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THE IMPACT OF FLEXIBILITY ON STAFF IN A BANKING

INDUSTRY: A CASE STUDY OF THE ROYAL BANK OF


SCOTLAND

Written By

Sylvia A. Bishen

A dissertation submitted to the Manchester Metropolitan University

Business School, for the partial fulfilment of the requirement for the

award of a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management.

September, 2009

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ABSTRACT

The banking industry has been criticised for having long and inflexible working

hours which affect the life of employees and their level of commitment to work.

However, in 2003, organizations have been urged to extend the right to request

flexible working which makes the Royal Bank of Scotland unexceptional. Ever

since the implementation of flexible working in 2003, and new shift patterns for

the past 11 months, there has been continuous improvement in the level of

production which has increased the reputation of the organization.

Flexibility has been found to be a strategy used by organizations to retain staff,

reduce absence level and increase performance, which enhances high competitive

advantage. Therefore, the study examines the reality of flexibility within the RBSG

and (a) what impact it has on the employees of the organization? (b) its impact on

the management side? and (c) who has the propensity to benefit more between the

employer and employee?

The primary method the researcher used to collect data are semi-structured

interview, conducted on eleven (11) Royal Bank of Scotland staff, participant

observation (primary) and secondary data to supplement the primary data. The

semi-structured interview enabled the researcher to ascertain views of candidates

and understand the importance of flexible working and how it affects the

organization as a whole. The organizations intranet site homepage and the

archived RBS group news documents kept from previous feedback sessions carried

out on staff for survey purposes were also used.

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Unfortunately, the research was carried out during a difficult period for the group,

a period of loss of funds and massive job loss, however, the research was still

affirmative. The study found that flexibility has a more positive than a negative

impact on every individual within the organization and that the bulk of the impact

still lies on the employees, because the employees are considered to be the

resources that actually make the organization.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I wish to express my thanks and gratitude to the almighty God for guiding me

through my course to a successful end.


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I am most grateful to my supervisor, Mr Stephen Taylor for his Comments, critical

review and useful suggestions of all the chapters. This dissertation would not have

been successfully completed but for the assistance of my supervision.

My sincere appreciation also goes to the employees of the Royal Bank of Scotland

for their active participation and time given to assist me in the research

Finally, I would like to thank all family and friends who gave their dedicated

support during my research.

May almighty God bless you.

DEDICATION

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This dissertation is dedicated to my loving and caring parents: Dr. Jacob Bishen

(late) and Mrs Esther Bishen for their excellent parenthood. Dad may your soul

rest in peace.

DECLARATION

No portion of the work referred to in this dissertation has been submitted in

support of an application to be awarded another degree or qualification in this

university or any other university or institution of learning.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGES

ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................2

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT..............................................................................................4

DEDICATION...............................................................................................................5

6
DECLARATION............................................................................................................6

Career breaks or sabbaticals- An arrangement which enables employees to


work reduced hours for a specified period of time to deal with "special
circumstances", some employers also offer unpaid breaks to their employees
with a guarantee that they will be able to return to work at the end of the
agreed period...................................................................................................17

Home working - employees meets their contractual obligations by working


remotely/at home, on an occasional, temporary or permanent basis..............18

Phased return to work-Used after a period of extended leave such as maternity


leave, career break or after serious or prolonged illness. Normal hours of
working are reduced initially on a temporary basis (usually for a period of up to
6 months) before returning to normal hours of work........................................18

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Introduction

This chapter contains a synopsis of the research, which highlights flexibility, its

issues and an overview of its practice in the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBSG).

1.2 The issue with flexibility

Organizations need to embrace a new model of employment, where employability

replaces security (Edmonds, 1997, cited by Reilly, 2001). That is why organizations

have decided to imbibe flexibility, because flexible working practices offer a


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relatively low-cost means of meeting employees’ work-life balance requirements

while accessing a broader pool of labour (Nadeem and Hendry, 2003). The main

issue here is that, though flexibility is a strategy organizations use to gain a

competitive advantage, It is often very difficult to draw the line between who

benefits more with flexibility, between the employer and employee. This is because

in the case of seeking flexible hours, the employee needs time off in order to attend

to their outside work commitments. For instance, an employee who is working

part-time due to educational commitments is seeking to acquire more skills for

their own personal benefits, which will in turn be an advantage to the organization.

Since the best way for the organization to survive in a competitive environment is

to employ the higher skilled labour, then they only have to retain the current

employee who is working towards acquiring a new skill.

1.3 Rationale for the Study

Most researchers have emphasized on how the banking industry is known to have

long and inflexible work hours, which affects the life of employees and their level of

commitment to work (Ahmed, 2009). Thus, the main purpose of the research is to

highlight what employers within the banking industry do to improve employee

commitment and motivation, besides pay rewards, with the sole aim of having an

advantage over rival firms in a competitive environment.

The most significant of the various strategies lies within having flexible working

packages. According to Taylor (2009), an organization, which is flexible, is able to

respond to change more quickly than one, which is not. Certain types of flexible

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working help employers to recruit and retain people in a tight labour market

conditions.

The purpose of this study is also to challenge other researcher’s opinions on how

banks use their employees to achieve their aim. It will also explore how the Royal

bank of Scotland as a banking industry, has implemented various types of flexible

working patterns to increase the level of commitment for employees in order to

achieve its aim.

1.4 The concept of flexibility

Flexibility and flexible work are terms used to describe a wide range of working

styles and employment practices. It is a type of working arrangement, which is

different from the traditional 9-5 full time employment with a permanent contract.

There has been a recent trend, which allows employees with the statutory right to

request a flexible working pattern. Competitive pressure, greater recognition of

human resources as a potential source of competitive advantage and changing

workforce demographics have made the attracting of the best available talent a top

management concern (Williams, 2000). In a competitive environment,

components of flexibility should be viewed as a strategic asset that provides long-

term competitive advantage to the firm by developing the ability to flexibly achieve

constantly changing strategic needs for human resources (Wright and Snell, 1998).

1.5 Overview of the Royal Bank of Scotland


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Most contents of the literature have mainly focused on how flexibility affects a

firm’s performance, but the literature has not made much reference to the banking

industry. Those who have talked about the how employees are being treated in the

banks do not have positive opinions about it. Work-life balance has remained an

important issue in the banking industry, particularly those working in the office

and call centres (Ahmed, 2008).

The Royal Bank of Scotland, which is one of UK’s leading high street banks with

over 40 million customers and about 1,700 employees have a flexible working

pattern which is divided into; time at work and time away from work, these

will be looked at in detail in subsequent parts of this research work.

There is often that flexibility restraint to the manner with-which work is scheduled

among staff in the banking industry. Nevertheless, recent study has shown that

banks have been making maximum profit due to the existence of flexibility, which

it offers, to its staff members. A recent report by Don Cruickshank (2000) reveals

the innovation, competition and efficiency in UK retail banking. Examples can be

drawn from other UK’s largest banks such as Barclays, where some of its

performance development managers at the contact centre who work part-time

reiterated the importance of flexible working patterns in a business in a recent

article. They quoted significantly that: “People who are under an immense burden

simply don’t perform to their best”.

1.6 Aims and objectives

• The key objectives of this research are:

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• To examine the opinions of staff members within the Royal bank of Scotland

on the importance of having a flexible working pattern.

• To identify where the bulk of the impact of flexibility lies between the

management and the employees.

• To provide an insight to the models of flexibility and how they are adopted in

the banking industry

To identify flexibility as a strategy that organizations can use to gain a competitive

advantage.

1.7 Research Questions

1. How has flexibility improved employee engagement and job satisfaction?

2. What is the impact of flexibility on the management?

3. To what extent has it been imbibed by the banking industry?

4. Does the weight of the impact lie on the management or employees?

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CHAPTER TWO

LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to review what has been said by past theorists and

authors based on their opinions and viewpoints of flexibility, its impact and how it

can develop a sustained competitive advantage.

The literature review will first focus on the impact of flexibility and how it affects

employees, exploring how it can improve employee engagement, involvement and

job satisfaction. It will quantify the extent and intensity of its impact on the

management/organization. Flexibility and its effect on firms’ performance have

not received adequate attention in strategic Human Resource Management (HRM)

literature in spite of its importance in today’s competitive environment (Ketkar

and Sett, 2009). In addition, the models of flexibility will be examined, focusing

on how well it has been adopted by organizations, specifically the banking industry

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and a debate as to what side receives the bulk of the impact between the

management and the employees or both.

2.2 Flexibility (and its models)

Flexibility is a term that is used in different contexts of life. Flexibility could refer

to the ability to move joints through their extended position (Quinn, 2007). It

generally means responsiveness to pressure and adaptability to change (Blyton,

1992). CIPD (2005) see ‘Flexible Working Practices’ as the length of time an

employee works, where they carry out the work, and the pattern of work, including

leave or other absence taken from work. In the context of this research, flexibility

refers to a situation where employees are allowed some time off work to attend to

individual, outside work commitments. Most part of it focuses on flexible working

which is being used to describe aspects of work-life balance, in an attempt to move

further away from just analysing the impacts of flexible working and family on

women (Lewis, 2005). It includes family-friendly policies such as five day work

week, flex-time, family leave and employee assistant programmes, with the sole

intention of improving morale, productivity and by reducing absenteeism and

turnover (Ahmed, 2009)

As agreed by both academics and practitioners that in a dynamic business

environment, a firm’s performance depends on the way the resources available to

the firm are flexible and they way these resources are applied (DeMarie 1998).

Therefore, a flexible firm is capable of responding to a changing competitive

environment and thereby maintaining competitive advantage over time (Teece

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2007). Taylor (2009) suggests an organization which is flexible, is able to deploy

its people and make use of their talent more effectively and efficiently.

It is important to note that organizations approach flexibility in different

dimensions, this is because different types of flexibility depend on the individual

conditions and working conditions. It also depends on the way these conditions are

connected (Kristensen , 2005). The family friendly policies are seen as any benefits

and working conditions that an organization adopts to assist employees in

balancing their work-life relationship (Bardoel et al, 1999). The concept of

flexibility begins with the work of John Atkinson (1984) who talks about the three

models of flexibility. These models are further sub-divided into the different types

of flexible-working arrangement.

Firstly, functional flexibility relates to how employers make employees work

outside of their normal job description (Reilly, 2001). According to Taylor (2009)

an organization that aims at increasing its functional flexibility will normally

increase in its method of, multi-skilling, more team-working, job rotation and have

flatter hierarchies. An example of this is in the manufacturing industry.

