The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment describes flexible work as “the opportunity for people to make changes to: the hours they work, the times and days they work, and where they work”. Workplace flexibility also affects how careers are organised, how transitions in and out of work are managed and how work is managed in the workplace for the benefit of both employees and businesses. Examples of workplace flexibility include: working part-time; having school holidays off; job-sharing; flexi-time; compressed hours; annual hours; working from home; career breaks and commissioned outcomes.
Workplace flexibility is increasingly sought after by employees to pursue greater work-life balance and different career models. Organisations that have encouraged workplace flexibility are typically high-performing with a stronger ability to attract and retain staff. Engagement amongst staff who take advantage of workplace flexibility is typically higher too.
There is strong evidence that greater workplace flexibility is a key solution in addressing the leaky career pipeline of female talent, where women leave organisations long before reaching the ‘glass ceiling' . This leaky pipeline is partly due to competing demands on employees’ time (for example, caring responsibilities) and work environments that do not accommodate the need for work-life balance.
Similarly, flexible work can make the workplace more suited to disabled people. Workbridge, a New Zealand employment agency for disabled people, promotes workplace flexibility for this reason. Workplace flexibility enables people to work with hours and environments that are best suited to their abilities, enabling more effective work and longer tenure.
Furthermore, as Millennials make up more of the workforce, the demand for workplace flexibility is increasing. Other generations are also increasingly interested in greater work-life balance. Digital advances, globalisation and activity-based working also mean that ‘9 to 5’ days at the office are becoming less common. It is apparent that providing options and a culture of workplace flexibility is a key part of a modern organisation's employee value proposition.SSC's Integrity and Conduct survey of people employed in the Public Service found high proportions of staff reporting they had enough flexibility to do their job. In addition, the 2013 Workplace Dynamics survey conducted by the Public Service Association (PSA) and Victoria University found that over 50% of respondents felt they had access to workplace flexibility to some extent. However, there is a gendered element to workplace flexibility, where ‘72% of women compared to 29% of men strongly disagreed that their working hours were determined entirely by themselves'.
The visualisation below shows the percentage of Public Service staff in part-time work between 2000 and 2016. The trend was largely flat over this 15 year period, despite legislative reforms that widened access to flexible working arrangements. The high level in 2004 was due to part-time Special Education workers becoming employed by the Ministry of Education. Since then the percentage of part-time workers has been trending downwards.
Part-time workers are paid on average 17% less than full-time workers on a full-time equivalent basis. The use of part-time employment as a flexible working option can be better understood by analysing the demographic profile of people who work part-time, as well as other factors such as their occupation and the type of employment agreement. These factors can be explored in this visualisation and are further analysed below.
An age profile analysis of part-time workers shows that part-time work matches life stages. The visualisation shows that part-time work is high in early career (probably in conjunction with study), during the ages when caregiving for children is likely and near retirement age.
Part-time work is considerably more likely to be taken up by females than males. This is likely due to social norms around women’s role as primary carers.
Part-time work is more prevalent in some occupational groups: Social, Health and Education Workers; Clerical and Administrative Workers; and Contact Centre Workers. These are also the occupations most held by women. Occupations that are male dominated, such as ICT Professionals and Technicians, are less likely to use part-time work.
A higher proportion of fixed-term employment agreements are for part-time work compared to permanent employment agreements. However, the proportion of part-time fixed-term employment agreements has decreased over time, while the proportion of part-time permanent employment agreements has remained about the same over the last 16 years, at around 5-6%.
Leave taken for caring responsibilities varies significantly by gender. As at 30 June 2016, there were 631 employees on parental leave (1.3% of the Public Service workforce) made up of 618 females and 13 males.
The 2011 Better Public Services Advisory Group Report stated that improved State sector performance will require a culture that supports collaboration, innovation, continuous improvement and citizen/business-centred service delivery. This is supported by system findings from the Performance Improvement Framework that show the need to build a culture of high performance, to strengthen processes of identifying and managing poor performance and to improve employee engagement. It is also important that Public Service employees operate in a way that is fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy. Inclusive workplaces are also important for fostering diverse organisations. Inclusion enables people to bring their whole selves to work, maximising capability and talent utilisation for the organisation.
Human resource indicators such as staff engagement, turnover and sick leave usage provide some insight into organisational culture and inclusion. Used in conjunction with other contextual information, these indicators can improve understanding of organisational performance.
Staff engagement is seen as important because the more engaged an employee is, the more likely they are to apply the extra ‘discretionary effort’ that leads to high performance. A number of studies provide evidence for this with findings of a positive relationship between staff engagement and organisational performance, in both the public and private sectors . Agencies regularly survey their staff to gauge the level of engagement and where to focus to lift engagement.
Information on department results from staff engagement surveys are collected as part of the HRC survey. The goal is to better understand how engagement results vary across agencies over time and how these results relate to improved departmental performance.
There are complications in comparing staff engagement results across the Public Service. First, agencies use different providers to survey staff engagement and results are not easily comparable across the different methodologies. Second, agencies survey staff engagement with differing levels of frequency – only two-thirds of Public Service agencies have carried out engagement surveys over the last year.
The visualisation below shows how engagement scores across all Public Service agencies that use Kenexa increased between 2011 and 2013, before falling back somewhat. Over this same period, Kenexa engagement scores have tended to stay level across wider the State sector.
Turnover measures the rate that staff change in an organisation. Turnover increases when departments are restructuring and when significant change is occurring in the wider labour market. Some turnover is healthy for organisations, as new staff bring fresh ideas, and the recruitment process gives the employer the opportunity to adapt to changing capability needs. However, turnover also comes at a cost – the loss of institutional knowledge and recruitment and training costs to replace staff.
The visualisation below shows that unplanned turnover rates in the Public Service were fairly stable in recent years. Unplanned turnover measures the rate that organisations lose permanent staff due to reasons the organisation has not planned for, such as resignations, retirements and dismissals. The 2016 figure is 11.1%, which is up by 0.2 of a percentage point from last year. Turnover varies by gender, occupation and age.
Sick and domestic leave taken can be used as one indicator of organisational health. High levels can indicate staff disengagement or intention to leave, although there are many other factors that influence sick and domestic leave use, such as age, gender and occupation. In the year to 30 June 2016, Public Service employees took, on average, 8.6 days of sick and domestic leave, up from 8.0 days in 2015.
The 2016 HRC data shows that the average length of service of Public Service employees increased slightly by 0.2 of a year to 9.5 years. This figure is based on tenure within a single agency, not the Public Service as a whole and excludes those on fixed-term employment agreements.
 Cabrera, Elizabeth F. "Fixing the leaky pipeline: Five ways to retain female talent." People and Strategy 32.1 (2009): 40. More information is available in the Ministry for Women's Inspiring Action report (2014)
 Coffman, Julie, and Russ Hagey. "Flexible work models: How to bring sustainability to a 24/7 world." Bain (2010).
 Plimmer, Geoff, et al. "Workplace dynamics in New Zealand public services." Wellington: Industrial Relations Centre, Victoria University of Wellington (2013): 56-60.
 MacLeod, David, and Nita Clarke. Engaging for success: enhancing performance through employee engagement: a report to government. London: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2009.Good summaries of the relationship between staff engagement and organisational performance can be found in chapter two of Engaging for Success