and welcoming environment for your people—it means making sure that your employees’ diverse range of needs are not just being heard and taken seriously, but more importantly, they’re being met. When it comes to flexibility, the truth is that some folks do get left out and left behind, despite companies’ best efforts and intentions. Often times, it’s mothers who have the most trouble accessing the flex they need. Sometimes, it’s millennial dads. Or it’s a group you wouldn’t even guess. It’s a story only the data can tell. When companies are able to gain real insight into the flexibility supply and demand within specific identity groups, they’re able to look beyond their own blind spots and hold themselves accountable to creating a more equitable workplace for all.
So why do these flex inequities occur in the first place? Because different identity groups have different flex needs—and, as a result, varying flexibility gaps. Many people know by now, for example, that flexibility is a must for women. Despite recent changes in the division of labor, women still carry most of the caretaking burden, and as a result, face a monumental flexibility gap. Though men and women report having a similar need for flex, our research shows that women tend to have less access to the flexibility they need. This flex gap contributes to the trend of women opting out of the workforce or opting down to non-leadership roles just so their lives and work can be compatible. This is a huge problem, especially because companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21 percent more likely than those in the bottom quartile to enjoy above-average profitability, as McKinsey reported in 2018.
But racial groups also have severe flexibility gaps. In 2012, the Center for American Progress reported that Latinx workers represent the racial or ethnic group least likely to have workplace flexibility. "Only 44.1 percent of Hispanic workers have the ability to adjust their work schedules when they need to, compared to 53.7 percent of whites, 47.9 percent of African Americans, and 57.6 percent of Asians," the organization said in a fact sheet. And again, the stakes are huge, even if viewed only from a business perspective: That same 2018 McKinsey report revealed that companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely than those in the bottom quarter to enjoy above-average profits. Plus, in 2015, McKinsey found that there is a correlation between diversity and financial performance. "For every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent," the company asserted.
While many inequities can and do exist within organizations, flex inequities have a direct and measurable impact on a number of key performance metrics like retention and productivity, to name a few. Making flexibility equitable across identity groups isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. But without data, it's nothing more than a shot in the dark. Are you ready to shine a light on the flex inequities within your organization and work towards a truly inclusive workplace environment for all? We'd love to help.