Numerical flexibility on the other hand allows management to match the need

for workers with the number employed and this can be achieved with a variety of

short-term employment arrangements that include short-term contracts, part-time

employment, job sharing, self-employment, contracting out, homework,

franchising, and agency workers (Dyer, 1998). The third model is financial

flexibility which allows the cost of labour, (as indicated by hourly rates and

contract prices), to reflect the supply of, and demand for, labour (Heery and Noon,

2008). Thus, compensation packages can fluctuate from a standardized pay


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structure to an individualized system (Dyer, 1999). Locational flexibility has to

do with mobility of workers to carry out work outside the workplace. This could

include teleworkers or partly, home based staff. Temporal flexibility as the

name applies, involves employing people on a flexible hours basis (Taylor 2009).

Since his work, other writers have developed on other dimensions.

Wright and Snell (1998) are of the opinion that HR flexibility consists of three

dimensions. Flexibility of skills, flexibility of behaviour and HR practices. Skills

flexibility refers to two attributes: the number of potential alternative uses to which

employee skills can be applied (resource flexibility) and how individuals with

different skills can quickly be redeployed (coordination flexibility). Flexibility

denotes a dynamic capability of a firm to respond to a changing competitive

environment and thereby maintain a competitive advantage over time ( Teece

2007). This dimension of flexibility relates to Atkinson’s functional flexibility.

Behavioural flexibility identifies the availability of a sufficiently broad range of

behavioural scripts among employees, which they can adapt to the demands of

situations.

(Deleuze 2005, Kristensen, 2005) also identified three categories of flexibility:

either home life or work life. In this instance, there is often a clear distinction

between the activities of the home and the work place. For instance, for those who

work from home, when they are outside their working hours, they will not read

work emails or perform a work related task outside their work hours and vice

versa.

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The second category of flexible working identified by Kristensen (2005) is mutual

flexibility which involves the employee feeling responsible for both home and

work life. The third category has to do with shared interest between the employee

and the management.

2.3 Types of flexible working

Part-time working – this has to do with an agreement where the employee

works less than a normal contracted hours. According to an article about NHS

employers, part-time working might not necessary have a set pattern. It could

involve an early start and an earlier finish.

Flexitime- this allows employees to choose within agreed limits when to start and

finish work (outside core times), to enable individuals attend to domestic or other

responsibilities. Usually, employees are allowed to have their lunch within agreed

limits. However, rules vary from organization to organization, but usually involve

employees clocking in and out of work (Taylor, 2008). Such schemes require

employees to work for a certain number of hours over the month, but permitting

them to meet business needs, where possible and at their own wishes.

Staggered hours- Allows normal working hours to be varied to suit an

individual's needs whilst working full contracted hours. In this case, employees

work in the same workplace, but with different start, finish and break times.

Compressed hours- Allows employees to work their total number of

agreed hours over fewer working days. Often, a five-day working week is

compressed into three days.

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Job sharing- Involves two people carrying out the work which would

normally be done by one person. The work is not split but shared. There is no

particular set form for managing time, which may involve working a set number of

hours each day, each week or alternate weeks.

Shift working-which has to do with a pattern of work in which one

employee replaces another on the same job within a 24 hour period. It has two

variations: shift swapping or self –rostering.

Time off in lieu or banked hours- this could be used as an alternative

to overtime. Allows employees to take time off to compensate them for extra hours

worked.

Term-time working- Enables an employee to remain on a permanent

contract, but also able to take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays.

Annualised hours- This is a system whereby the hours which an

employee is contracted to work are calculated over a whole year. Usually the

annual hours are split into two parts – the larger part consists of set shifts with the

remaining shifts unallocated. The employee is paid for unallocated shifts and owes

time to the employer.

V-time working- This is a voluntary arrangement whereby an employee

reduces the number of hours worked for an agreed period with a guarantee that

full-time employment will be available again at the end of this time.

Career breaks or sabbaticals- An arrangement which enables

employees to work reduced hours for a specified period of time to deal with

"special circumstances", some employers also offer unpaid breaks to their

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employees with a guarantee that they will be able to return to work at the end of

the agreed period.

Home working - employees meets their contractual obligations by

working remotely/at home, on an occasional, temporary or permanent basis.

Phased return to work-Used after a period of extended leave such as

maternity leave, career break or after serious or prolonged illness. Normal hours

of working are reduced initially on a temporary basis (usually for a period of up to

6 months) before returning to normal hours of work.

2.4 The impact of flexibility on the employee

Flexibility is not a general transcendent principle that determines the particular

but rather a principle of life that has to be abstracted from how the individual

employees constitute themselves (Kristensen , 2005). Although, there is not much

literature that talks about the impact of flexibility on the employee, it rather

concentrates more on the management; the practices should meet up employee

objectives (Donohoe, 2005), this is because employees seek flexible working for a

wide range of reasons.

Reilly (2001) identified some principal reasons why employees seek to work

flexible hours:

• To acquire more skills

• To meet domestic responsibilities

• To reduce employment costs or stress

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• To facilitate lifestyle preferences

• To maximize earnings

• To improve career opportunities

• To secure employment

• To test the suitability of the employer.

2.4.1 Work-life balance

In this regard it is important that work life and home life are not interpreted as

different spheres or domains; rather they are two series in the constitution of the

employees’ relation to themselves (Kristensen, 2005). The most beneficial among

the various reasons is the fact that flexible working allows employees, within

certain limits to be able to have time for other commitments or personal interests

outside work, known as work-life balance. Work life balance is defined by HEBS

(2002) as working practices that acknowledge and aim to support the needs of staff

in achieving a balance between their home and working lives”.

Demographic changes seeing people living longer is making flexibility for those

with eldercare responsibilities becoming increasingly important (Dixon, 2003).

However, consumerists’ society is placing constraints on individuals to request

flexible working because of financial commitments (White et al, 2003).

2.4.2 Job Satisfaction and employee engagement

The ultimate impact of flexibility on the employee to bear in mind is the fact that it

promotes job satisfaction and increases employee engagement. Spector (1997)

defined job satisfaction as an individual’s cognitive, affective and evaluation


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reactions towards his or her job. Flexibility also helps to generate continued

support within the business community (Saltzstein and Ting, 2001). Employers

should understand the need to achieve the right to work-life balance and there is

more to just having the right. Being able to work flexibly means happiness and

happy staff means loyal staff, especially in today's economic climate where this has

become increasingly significant (McFadden, 2009). In addition, Cappelli and

Rogovsky (1994) supported McFadden’s view in the sense that when an

organization is functionally flexible it creates the opportunities to widen skill bases

and increase worker participation in decision making which will not only help

improve employee satisfaction, but also help improve organisational productivity

due to decreased absenteeism, improved flexibility, and overall employee ability to

contribute to workplace improvement. Research has proven that employees who

had access to family-friendly policies showed greater organizational commitment

and expressed significantly lower intention to quit their jobs (Grover and Crooker,

1995).

Dyer (1998) sees Atkinson’s (1984) model of flexibility as providing a hierarchy in

the labour markets between the “core” and the “periphery” workforce. The core

workforce is made up of highly skilled workers who are able to participate in

decision-making and are directly employed by an organisation. In Dyer’s

argument, the issue with this model is that core workers are provided with job

security and high salaries that reflect their skill levels and their importance to the

organisation. However, the peripheral workforce is characterised by low wages,

low job security and having little or no autonomy in their work.

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In as much as flexibility has its positive impact on employees; it may also have its

negative impact. Ursell (1991) argues that, although the flexible firm model may

use different tactics. Thus, the commitment of core workers can be achieved by

offering them job security, more varied and interesting jobs and the potential to

participate in management. Commitment from periphery workers on the other

hand can be achieved because there is a ready pool of potential employees who are

able to replace them. However, Ursell (1991) suggests that the role the core

workforce has to play in decision making is likely to be very limited thus

maintaining management prerogative. In addition to this, Ursell (1991) found

budgets, performance appraisals, orientation and selection techniques being used

to both monitor and control the extent of autonomy given to the core work force.

Further to the limited sovereignty given to the core workforce, Whittaker (1991)

found that flexible working was meant to bring about changes in the workforce

(Dyer, 1998), thus he states: “flexibility and multi-skilling was not “bought” with

better working conditions or enhanced job security. Instead productivity gains

have been made through intensification of work, “core” workers have lost

discretion they once enjoyed and their employment security is now conditional on

market success, rather than assured by their status as directly employed

personnel” (p. 252).

2.4.3 Up-skilling

In addition, flexibility benefits the employee by enabling them to acquire more

skills. Some employees have to seek themselves out through education and

training since being more skilled has become necessary due to employers seeking

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continuously to up skill their workforce (Reilly, 2001). This is due to the constant

pressure from competitors and customers. That is why organizations should see

the need to allow employees to request flexible working since it will turn out to be a

good return on investment for the firm. It is also beneficial for employees to

acquire more skills, not just, because employers want it, but also because of the

external market conditions. Employees are seeking to gain more skills, which are

not just the requirement of their current employer, but for what is also for

potential organizations in the future (Arulampalam and Booth, 1998).

Functional flexibility which has to do with making optimal use of the employee’s

capacity to perform different tasks, has a positive impact on skills development

(Goudswaard and Nanteuil, 2000). This means that that there is a positive

relationship between functional flexibility and skills development. It explores this

relationship, looking at several aspects of working conditions that relate to skills

development. It also examines the direct or indirect impacts of functional

flexibility on an employee’s ability to retain their skills over a period of time. A

direct impact implies that flexible work patterns such as job rotation, widening the

scope of the job and job enrichment have a direct effect on skills retention. An

indirect impact would imply that the working conditions, such as availability of

training and greater job control, are more important than functional flexibility in

itself

2.4.4 Increases performance

As stated by Burud and Tumolo (2004), talented and focused employees who are

on a flexible schedule are more likely to be committed to the organization’s goals

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and deliver good service to customers, who inturn are more inclined to be satisfied

and loyal, generating strong sales. Most organizations offer Employee Assistance

Programs (EAP) which are designed to recognize the interaction between people’s

domestic and working lives and to offer confidential counselling to staff to address

personal or other problems, including work-related stress that may be affecting

their performance (Clemmet, 1998). EAP vary from organization to organization,

but it generally entails providing assistance to employees in their personal issues

such as relationship, childcare, parenting, harassment, abuse, job stress balancing

work and family issues and retirement or lay-off issues (Ahmed, 2009). EAP will

assist employees in managing stress and improve on employees’ mental and

physical well-being to make them perform better as reported by Carolyn and

Cooper (1994), which will reduce the rate of turnover in the organization

2.5 The impact of flexible working on the management

Above having an impact on employees, the impact of flexibility on the management

remains unarguable.

