A personal reason for flexibility or phased retirement often motivates proposals, but a fair vetting process relies upon objective, not subjective criteria. The decision must be made by placing the request squarely within a business context, and determining that the new option will have a positive or at least neutral impact on contribution to business goals, customers, coworkers, and colleagues.
When you and your manager sit down to discuss the proposed arrangement, it is your responsibility to set the tone and framework for this collaborative exploration. You can do this best by:
Show you've done your homework.
Talk to people who currently have flexible or phased retirement schedules. What can you learn from their experience, and how can your learning inform your conversation with your manager?
Demonstrate a clear understanding.
Demonstrate a clear understanding of your company’s flexibility policy, principals, and options. Being well-informed about the business drivers and boundaries sends a strong positive message right from the start.
Articulate the business case.
Articulate the business case for the flexibility you need. How will this proposed arrangement allow you to maintain or improve your contribution? Can you transfer knowledge back to the business or mentor junior associates? Will you have more focused “quiet time” to produce better work? Will you be able to broaden your coverage/reach by extending your work hours earlier or later in the day? Will it affect the quantity or quality of work you can do?
Provide evidence of your past performance.
Provide evidence showing how your past performance indicates your ability to flourish in this new arrangement. For instance, mention that you would like to mentor junior associates or transfer your knowledge back to the company while scaling back on hours.
Honestly assess the challenges.
Honestly assess the challenges that the proposed arrangement could raise with your manager, team/coworkers, internal clients, and external clients. Challenges might include availability, coverage, opportunities for informal feedback, knowledge transfer, and mentoring. Offer a variety of concrete solutions to these problems.
Propose clear performance metrics.
Propose clear performance metrics – quantitative and qualitative – that signal your understanding that your arrangement must work if it is to continue. Suggest some warning signs that the arrangement isn’t working…the negative effects that might make the arrangement unworkable.
If your employer is committed to supporting your continued employment, they may be open to an organized process for transferring your valuable business knowledge to the company. When associates and managers collaborate to achieve this goal, both associates and the business will benefit. The alternative would be incremental losses to the efficiency and effectiveness of the business.
Knowledge Transfer encompasses a variety of processes designed to share unique information, ideas and strategies between participants and other associates. It is also meant to establish formal knowledge capture through documentation and implementation in systems and databases to capture knowledge that will be used on-going to train and mentor junior associates. Associates are the drivers of the design and implementation of this process. Managers are their partners in assuring that clear targets are set and the stated goals are met.
There are at least three areas in which Knowledge Transfer can occur:
Information: Long tenure in the business leads to the accumulation of a great body of product, process, and customer information. Much of this is widely known or perishable. But each contributor possesses narrow or even broad data that offers unique value and contributes to our competitive advantage. Isolating the most transferrable elements is a central challenge for managers and associates implementing this process.
Ideas: An company is many things, but it is usually built on intellectual property. Key contributors carry with them a variety of valuable ideas, ranging from process understanding to organizational methods to new product ideas. Capturing this more complex knowledge is as challenging as it is valuable.
Strategies: One of the characteristics of long tenure in a position is that unconscious strategies determine more and more of one’s behavior. A valuable part of knowledge transfer is surfacing these often automatic approaches and processes and making them accessible to others. Examples range from sales strategies to production processes to long-term team building.
Download the Knowledge Transfer Form
A reduced schedule either requires you to eliminate some deliverables and commitments or leads to ongoing frustration when you end up working much more time than you have agreed. The solution to this dilemma is a rigorous and mutually agreeable Work Redesign process.
Work Redesign is a disciplined approach to reprioritizing work that maximizes high value and minimizes lower priority activities. A reduced schedule will require you to eliminated some deliverables and commitments from your full-time role.
You will not be able to devote the same amount of time as you do currently to your existing responsibilities with a reduced work schedule. Your employer should not expect you to complete 100% of your current activities, but may recognize that it is wiser to eliminate tasks of lesser value than to risk cutting into the most central contributions in your position. Systematic use of the Work Redesign process offers a straightforward and collaborative way to streamline work.
The Work Redesign process is not a goal in and of itself. For your employer it is a way of maintaining productivity in the areas that matter most for the company. For associates it is a means to create a balanced and successful position that is proactively rather than reactively designed. And for your manager, it is a way to blend high quality work, flexible schedules, and creative knowledge transfer with a limited impact on group output. One of the key challenges of most forms of reduced schedules, for both managers and associates, is so-called boundary creep. This chronic disparity between schedule expectations and daily realities can be greatly reduced by careful Work Redesign.
A critical step in the Work Redesign process is to take a hard look at recurring tasks you have been doing for many years and determine that one or more of them is of limited importance in your role and could be done by others. While such activities serve some purpose, they are not essential to the success and the sustainability of the business in your role. Such habitual tasks tend to exist throughout any organization. The company benefits from this redesign process because it identifies certain responsibilities that could be changed or eliminated without disruption to the business.