2.5.1 Reduces turnover and absenteeism

Turnover is defined as the cessation of membership in an organization by an

individual and their movement out of an organization (Mobley 1982). Researchers

examined that flexitime, which is flexibility in the working time arrangements,

such as flexible scheduling programme, job sharing, part-time work; teleworking

etc reduces absenteeism and involuntary turnover which in turn improves job

satisfaction (Pierce and Newstrom, 1983). Voluntary and involuntary turnover are

commonly distinguished. Voluntary turnover is individual movement across the


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membership boundary of a social system initiated by the individual while

involuntary turnover is movement not initiated by the individual, probably by the

organization (Reggio, et al 2003).

Employees experiencing conflict between their family responsibilities and work are

three times as likely to consider quitting their jobs, compared to those who are not

experiencing conflict (Johnson, 1995). This therefore helps to reduce turnover

rates. Social justice also predicts that employees will have a more positive attitude

towards organizations they perceive as treating employees fairly (Greenberg,

1990). A survey carried out by Casner-Lotto (2000) on Ernst and Young with

regards to how they saved an estimate of $17 million in turnover-related costs

between 1997 and 1998, when they adopted the flexible working arrangements. It

improved the retention rates particularly women, about 65% of the people who

work flexibly initially considered leaving the company earlier in the year. Hom and

Griffeth (1995) also identified that another reason for turnover relates to conflicts

between the demands of work and family, which has become worse due to the

number of single- parent families. A recent research in the United States suggests

that 33 per cent of women see these conflicts as a contributing factor for quitting

their jobs in contrast with 1 per cent of men (Taylor, 2008)

2.5.2 Saves cost

An organization which is flexible tends to save costs in the sense that when an

employee leaves the firm, productivity is affected from time to time until the

worker who replaces the former employee is able to meet up to the speed to bring

the organization back into its shape. The loss of employees through turnover may

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result in increased recruitment and training costs and loss of productivity as

projects lose continuity and key activities are interrupted.

It has been estimated that each year, stress costs UK businesses about £3.7 billion

and the loss of about 80 million working days. Stress can be caused by both work

related factors and many employees experience difficulties juggling their work

responsibilities and home responsibilities (Clutterbuck, 2003). That is why

employees should allow flexibility to save the cost of stress. Mistakes flourish as

overloaded employees try to fill in until replacements are hired and trained

(Roseman, 1981; Sagie et al, 2002).

Therefore, when an organization is flexible, the direct cost of finding, recruiting,

and training the new workers is saved, and the indirect cost resulting from lost

productivity and ineffiencies is also saved (Kepner- Tregoe, 1999). Philips (1990)

states the real cost of turnover amounts to 50-75% of the departing hourly

employee’s annual salary of 150%. The time taken to fill a vacancy is usually

quicker in the case of internal recruits, leading to further cost savings and greater

organizational effectiveness (Taylor, 2008). Though, the Chartered institute for

personel and development (2009) has stated that employers may incur additional

costs in adopting policies to support work-life balance, including increased

managerial workloads. However, the gains in achieving these strategic objectives

outweigh the costs.

Burud and Tumolo, (2004) found that having a flexible working pattern reduces

health care cost which is the largest element of labour cost. In terms of depression

and stress, the health care bills of a depressed employee are definitely more likely

25
to be more than that of a non-depressed employee. Combined psychological

problems (stress and depression) leads to costs nearly 2.5 times higher than that of

workers who are not having such problems (Goetzel et al, 1998)

Some companies have also benefited from reduced buildings costs – rent,

electricity and IT support – by cutting down on the hours employees spend in the

office. BT for example, estimates total savings on property costs of £450m a year

through its home working initiative. The telecoms giant currently contracts about

10,000 people to work from home.

The use of temporary workers mostly occurs only when they are needed; this might

be a detriment to the business. Part-time workers are present only when required.

Sloane and Gasteen (1991) found that overtime was the preferred method used to

achieve temporal flexibility where demand is unpredictable, for this reason, temps

where not found to do the work that permanent workers do. A major problem with

numerical flexibility is that with sub-contracting, cost cutting is less significant

(Taylor, 2009). In addition to this, Malloch (1991) found that contractors, who are

externals, often provide essential specialist knowledge that was not found in-house

and this tends to reduce the level of commitment from contracted workers

therefore costing more to the organization.

Barney( 1991) has proved Malloch (1991) wrong because in his view on flexibility,

flexible HR systems is a form of investment that firms need to make up-front, for

creating the opportunity to engage in the process of generating resources which are

valuable, rare and incomparable. This is true because when a firm is flexible based

on its environmental contingencies; these unique (flexible) resources are likely to

26
create a superior performance and sustainable competitive advantage in a dynamic

environment (Leiblein, 2003).

Increased flexibility reduces the rate of sex discrimination in the sense that not

only do women have to go on maternity leave, but also men go on paternity leave.

The recent extension in the right to request flexible working proposed in April

2007 has also extended the right to the care of an adult who is a spouse, partner,

civil partner or relative or any adult living at a qualifying employees address (Ford,

2008), those guardians to have time off for dependants and those with parental

responsibility for children up to the age of 16.

2.5.3 Improves productivity

When an organization is flexible, it is able to respond to change more efficiently

and effectively, even through peak times (Taylor, 2008). Shop workers are hired to

work on a part-time basis on busy days, like during festive periods such as

Christmas sales and summer sales. Also in call centres, people are hired on a part-

time basis or temporarily to cover for busy periods to make up service levels.

The primary aim of every organization is to achieve a competitive advantage, and

to achieve this competitive advantage, the organization must possess some

characteristics. One of the characteristics is flexibility, which will help to improve

productivity. According to Teece et al (1997) to sustain competitive advantage, a

firm needs more than a superior bundle of resources, one of which is flexibility. It

needs a valuable, rare and imperfectly imitable dynamic capability that can renew

and reallocate resources to achieve business goals in continuously changing

environments.
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2.6 Flexible working in the banking industry

The banking sector is an important aspect of the UK financial services. According

to the Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC), the banking sector is categorised

into three. The first is Retail banking which operates on every high street and

has its primary activities as offering access to credit, managing transactions,

collecting deposits and offering telephone banking services. The second category is

the corporate banking which involves services for business where the

population has a quicker access to different types of products and services, which

could be on a large or small scale and in different currencies. Wholesale

banking operates similarly to the retail banking but on a wholesale basis due to

the volume of transactions undertaken. Clients include large companies, banks,

government body, insurers, investment banks and market infrastructure providers.

Ahmed (2009) states that the long and inflexible working hours banks adopt are

the most consistent issue of work-life conflict among banking employees,

particularly those working in the office. He also states that though some still offer

flexible hours, some particularly in their contact centres, have compressed work

week (reducing the length of working week, but increasing the length of work per

day). For example, a survey carried out in the Bank of Australia showed that one of

the benefits of flexible work was the improvement in the quality of customer

services (Papalexandris & Kramar, 1997). Contrary to Ahmed’s view, (Vestergaard,

et al, 2006) have mentioned that most banks are promoting flexible working as a

way of helping them meet new working hour regulations, improve morale, retain

staff and reduce overheads particularly in contact centres.

28
A recent report by Don Cruickshank (2000) reveals the innovation, competition

and efficiency in the UK retail banking. The Competition Commission has found

that the big four clearers have earned £726 a year in excess profits from SME

banking services in England and Wales. It is also found from recent study that

banks have been making maximum profit due to the existence of flexibility which it

offers to its staff members.

The Royal Bank of Scotland which is the fifth largest bank in the world and second

largest in UK and Europe has been found to have very flexible working for its staff.

As of 2003, the bank had over 120,000 employees worldwide and over 30 million

customers. Among employees in the UK who are about 102,000, 22% of them have

been found to be working on flexible patterns. The flexible working policies in

Royal Bank of Scotland have been divided in to time at work and time away from

work:

Time at work includes:

• Part-time work

• Term-time working

• Home working

• Variable hours

• Compressed hours

• Job share

• Maternity and adoption

• Wind down to retirement

29
Time away from work includes:

• Holiday banking

• Buying and selling of holidays

• Short and long-term career breaks

• Special leave

• Compassionate leave

• Study leave

• IVF leave

• Adoption leave

• Business leave

2.7 To what extent has it been imbibed by organizations?

Growing numbers of men as well as women would like to work in ways that allow

them to fulfil their potential at work while also being able to spend time with

family or participate in non-work related activities (Lewis and Cooper, 2005). Such

changes have resulted in increased flexibility of organizations. The government’s

decision to extend the right to request flexible working, reported by Walsh, 2008

has increased the rate of flexibility in organizations. The survey of 1,462

workplaces across the UK, commissioned by the Department for Business,

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), found 95% of employers offer some

form of flexible working for staff (Berry, 2007). He also found that with consumer

demand dropping significantly in many sectors, flexible working is playing quite a

different role in today's recession. Manufacturers in particular, have adopted part-

30
time hours and extended sabbaticals in order to retain staff rather than laying

them off.

According to a report by Wolff (2009) KPMG found that staff reductions made in

2002 had long-term repercussions, and it did not wish to replicate this experience

during the current recession. Not only was the redundancy programme unpleasant

for all concerned, it also led to the loss of valuable people and left the organisation

under-prepared when demand for services returned. Like many other employers,

KPMG has chosen to explore other solutions during the past 12 months, in the

hope that it can retain valued employees until their skills and experience are

required again in the future. Key to this has been the introduction of short-term,

flexible working that has so far saved the company expenses in the region of £1.2

million.

The recent recession has made organizations to now adopt flexible working as a

strategy to reduce redundancy. Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

carried out a survey and found that organizations used three major steps to reduce

redundancy, one which had to do with reducing the use of agency or contract staff

(56% of organisations). One in five respondents introduced short-time working or

reduced overtime to minimise redundancies during 2008, and 17.8% looked at pay

cuts and pay freezes (Wolff, 2009).

The 1998 workplace employee relations survey (WERS) showed that 60 per cent of

all workplaces had one or more of the following: Home working, term-time, job

sharing.

31
Further to this survey was a research on Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover which

revealed that the two companies have negotiated an agreement to implement

short-term working (which is a common trend in France and Germany) in

conjunction with a temporary pay cut freeze.

Half of the 892 employers surveyed said that they have introduced recruitment

freezes to offset the need to make redundancies, while 40% are terminating

temporary or agency worker contracts, 15% have introduced short-time working.

One in five (19%) of the employers in the Chartered Institute for personnel and

Development (CIPD) research are increasing their use of flexible working, 17% are

cutting bonuses and 7% are introducing wage cuts.

Factors that have brought about an increase in the implementation of flexibility by

organizations have been identified by Heery and Salmon et al (2000) as:

o The introduction of new technologies in order to meet customer demands, for

a sustained competitive advantage.

o The ongoing interest of organizations to establish the Japanese management

techniques.

o The decline in the size and influence of trade union over the past 20 years

because there is less conflict on the issue of demarcation.

o Increase in female participation in the labour market. More women are

getting into managerial roles due to their interest in education.

o Increase competition in the employment market due to the growth of private

service sector

32
2.8 Does the weight of the impact lie on the management or

employees?

It is often very difficult to draw the line between who benefits more with flexibility,

between the employer and employee. According to Reilly (2001) there are

situations that benefit both employee and the management by accident, known as

incidental flexibility. This occurs in situations where an organization has to

accept legislative requirements. Examples of legislative requirements are the

introduction of the Working Time regulations or new statutory rights for part-time

workers. Reilly (2001) also made identified a situation where there is a conscious

decision to meet employees needs as well as the employer needs. This is known as

mutual flexibility. With skills acquisition, an employee might need to request

flexible working hours, in order to attend to their educational commitments. The

employee is seeking to gain more skills for their own personal benefits, which will

in turn, be an advantage to the management. It will be necessary to add skills, not

just because employers want it, and are prepared to pay for it, but because external

labour market conditions demand it (Reilly, 2001). For this reason, an

organization’s competitive advantage increases as competing organizations will be

seeking to attract that highly skilled employee away from its current employer.

Since the best way for the organization to survive in a competitive environment is

to employ the higher skilled labour, then they only have to retain the current

employee who is working towards acquiring more skills.

According to Marchington and Wilkinson, (2005), despite the fact that flexibility

tends to be cost effective, there is often that disagreement about the costs and

benefits of flexibility. It is often difficult to estimate whether part-time workers are


33
more productive than their full-time colleagues or whether they are more costly

due to differing levels of absenteeism, commitment and quality (Hunter et al,

1993).

Besides saving cost for the employer in terms of recruitment and training,

locational flexibility also offers employees the chance to reduce costs and ease

stress on transportation and traffic, when they are working from home (Reilly,

2001).

Even though turnover is most frequently thought of in terms of negative

organizational consequences, the movement of employees in and out of an

organization is however able to revitalize an organization. The most obvious

positive consequence is replacement of better performers in the organizations

(Ahmed, 2009) The replacement of an employee, through external recruitment

might bring better innovation and new ideas, since often fresh blood is needed to

challenge a status quo, particularly at senior levels (Taylor, 2008)

An organization that is flexible is likely to have a high rate of retention, and with

retention there is a high rate of internal recruitment like lateral transfers, job

rotation and rehiring formal employees. Apart from internal recruitment being

cost effective, it gives the employees the opportunity grow within the organization

instead of developing their careers elsewhere (Taylor, 2008). This also means that

the organisation is maximising its return on investments (ROI).

A report by Rebecca Clark an adviser for the Chartered Institute for Personnel and

development (CIPD) admitted "Flexible working practices can be advantageous to

both organizations and employees. They give people more control over when and
34
where they work and this appears to mean more focused and motivated employees.

The introduction of flexible working allows employees to gain more control over

their work-life balance and can act as an important tool in the organization’s

recruitment and retention process.

During busy or peak times when people are hired on a part-time basis, or

temporarily, it not only increases productivity, but also improves employment

opportunities. Other parts of the labor market to which employees can look to

employ during these periods are retired people and students in full-time education

(CIPD, 2008).

2.9 Arguments against flexibility.

Some researchers have argued that flexibility has not brought a solution to

employment, instead they argue it has brought more confusion and increased

division between the core and periphery workforce. Pollert, (1991) , who describes

the new trend of employment as having an orthodoxy of flexibility, argues that the

descriptions of changing employment and work organization has caused an

enormous confusion by imposing typology on a diversity of social realities. For the

neo-classical liberals, flexible working has become a new and forceful venture in

the economy, while for others it is just an opportunity for a new manpower policy

to achieve a core and periphery workforce with functional and numerical flexibility

(Pollert, 1991).

A survey by the Chartered Institute for personnel and development states that one

of the limitations of flexibility in organizations lies in the operational. The report

35
revealed that about 45 per cent of respondents highlighted the difficulties that

mangers experience while implementing the flexible working practices.

There is a major argument that flexibility is incompatible with high level of

commitment and job security. The issue is that organizations tend to create a

situation where employees are deployed such that they are available when required

so as to maximize short-term efficiency, while also requiring staff to exhibit a high

degree of commitment. (Taylor, 2008). However, increasing level of low

commitment among employees is likely to be portrayed to them being employed

on a temporary basis.

An organization that is flexible may have similar features to an organization which

is described by Ford, in the Fordist’ theory of management. The theory stipulates

how firms tend to achieve management control over committed workers in the

pursuit of profit through the use of use of mass production (Huczynski and

Buchanan, 2007). The concern here is that managers will be tempted to use the

peripheral workforce to exercise a great degree of power (Taylor, 2008).

A major constraint with functional flexibility is the globalisation process which has

taken place among organizations. The increasing pressure or change in the world

of new technologies has brought about the demarcation of work. (Goudswaard and

Nanteuil, 2000). The banking sector is a good example of that. The introduction of

Automatic Telling Machines has involved a complete redefinition of both work

organisation and qualifications. Automation has led to changes in work

organisation and qualifications.

2.9.1 Summary
36
Carmeli (2003) introduced the concept that emotionally intelligent employees may

better handle work-life conflict. He also found that the integration of work family

programmes and an emotionally intelligent workforce can better attain the

balance.

Therefore, there is obviously no doubt that most writers believe that flexibility has

an adverse impact on an organization thereby improving its performance due to

the increasing commitment by employees. Most public sectors are more likely to

use flexible working not just for legislative requirements alone, but as a

recruitment and retention tool (CIPD, 2004). This chapter also makes us

understand that apart from having a positive impact on employee motivation;

flexibility saves cost and improves productivity.

However, organizations use flexibility to achieve management control over

committed workers in the pursuit of profit through the use of use of mass

production (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2007). It will not be misleading to say that,

besides having a positive impact, there are still downsides to flexibility.

37
CHAPTER THREE

METHODOLOGY AND LIMITATIONS

3.1 Introduction

This chapter will focus on the method used in achieving the objectives of the study.

It describes the design and technique used to collect data, the sample size and the

limitations of the study.

3.2 Methodology

38
A qualitative research method will be used to gather relevant data for this study, a

strategy that emphasizes words rather than quantification in the collection and

analysis of data” (Bryman and Bell 2007). There is generally no one best method:

everything is always contingent upon the research question, as well as the amount

of time, money, effort and of other resources the researcher is willing to devote.

Silverman (2005) points out, qualitative research seeks answers to questions that

stress how social experiences is created and interpreted. Johnson and Christensen

(2004) pointed out that one of the unique features of a qualitative research is that

the researcher views human behaviour as dynamic and changing, and advocates

studying phenomena in depth and over an extended period of time.

The study adopted qualitative research methodology because it provided the

researcher with a deeper understanding of the staff participation than would be

obtained from purely quantitative data, since information obtained are more

realistic views of the concept by the respondents in their natural environment. It

seeks to understand social reality in its own terms as it really is and describes

richly how people interact in natural settings (Gubrium and Holstein, 1997).

According to Sridhar (2007) qualitative research involves having an insight into

problems or cases.

In addition, one relevant feature of qualitative research is ethnography/participant

observation which has to do with an approach to data collection where the

researcher is immersed in a social setting for some time to observe and listen with

a view to gaining an appreciation of the culture of a social group (Bryman and Bell,

2007) The research is capable of being verified by observation or experiment

(Sridhar, 2007) since the researcher is a participant observer which make the
39
research also an empirical research. The data collected will not just be facts based

on second and third party information, but also facts based on experience which

makes the data collected to be more realistic than just mere quantitative data.

Besides, it provides flexible ways of data collection, analysis of data closely to the

form in which they were transcribed, and interpretations of findings obtained from

the study.

Apart from being a qualitative research, this research also adopted a descriptive

and explanatory study. According to Robson (2002:59), “a descriptive research

portrays an accurate profile of persons, events or situations”. This can also be

seen as an extension of a piece of explanatory research (Saunders et al, 2007). An

explanatory research has to do with a valuable means of finding out what is

happening, to seek insights and to ask questions that will assess a phenomenon in

new light (Robson, 2002: 59)

3.3 Research design

3.3.1 Case Study Approach

However, after careful examination of all the available research design options, an

intrinsic case study was found to be the most appropriate for this particular

research, as it is a method used when the research aims to answer ‘how’ and ‘why’

questions. Case study research method is defined as an empirical inquiry that

investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the

boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in

which multiple sources of evidence are used (Yin, 1984: 23). It is used when “the

investigator has little control over events and when the focus is on a contemporary
40
phenomenon” (Yin, 2003:1). Case studies also rely on multiple sources of evidence,

which helps in dealing with problems of reliability and validity, including

interviews something that allows the triangulation of the data (Adams, 2005).

According to Coleman and Briggs (2006) a case study is ‘an empirical enquiry

which is conducted within a localised boundary of space and into interesting aspect

of an educational activity, or programme, or institutions mainly in its natural

context and within an ethic of respect for persons’ (Coleman and Briggs

2006,p.109).

Case study is advantageous because it brings the researcher to understand complex

issues and can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through

previous research (Soy, 2006). As pointed out by Bogdan and Biklen (2007), case

study vary in their complexity, however, they are easier to accomplish than their

multi subject studies. Therefore, this case study focuses on the Royal Bank of

Scotland’s contact centre. Some information about the company was also obtained

from the company’s website. In addition to this, the researcher is an active

participant which increases the reliability and validity of this research.

An intrinsic case study is the preferable strategy to adopt when a little-known

phenomenon is being investigated and it helps the researcher to put all optimum

time and resources into the study of a single case and therefore develop an in-

depth understanding (Johnson and Christensen, 2004). Yin (2003, p.8) also

indicates that ‘the case study’s unique strength is its ability to deal with a full

variety of evidence [such as] observations, interviews, questionnaire, focus

groups text and documents’.

41
However, it is difficult to generalize from a single case study, hence, some critics of

the case study method believe that the study of a small number of cases can offer

no grounds for establishing reliability or generality of findings, while some feel that

the intense exposure to study of the case biases the findings (Soy, 2006). Case

study still remains the most appropriate strategy when trying to make sense of, or

interpreting contemporary phenomena in terms of a small group of people’s

participation within an organization (Hagaan, 2009).

3.4 Data collection

3.4.1 Semi-structured interview

The main sources used to collect data for this research is semi-structured

interviews and participant observation. The interview is a technique used to collect

qualitative data which involves setting up a situation that allows a respondent the

time to talk about their opinions on a particular subject. The qualitative interview

is ‘an interview, whose purpose is to gather description of the life-world of the

interviewee with respect to interpretation of the meaning of the described

phenomena’ (Kvale 2008)

Interviews are mainly carried out in order to draw out the views and opinions of

respondents and to know why they have these views. Hockey, et al, 2005) are of

the opinion that a semi-structured interview is more flexible than a standardised

structured interview, because it allows for the exploration of emergent themes and
42
ideas rather than relying on concepts and questions defined in advance of the

interview. Hitchcock and Hughes (1992) also point out that semi-structured

interview allows depth to be achieved by providing the opportunity on the part of

the researcher to probe and expand the interviewee’s responses better than what

could be achieve through questionnaires.

Despite the fact that there was a set of fixed questions, for the interview, they just

provided a general guide; there was a lot of flexibility so as to accommodate the

views and unique experiences of each interviewee. This provided the opportunity

to probe more questions to the interviewees which enable a more realistic and

natural collection of data. According to Bernard (1988) cited by (Cohen and

Crabtree, 2006) semi-structured interviews are best used when you won’t get more

than one chance to interview someone and when you will have to interview several

people at different times in order to collect data. Therefore, the researcher used

semi-structured interviews to acquire information from; managers, line mangers,

HR personnel and clerical staff members of the contact centre, this approach also

gained an insight on RBSG staff perception of flexibility and how its pains and

gains affect the performance of the Group as a whole.

Some argue that it is often difficult to generalize from interviewing a group of

people who belong to the same community. For this study, the researcher is

dependent upon the answers given by the interviewees which make it slightly

difficult to generalize. The result from the study is more easily analysable, free

from influence of the researcher and could therefore be regarded as objective

manifestation of real social situations (in Hitch and Hughes, 1992).

43
3.4.2 Participant Observation

A qualitative participant observation was another method used to collect primary

data. This type of method helps the researcher to discover the meanings that

people of RBS attach to their actions. (Saunders et al, 2009) states that a

participant observer is a researcher who attempts to participate fully in the lives

and activities of subjects/participants and thus becomes a member of their group.

3.4.3 Secondary data

Secondary data is information gathered for purposes other than the completion of

a research project. Bogdan and Biklen (2007) stated that secondary data are used

as supplemental information as parts of a case study whose main data source is

other than the participant observation or interviewing. For this research, besides

the interviews, secondary data was collected from the organization’s intranet site.

The information gathered was a result of a survey carried out by the HR

department on the members of staff about their work-patterns and the nature of

their work, due to the recent shift change carried out in the whole of the contact

centre in Manchester.

Internal and external data sources were used to supplement the interviews carried

out. Documents such as performance review papers and 1-2-1 filled by the

employees were used. According Krippendorff (1980), documentary analysis is a

research technique for making replicable and valid references from data to their

context (in Robson, 1993).

44
One of the major advantages of using secondary data, as revealed by Ghauri and

Gronhaug (2005) is that it can be completed rapidly in less time than would be

required for a primary data source (interview), and saves money. In addition,

Stewart and Kamins (1993) suggest that an advantage of secondary data is that it

already exist which makes it possess higher quality and guarantees ease of

evaluation.

Since secondary data is often aggregated by experts, such as the HR personnel for

administrative purposes, the researcher has found it to be accurate and reliable for

this study.

3.5 Sample size

In research terms, a sample is a group of people, objects, or items that are taken

from a larger population for measurement, to generalise the findings from the

research as a whole (Bineham, 2006). The interviews conducted were within the

organization’s premises, in one of the many meeting rooms provided. There was a

random sampling technique used for the selection of participants around the

organization in order to get views from the main angles of the research.

Four different categories of interviewees were used for this research. Two line

managers and who are also team managers were interviewed to get the opinion on

the impact of flexibility on the management, seven clerical call centre staff , who

work full-time were interviewed, of which each both had similar shift patterns of

the eight different types of shift patterns available in the contact centre. The third

category was a HR personnel who was also interviewed, while the fourth category

is a HR manager from the insurance office in Leeds.


45
3.6 Research questions and justification

The research questions raised from the overview of the literature led to the criteria

used to select participants for the interview. The researcher tried to find out the

positive and negative impact of flexibility on the management. This led to the first

group of interviewees which were made up of the line and team managers. The

researcher also wanted to find out the impact of flexibility on the employees which

instigated the selection of the second and third group consisting of some full time

and some part-time employees who work different shift patterns.

Finding out where the bulk of the impact lies influenced the fourth category’s

interview questions. The fourth category which composed of the HR personnel was

in a better position to disclose who benefits more with flexibility between the

employees and employer. The researcher’s curiosity in knowing how much or how

deeply involved the organization is with flexible working led to the last category

consisting of the HR manager who has been with the organization for over fifteen

years, who was in a better position to tell on a neutral basis how well flexibility has

been implemented in the organization and how much impact it has made on the

organization as a whole.

3.7 Ethical Consideration

It is important to bear in mind the business ethics of every organization before

conducting a research on it. Hence the researcher, being an active participant also

created the awareness of confidentiality, of which she informed all participants

about, most especially as it is a banking industry. The participants were already

informed prior to the interview in order to get their consent, there was no formal
46
letter written to the HR manager and the line Managers. An email was sent to the

rest of the participants. Being a participant granted me easy access in order to get

time off for the participants’ who would be interviewed.

According to Fletcher (1992) there are ethical questions that arise around five key

themes before an interview is conducted; preparation for the interview; openness,

disclosure and invasion of privacy; honesty and impression management; power

relationship in the interview and the use of interview information in decision

making. These key themes are what make it important to consider ethics before

carrying out an interview.

3.8 Limitations of the study

In every research writing, it is always the intention of the researcher to obtain the

most accurate and up-to-date information. However, in reality, limitations often

exist and there are a number of reasons why.

There were a number of constraints encountered in this research work, firstly:

Budgetary constraints: gathering and processing data can be very expensive;

hence, this limited an extensive research to gather primary data by the researcher.

This was what made the researcher rely on secondary data to back-up the data

collected from primary source.

Time constraints: due to the limited time the researcher had, the researcher

could not conduct a more in-depth research as initially proposed. The researcher

wanted to also interview customers of RBS in order to get the customers views

47
about how they are being treated, and whether they get the ultimate satisfaction

they require.

Reliability and validity of data: according to an article by Riley (2009), the

value of any research depends on the accuracy of the data collected. Some of the

interviewees were a bit complacent in giving their answers, which made the

reliability of the answers a bit questionable.

Legal and ethical constraints were also a major limitation in my research. The

Data Protection Act (1998) states that anyone who handles personal information

must comply with eight principles one of which states that personal information

should be fairly and lawfully processed and for limited use only. The researcher,

being an active employee of the company, made her awareness of the data

protection act she needs to comply with which limited the amount of information

she could get for her research.

In addition, the researcher had the intention of interviewing other high street

banks in order to compare performance to RBSG, but this was also prevented due

to the banks complying with the Data Protection Act (1998).

48
CHAPTER FOUR

RESEARCH FINDINGS AND RESULTS

4.1. Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to describe my research findings, based on the

information gathered from the semi-structured interview I conducted with staff

members of the RBSG, and the results from the Customer Relations department

survey which was carried out every year. The data collected through interview has

been transcribed for the purpose of analysis. Therefore, to explain how the results

from my research methods were attained, I will explain the role of the participants

from my research.

4.2 Introducing the Participants

Participant 1: Is a female line manager that has worked for RBS for six and a half

years. She currently works on full time, shift pattern known as time-out which a

method of compressed hours. As mentioned in chapter 2, compressed working

hours enable her to cover her total number of hours in fewer days.

Participant 2: a female part-time worker who has been working in RBSG for

three years. She has a 12 year old daughter who is just about to start secondary.

Participant 3: HR Manager who has worked for RBS for 19 years and has worked

in the capacity of a HR Manager for 7 years.

49
Participant 4: a male line manager who has been with RBS for three years. Left

his previous place of employment because he was unhappy with way he was being

overworked and due to low morale

Participant 5: a HR assistant in charge of learning and development and has

been with RBS for eight years.

Participant 6: an administrative assistant who has worked for RBS for two years

and who has just returned from a prolonged illness. He is on the ‘phased return to

work’ shift.

Participant 7: a part-time employee who is an undergraduate student at the

University of Salford. He was initially employed on a full time contract but changed

to part time hours due to commencing his undergraduate studies.

Participant 8: A staff member who worked for RBS through an agency contract

for the past 5 months. She has just been offered a fix term contract to work for the

group.

Participant 9: a clerical, call-centre staff that works a shift pattern known as

‘lates’. His shift starts at 12:00pm and ends at 8:00pm.

Participants 10 and 11: are full-time staffs who work on a normal seven hour

shift pattern, but 10:00am-6:00pm

50
4.3 RQ1: What is the impact of flexibility on the employee?

4.3.1 Work-life balance

The research revealed that 62% of the participants admitted they had a good

balance between their work and home life. It is clear from what the interviewees

had to say, that the group puts the personal lives of its employees into

consideration.

“Ever since my 12 year old daughter started college, I had to change to part-

time. I am glad that I still have time for my daughter and I still do my job to

the best of my ability” Participant 2

4.3.2 Flexibility as a strategy for competitive advantage

The research revealed that an organisation can gain a high level of competitive

advantage by actively engaging in flexible working options with its employees.

From the research conducted, 75% of respondents confirmed that they were happy

in their roles within the organisation and would be likely to remain in the

organisation).One of the participants said

“I am very satisfied with my role and I don’t intend to move jobs, I enjoy

coming to work. I was having a chat with my ex-classmate who works for

Vodafone and she told to me how she did not like her shift pattern and has

been requesting to change her shift for over 4 months but her request has not

been granted, which makes her unhappy to get up and go to work. After

hearing what I had to say about my shift pattern and how my company sees

it as a priority to allow flexible working, she said she was going to send an
51
application to RBS, because she cannot afford to remain where she is

unhappy”. (Participant 6)

Most of the participants had much to say about increasing competition between

RBS and other high street banks, especially the HR personnel who deal with

recruitment. Despite the current economic situation, they admitted to being very

busy with recruitment specifically in the contact centre department, and it was

traced down to the high level of flexible working arrangements and shift patterns

available within the organization. the survey carried out by the Customer Relations

department showed that the competitive pressure had been high in the previous

year but went down in 2008, but this is due to the difficult period the group is

going through.

4.3.3 Increases performance

The exact collective productivity could not be measured through the research

methods, however from the comments from respondents, it was gathered that

individual productivity increased and enhanced higher performance and output

within the group. The managers who were interviewed had a positive opinion in

the level of performance of their team. One of the line mangers said:

“the last appraisal I conducted with Jane showed she had improved

drastically compared to her performance four months earlier. When I asked

her why she had detoriated in her performance and her absence level had

increased earlier in the year, she admitted to being stressed because she had

too many things to do at the same time. Besides working full time, she had

52
to go home so she could take care of her sister’s kids because the sister could

not afford to pay the minder for longer than 5:00pm”. (Participant 4)

Both of the line managers of the contact centre who were interviewed supported

the view that overall performance had increased drastically in the last six months,

but also admitted that performance still went down on some days among

employees. When asked to describe the impact of flexible working on the

performance of their team members,

“for the shift pattern, which is known as ‘time-out’, my guys work which is

long days more or less known as compressed hours, I tend to find that

energy levels drop off. 9 hours and quality of performance decreases

noticeably”. (Participant 1)

In the general performance of RBS he declared:

“Performance is still good, we have hit abandonment’s target for a record of

8 months in a row”. (Participant 1)

In call centres, ‘Abandonment target’ is a terminology for used to describe the

level of calls that have been unanswered/rejected, which brings down the target of

calls (service levels) that are meant to be taken in a month.

In addition to the impact on performance, the HR manager also had a positive

opinion about flexibility on the organization:

“Performance has increased as employees feel they are now being listened

to, in terms of giving them the chance to choose their own shift pattern

53
rather than impose certain shifts on them, employees tend to perform more

when they are happy with the shift they have, this is good for the business”

(participant 3)

However, this research found that only about 25% of the employees claimed that

their shift pattern did not have much to do with their performance. A clerical staff

stated

“with my role, you get better sale calls from 5:00pm till 8:pm, I work only

10:00am to 6:00pm so it just means that I lose out on sales, but this has not

had an adverse effect on my performance”. However, she is still very satisfied

with her job and shift pattern (Participant 11)

4.3.4 Employee engagement and job satisfaction

Of all the participants, there was the strongest impression that they were satisfied

with their work which increases morale and motivation. About 75% had positive

things to say about the way they are motivated because they love their job and

especially their shift pattern:

“I like my shift because shops are still open when I finish and I can still make

appointments till 7:00pm. I really wanted this shift because I’m not an early

bird, so starting at 10:00am and finishing at 6:00pm is perfect for me”

(participant 10)

A number of respondents currently working full time compressed hours revealed

that they are motivated to come to work, as the flexibility of their shifts allows

them to conveniently arrange personal arrangements around their shifts.


54
“the pattern of the days in and days off means I have more time to get

things done outside of work, especially my uni work”. (Participant 7)

I like my Wednesdays off because those are the days my doctor is available

so I can do my medical check-up” (Participant 6)

Another revealed :

“the fact that I don’t have to get to work early and I finish work to get home

and still watch ‘Ghost Whisperer’ on TV before I sleep”. (Participant 9)

Line managers had a lot to say about their employees’ level of motivation and

engagement because they are aware of its importance on performance:

“all staff unless they have a specific reason to do flexible shift most find it

beneficial as whilst they may work long hours or late shifts, it does allocate

them time off when they want it”. I find Flexible working useful as staff have

time for personal time when they aren’t in. driving lessons, hobbies,

childcare are made easier”. (Participant 4)

The level of involvement of the employees on their work is very obvious that the

HR manager could also say without hesitation:

“This has created a good working environment as employee now show a

more positive attitude to work and also feel free to request for time off from

their manager when important appointments come up outside work”.

(Participant 3)

55
In addition to the findings on job satisfaction, part of the survey carried out by the

customer relations department revealed a direct comparism, that in 2008 the level

of job satisfaction and employee engagement had increased in general from 71% in

2007 to 73% in 2008. Table 4.1:

Employee Employee Job satisfaction Job

Engagement Engagement pulse (2008) satisfaction

pulse (2008) pulse (2007)


(2007)
Clerical (65%) 60% Clerical (71%) 69%
Appointed 67% Appointed (67%) 68%

(75%)
Manager (85%) 79% Manager (79%) 52%

The table shows that the different levels of staff that took the survey where clerical

are made up of the admin and call centre staff. Their responses revealed that the

level of commitment and engagement had increased from 60% in 2007 to 62% in

2008. Those on the appointed type of role showed more commitment in 2008

compared to 2007. While for the managers, the engagement level had increased

from 79% in 2007 to 85% in 2008. The table also showed that the level of

engagement was determined by how satisfied they are with their work. Among the

mangers, 79% became more satisfied with their work in 2008 as compared to the

number of those that were satisfied in 2007. The clerical staff also showed they

became more satisfied with their job in 2008 than in 2007. However, the

appointed staff had a slight decline to 67% in 2008 from 68% in 2007, but the

decline is not enough to have a massive impact on the group as there is still room

for improvement.

Furthermore, responses from the survey revealed:


56
“I have freedom in my job to do what is necessary to do”. My business

motivates me to contribute more than is normally required for me to

complete ”. Given the opportunity, I tell others great things about working

here”. (Participant 5)

Only about 15% of the respondents, specifically the atypical, workers showed less

commitment in their work because they feel the sense of insecurity since they are

not permanent staff. 10% of those in this category still give in their best because

they want to be made permanent.

4.3.5 Up-skilling

About 55% of the interviewees admitted they are always happy to perform other

responsibilities outside contracted roles:

“Yes, performing other roles makes the job more interesting”. Doing work

outside my contracted role brings about flexibility of the job and it expands

my knowledge to know more about the company, is also gives an

opportunity for career progression”. (Participant 8)

Responses that showed that staffs were not in support of functional flexibility

made comments like:

“Giving me other responsibilities to do other than what is contained in my

contract makes me feel used. That can be classified as a breach of contract”.

(participant 11)

57
Those who belonged to this category don’t believe in moving up, they feel very

comfortable with what they do that they don’t have the drive opt for promotions

except it comes automatically.

4.4 RQ2: what is the impact of flexible working on the management?

4.4.1 Reduces turnover and absenteeism

80% of the participants expressed a positive response to the option of extending

their employment with RBS. When asked to say what their plans for the future

were with RBS, their responses revealed their loyalty and commitment to the

organisation:

“Yes, definitely because I’m happy with my role and my hours of work,

though it took me two years to achieve this”. It would take a lot for me to

leave this group because I hardly ever think of leaving”. As revealed by the

HR manger “from the perspective of the business, the division compares with

its competitors in quality and customer service”. (Participant 9)

The Human Resources survey also found that employment security level had not

dropped. It was 58% in 2007 and 58% in 2008, which means employment security

has remained stagnant between 2007 and 2008. This also means that the level of

absenteeism and turnover has not reduced in the previous year which is still

considered as healthy for the business. In every business, it is better for production

rate to remain on the same level than for it to decline.

The line mangers were also able to reveal that their team members have not been

absent due to sickness, except for very important reasons:


58
“My babes hardly phone in sick, they love the team. I have a very cordial,

professional relationship with them where I endeavour to explain my

decisions. So I know a good deal about the life they live outside work, they let

me know when they need time off to do other things that are important

instead of lying that they are ill just to get off work” (participant 3)

The research revealed that absenteeism was never an issue in RBS. Though some

employees tend to be absent for one reason or the other, however, it is never an

issue that affects the business unfavourably.

A minority of respondents revealed that although RBS actively engaged employees,

they were actively seeking alternative employment outside the organisation due to

personal reasons. An example can be seen in a response below

“No, I’m currently seeking employment elsewhere because I need to have a

change of environment for a while”. (Participant 11)

Another minority of respondents who fall under the leavers group were employees

approaching retirement age or were intending to relocate outside Manchester.)

4.4.2 Saves cost and improves production

The performance level had increased among most of the employees which has

generally improved production in the group. The HR manager could reveal that:

“Production has been high as more employees on the flex team have the

opportunity to learn other skills in other areas of the business and also,

employees tend to be more productive if organisations that allow them to

59
make choices from shift that best suits them. Production will be high also as

more employees perceive flex working as less stress and a sense of control of

their time management” (Participant 3)

In one line manger’s opinion: “flexible working is good for both staff and business.

it gives staff a work-life balance, and gives the business the flexibility to man busy

periods and requires fewer staff to work which saves cost on replacing staff if there

were to be a high turnover”

60% of respondents believe that production had increased since flexibility was

introduced most especially in the credit card centre:

“Originally, the credit card centre began granting compressed hours in

2003, but the current pattern of shift has been ongoing for two years.”

(Participant 1)

From the HR managers’ perspective:

“It's important to understand that that not all areas of d business practice

flexible working pattern, as some division of the business such as retail

banking work on a shift of 9-5pm Monday - Friday. However when flexible

working came into play retail banking are now operating sat banking”.

(Participant 3)

Generally speaking, the impact on productivity has escalated massively in all areas

of the business. However, there is often that initial resistance to change in every

aspect of life even if it is for the betterment of the current situation. About 40% of

60
participants still believe that there were still some challenges with the

implementation of flexibility:

“getting the original buy-in from staff, I find that there is always a

resistance to change and staff were comfortable on the hours they had no

matter what the new shift would be, they weren’t keen on doing it”.

(Participant 4)

The HR manager also revealed what difficulties they faced with the

implementation of flexible working pattern:

“Low pay for people working less hours, hence the employee may not be too

happy with the pay. Some employees may feel lonely and isolated and de

motivated as a result of their work pattern”

Some of clerical staff also doing both full-time and part-time employees expressed

their hitches with the working pattern:

“it’s hard to get a day off if needed as there is not a lot of staff doing

similar/opposite pattern”

“Shift patterns in RBS do not really put the staff in consideration because

there are limited specific patterns which you have to fit your life around

work instead of the other way round.” (Participant 11)

4.5 RQ3 who benefits more between the employees and the

management?

61
From the research, 55% agreed that flexibility that existed in the organization

benefits both. From their responses, those who believed that both sides benefit

from flexibility can be divided into the mutual flexibility:

“It’s a 50- 50 situation, flexible working arrangement will be more

beneficial to a part time student as he/she will have time to balance school

life and work life. This in turn is still good for the business as the student

may only have to work for less hours which means the business will pay less

and also the employee can be asked to come in at evenings/ weekends, this is

still beneficial to the business as more advisers are needed in the evening

hours and weekends. Therefore in my opinion it’s a mutual benefit”.

(Participant 3)

The other group are those who believe that flexibility exist in the organization

because the company has to accept what the law says:

“I think both benefits both at the same time, because the law even requires

employers to give employees time off work to do other things. For instance,

those who go on maternity and paternity leave” (participant 5)

About 23% are of the opinion that flexible working benefits the business more:

“this organization only allows you time-off work when it is less busy and

they don’t always grant your request when you really want it which makes

it more beneficial for them”. (Participant 10)

62
“They employ agency workers just to use them during busy periods; they

will sometimes not even offer them a permanent employment when they feel

they have achieved enough”. (participant 7)

While about 22% still believe it is more beneficial to the employees:

“To be honest, I really think flexible working benefits the employees more

because they can have time off when they want it, which will make them

happy with their employers and they can maintain a good work-life

balance”. (Participant 2)

One of the HR assistant also admitted:

“The employees of this organization are very lucky because work-life

balance is an aspect that is taken very seriously in this organization, so even

if a staff requests time off, it is often granted even if it is likely going to be a

detriment to the business”.

Table 4.2 below shows the responses of the interviewees to who they thing

benefits more.

Respondents Do you think the Do you think the Do you think


employees benefit more employers benefit flexible working
with flexible working? more with flexible helps to improve
working? the business?
Participant 1 It benefits them a lot, No Yes
but the firm as a whole
Participant 2 No No Yes
Participant 3 Flexibility is mainly to It helps them have a Yes
improve performance
work-life balance
Participant 4 Yes No No
Participant 5 No yes Yes
63
Participant 6 No Yes Yes
Participant 7 Yes Yes No
Participant 8 Yes Yes Yes
Participant 9 No No Yes
Participant No yes Maybe,some
other firms
10 and 11

Furthermore to the survey, table 4.3 and figure 4.1 shows the result from the

survey carried out by the department of Customer Relations which reveals a trend

from 2002 before it was introduced to 2009 where flexible what the outcome is so

far.

Y EA R 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008


W o r k lo a d & w o r k lif e b a la n c e 58 64 64 65 66 61 68
E ffic ie n c y 63 59 58 59 61 64 70
J o b s a t is fa c t io n 57 61 64 69 69 71 73
P e r fo r m a n c e m a n a g e m e n t a n d d e v5 e1 lo p m5 e2 n t 5 5 59 63 63 67
C o m p e t it iv e p o s it io n 51 51 51 62 64 68 65
E m p lo y m e n t s e c u r it y 56 53 54 54 60 58 58

TABLE 4.3: RBS CUSTOMER RELATIONS SURVEY

64
FIG 4.1: RBS CUSTOMER RELATIONS SURVEY

CHAPTER FIVE
65
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF THE FINDINGS

5.1 Introduction

This chapter will focus on the interpretation of my research findings, focusing on

my research questions and what they mean. Relating and comparing to the views

of other authors identified in the literature review and what they have said about

the impact of flexibility on organizations. It will focus on bringing out the

similarities and differences between the results of my findings and that of other

writers.

The chapter will address the research questions posed in the introduction which

were:

5.2 RQ.1 What is the impact of flexibility on the employees of RBSG?

Functional flexibility relates to how employees are required to perform work

outside their normal job description. Cappelli and Rogovsky (1994) state that an

organization that is functionally flexible creates the opportunity to widen skills and

increase employee participation, employee satisfaction which helps to improve

organisational productivity. Applying the statement above to the statistics of the

research, about 55% were happy to do any work that was allocated to them as long

as they received the training required to carry out the duties.

Out of the employees who participated in this research, about 70% of respondents

were found to be very satisfied with their work, most especially the part-time staff

and female employees who had children of toddler age and under. RBS’s stance on

flexible working is to ensure a flexible and comfortable working environment for


66
its employees, in order to maintain a high level of retention. For this reason, the

employees are self –motivated to come to work and are very pleased to do what is

expected of them.

This analysis was found to reflect McFadden’s argument, McFadden (2009) which

states that being able to work flexibly means happiness, and happy staff mean loyal

staff which is very important in today’s economic climate.

In addition to the research, the survey carried out by the customer relations

department found that job satisfaction and engagement had gone up from 57% in

2002 shortly before it was introduced, and went up to 61% in 2003 which was the

year flexibility was implemented. The current satisfaction level is 73% which

means there has been a massive increase in the employee engagement among RBS

staff since its implementation

Though, about 23% of the interviewees admitted that the compressed and long

hours (two days in two days out) was a bit stressful. Though they liked the off days,

but still complained about the long hours they spend at work on the days they are

in. While 7% had almost nothing positive to say about how satisfied they were with

their shift pattern, role and job as a whole. These were expecting more from the

organization and they stated their intention to move jobs elsewhere.

5.2.2 Work-life balance

Work life balance is defined by Health Education Board for Scotland (HEBS)

(2002) as working practices that acknowledge and aim to support the needs of staff

in achieving a balance between their homes and working lives”. About 66%

67
received a favourable response to having a balance between their home life and

work-life. These were made up of 40% of part- time employees and 26% of full-

time employees who work compressed hours revealed that their work-life balance

can’t be compared to any other form of reward the business can give.

Supporting the view of Clutterbuck (2003) that work-life balance as being aware of

different demands of time and energy, the analysis of the research shows that the

respondents are aware of their work-life balance which reduces the stress they

have to handle at work and home. It is also very obvious that RBS is aware of the

importance of its employees’ work-life balance. The Customer relations’

department survey divulged that, work life balance in the group had increased

from 58% in 2002, this was prior to the implementation, and then it increased to

64% in 2003 and continued to increase over the years. However, there was a slight

decline to 61% in 2007; this was also due to the difficult period the economy was

facing which affected the group, which also knocked off the morale of employees.

The group worked on its weak areas that were what led to the rise to 68% in 2008.

By and large, this supports the view of Taylor (2008), that when an organization is

flexible, it is able to respond to change more effectively and efficiently, even

through peak times.

Since the majority of participants admitted to having a work-life balance, it will not

be far from the truth to say that due to its nature of production, this makes it stand

out from its competitors. Hence, the respondents could have a good impression

about the company’s reputation. This supports the view of (Collins, 2001) that

practices that recognize both value and the needs of employees enable companies

to grow in terms of profit and to sustain that growth for a long period of time.
68
Out of the participants who sounded satisfied with their job, 60% could admit they

had improved on their performance over the year due to the level of satisfaction

they gained between having their job done and still being able to manage issues

outside work. Within this category, 55% responded that they were very satisfied

with their shift pattern, while 5% were indifferent to their shift pattern and would

not mind a further change. This response supports Burud and Tumolo’s (2004)

view that an organization which utilizes flexible strategies is more likely to be

efficient and more profitable in the short run, and better poised for long-term

success. The participants supported this view too because about 45% from those

who seemed satisfied could pass a judgement that the future for RBS is bright and

that’s why the group can stand firm even during times of economic recession.

The Customer Relations’ survey also revealed performance level and development

had gone from 51% in 2002 and kept on escalating in the subsequent years, up

until 2008 where performance increased to 67% in 2008.

5.3 RQ2. What is the impact of flexibility on the employer?

Greenberg (1990) predicts that employees are more likely to have positive attitudes

to organization who they perceive to be treating them fairly. As also predicted by

Johnson (1995), employees who are experiencing conflict between home

responsibilities and work responsibilities are more likely to leave their

organization than those who are not. To support this argument, the research

revealed that about 78% of participants have no intention of leaving the group

except for purposes of relocation or retirement. This shows that the turnover rate

is quite low in the group which is very healthy for the business.

69
The CR survey also showed that employment security was about 56% in 2002. The

implementation did not have an immediate impact on the staff, which is obvious

from the results. Employment security rose to 59% in 2006 then dropped in 2007

to 58% and still remained 58% in 2008. This means that despite the economic

recession, the employees still feel safe with their job and this means lower

turnover.

Out of the 78% participants who are contemplating alternative employment

elsewhere, about 35% still admitted that they had no occasion of absence due to

sickness in the last year and 13% had two occasions while 30% had only one

occasion. This supports the view of Sanchez et al (2007) which states that an

organization can only achieve a sustainable competitive advantage if it has certain

resources, one of which is low level of absence. It is not far from the truth that with

low absence level, performance level of employees increases which tends to affect

the productivity of the organization.

To support the view of Burud and Tumolo, (2004) that having a flexible working

pattern reduces health care cost which is the largest element of labour cost. The

participants who had nil sickness absences already shows the costs increasing

service levels by the group had not reached an unmanageable rate and as admitted

by the HR manager, the company has saved an estimate of £1 million on health

care conditions in the organization.

Efficiency dropped among staff from 63% in 2002 to 59% in 2003. When flexibility

was introduced, there was a level of complacency so efficiency among staff fell

70
which affected productivity. By the year 2005, the staffs were able to adjust to the

change which increased efficiency level.

5.4 RQ3 Does the weight of the impact lie on the management or

employees?

With flexibility, it is often difficult to tell who benefits more between the employees

and employers. However, to support Reilly’s (2001) view on mutual flexibility; a

conscious effort an organization makes to meet both the employers and employees

needs and incidental flexibility; where the organization has to accept legal

requirements. This analysis found that about 55% believed that RBS recognises the

needs of individuals and puts them into consideration. Out of this 55%, about 20%

believe the group allows flexible working because the law has urged organizations

to extend the right to work flexibly. Hence, mutual flexibility and incidental

flexibility exist in the organization.

In addition, the merits of mutual flexibility is explained by Clark (2008), he states

that flexible working practices can be advantageous to both organizations and

employee, because flexible working allows employees to gain more control over

their work-life balance and can act as an important tool in the organization’s

recruitment and retention process. The survey by the customer relations

department revealed that 71% (made up of both employees and employers) have a

of work-life balance and they benefit a lot

5.5 Challenges faced in implementing flexible working in RBS.

71
The research revealed that about 45% of the respondents’ difficulties that they

faced with the implementation of the flexible working pattern. When flexible

working was introduced in 2003, some employees showed that resistance to

change which was an issue that needed to be dealt with. This supports Taylor’s

(2008) view that the issue with flexibility is that organizations tend to create a

situation where employees are deployed and when required so as to maximize

short-term efficiency, while also requiring staff to exhibit a high degree of

commitment.

In every aspect of life, changes are introduced to bring about improvement, but

because the people are already familiar with the old culture, they tend to

demonstrate some attribute of complacency.

As seen in the customer relations survey results workload and work-life balance

increased immediately after the implementation in 2003, but in 2007, it went

down again, this happened because the employees felt used as the work pressure

had increased and they felt pressurised to meet targets. The employment security

also became an issue as the employees were already used to the old technique and

some employees were comfortable with the normal 9-5 shift. However, they

realised the importance of the change and were able to adapt to it.

72
CHAPTER SIX

RECOMMENDATION AND CONCLUSION

Conclusion

The main aim of this research is to find out the impact of flexibility on an

organization as a whole. The rhetorical dispute over who benefits more with

flexibility between the employee and employer. The research also aims at clearing

the doubts of those with the impression that the banking industry is known to have

long and inflexible hours which affects the work-life balance of employees and

their level of commitment at work. As illustrated by Ahmed (2009) work-life

balance is an important issue in the banking industry. Long and inflexible hours
73
are considered to be a predictor of conflict among banking employees, in terms of

both organizational effectiveness and occupational health.

This research found the reverse to be the case. In the past, banks are seen as

individual and solo branches with no integration (Lawrence et al, 1989). We are in

the new age and technology plays a major part in every part of the business. Unlike

before, banks allow clients to conduct transactions themselves, instead of humans

doing transactions for them. This allows for the existence of flexibility in banks

today.

Flexibility has become a catchword in the discussions of the new organisations of

the twenty-first century. Increasing global competition, accelerating technological

change and expanding customer expectations are creating a turbulent environment

(Sanchez, 2007). Therefore, the best way for organizations to stand firm in the

competitive marketplace is for it to take flexible working practices more seriously.

The research found that the Royal Bank of Scotland has a job-share scheme and

family friendly policies that has proven very effective and workable for a number of

colleagues. It allows parents returning to work after raising a family to do so with

ease, allowing them to still have quality time available with their family. The group

also offers career breaks to those who need time off to undertake other personal

commitments, such as taking a study leave to return to school.

The group’s main focus which is to achieve customer satisfaction, provides the best

means to ensure satisfaction for its employees, in order for them to be involved

effectively to provide the best service to its customers.

74
Besides the group’s working policies, the legal requirements of the working time

regulations and the extended right to request flexible working has also led to the

groups implementation of flexibility and some certain shift pattern to ensure more

flexibility and better productivity.

One important issue discovered in the research were the difficulties and challenges

the group faces with the implementation of flexibility. Firstly, at the initial stage of

the implementation, the employees feel that resistance to change because they see

it as a threat and a temporary fad because they feel employers and mangers are

incompetent (Heath, 2008). Some employees also thought that flexibility and

flexible working arrangement is incompatible with high level of commitment and

job security. The reason for this thought is that flexible working allows some

employees to take their job for granted especially the atypical workers, as they have

the impression they do not have a permanent role. This turns about to be a threat

to the business as commitment levels go down.

Recommendation

Therefore, organizations should strive to imbibe more flexible working practices,

because there is more gain than pain in flexibility. Though, CIPD (2009) stated

that employers may incur a cost in adopting these flexible working policies, the

gains of achieving its aim will definitely outweigh the cost. Measures taken to

prevent turnover are bound to improve the business. Ahmed (2009) also suggested

that turnover is costly in terms of time and effort required to recruit, select, and

train new personnel, however to avoid turnover, organizations may develop some

Family friendly Policies.

75
Conclusively, it is clear that the benefits of the flexibility not only lie on the

employees or on the management, but on the organization as a whole. For an

organization to gain its competitive advantage, flexibility should be used as an

important strategy as the impact has a long-term impact on organizations,

including the banking industry.

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APPENDIX

AND

83
MANAGEMENT REPORT

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The aim of this study is to examine the impact of the flexibility on the banking

industry, laying emphasis on the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. It also explores

the extent to which it has been adopted and how it has impacted on the

organization positively, in terms of productivity. The study outlined the impact of

flexibility on both the employees and employer, and addresses the question “who

benefits more from flexibility between the employees and employer?” Each theme

is examined with the aid of research questions and appropriate research methods.

Relevant information was gathered from conducting Semi-structured interview

(quantitative) and secondary data which was helpful for the research, considering

significant academic literature which provided a wider focus for discussion in

relation to the overall discovery made.

In the research, 11 employees were interviewed to get their views about flexibility

in the organization and how it has affected performance in general. The study

found flexible working was in introduced in the group in 2003, and 16 new shift

patterns were added late 2008, but some divisions of the group, like the insurance
84
don’t have the flexible working pattern yet. It was found that some employees were

happy with their shift pattern while others were not satisfied with their work-life

balance. However, there is an equal level of benefit among the members of RBS

overall. The study answered the rhetoric question of “who benefits more between

employees and employers with flexibility?”.

A survey was also carried out by the Customer relations department in early 2009,

for administrative purposes. This was found very useful for the research and

helped to determine the level of satisfaction and engagement of employees in RBS

and the future expectations for the group. Though there were some challenges that

the group in general faced since the implementation of flexible working and the

introduction of other new patterns in RBS. In addition to the challenges, there was

a massive loss in the bank around late 2008 and early 2009, and job losses of

about 3,000, but this was due to the economic recession.

It was concluded from the research that the Royal Bank of Scotland is a flexible

organization and puts its employees’ work-life balance into consideration which

has helped with the production in the organization giving its reputation a boost.

85
Appendix 1

LETTER TO PARTICIPANTS

Dear,

INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN A RESEARCH PROJECT ON

FLEXIBILITY

I am currently on the process rounding up my master’s programme in Human


Resource Management at the Manchester Metropolitan University. I am doing a
research on “the impact of flexibility on the banking industry: a case study of the
Royal Bank of Scotland”.

The focus is on the staff of the Royal Bank of Scotland, to get their opinions on
flexibility and how their work-life balance has affected their performance. The
main purpose of the research is academic, and I will be interviewing about 12
candidates on individually, and each interview will last about 20 minutes. I will be
very delighted if you can accept my invitation.

I would like to assure you that I am aware of confidentiality in the organization, so


I would not disclose any names or any personal information in the research. Just
your opinions are needed.

You can respond by sending me an email, to let me know what time you will be
available.

Thank you for your assistance.


86
Sylvia Bishen

Appendix 2

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR LINE MANAGERS

(1) What is your view about flexible working pattern in organization in


general?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(2) What type of flexible working pattern (shift) does your team have?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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(3) How long has this shift been in existence in RBSG?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(4) When was flexible working pattern implemented in RBSG?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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(5) How many employees are in your team?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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……………………………………………..

(6) How would you describe the level of involvement/engagement of your team
members in the implementation of flexible working pattern?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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(7) What is the relationship between you and the team members? (Cooperative,
cordial, negative etc)

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………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(9) How would you describe the impact of flexible working pattern on the
following?

• Performance of your team members

• Performance in RBS in general

(a)
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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(b)
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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(10) How many requests to shift change have been declined in the past two
months?

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………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………

(11) Do you agree that flexible working pattern is an important form of motivation
an organization can be given to employees?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
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(12) What are the challenges/difficulties (if there are any) in the implementation
of flexible work pattern in RBS?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

89
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………………………..

(13) What do you think can be done to improve performance of employees,


management as well as the productivity of RBS?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……………Thank you very much for answering the questions

Appendix 3

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR CLERICAL STAFF

(1) What shift pattern do you work?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(2) What do you enjoy most about you shift?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………………………………………..

(3) What other commitments do you have outside work?

90
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(4) With the nature of shift, do you still have time to attend to these other
activities?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……

(5) Apart from your contracted responsibilities, do you feel happy to perform
other roles?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

(6) What other shift pattern would you have preferred?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…….

(7) How would you describe your performance in general under flexible working
pattern?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
91
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(8) What are the challenges/obstacles under flexible working pattern in RBS?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(9) What do you think can be done to improve performance of all employees?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(10) Do you see yourself staying longer in RBS?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Thank you very much for answering the questions

Appendix 4

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGER

92
(1) What is your perception about flexible working pattern in an organisation in
general?

.....................................................................................................................................
.....................................................................................................................................
.....................................................................................................................................
.....................................................................................................................................
.....................................................................................................................................
.............................................................................................................................

(2) Does RSBG have flexible working pattern for it staff?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………

(3) What types of flexible working pattern is being practiced in RBSG?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(4) How long has flexible working pattern been implemented in RBS?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

93
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(5) What was the nature of work like before flexible working pattern was
introduced?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(6) Are the employees involved in the implementation of flexible working pattern
in RBSG?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(7) How would you describe the level of involvement or engagement of all
employees since the implementation of flexible working pattern in RBSG?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
94
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…..

(8) How would you describe the performance of employees as a result of the
introduction of flexible working pattern in RBSG?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………….

(9) Do you think the flexible working pattern in RBSG benefits the employees
more or the management?(give your reason)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…..

(10) How would you describe the level of productivity as a result of the
introduction of work pattern in RBS?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
95
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…..

(11) In your opinion, what are the key challenges/obstacles in the


implementation of flexible work pattern in RBSG?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…..

(12) What do you think can be done to improve performance of employees,


management as well as the productivity of RBS?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Thank you very much for answering the questions

96
Appendix 5

TERMS OF REFERENCE

RBSG Royal Bank of Scotland Group

RBS Royal Bank of Scotland

BERR Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform


97
EAP Employment Assistance Programme

WERS Workplace employee relations survey

CIPD Chartered Institute for personnel and Development

HEBS Health Education Board for Scotland

SME Small and Medium Enterprises.

98