Unleashing Discretionary Effort

Perpetual Guardian’s recent move to trial having its staff working for four days a week, while continuing to be paid for five, is an enlightened leadership initiative, writes Jane McCarroll.

Working less hours and being paid more sounds extremely enticing and most of us would jump at the opportunity. Perpetual Guardian recently announced that the company is trialling a four-day work week, whilst continuing to pay employees for five days. I had the opportunity to meet founder Andrew Barnes recently to get a better insight. 

He said if the six-week trial was successful, the system would be implemented permanently from
July 1, 2018.

It is a very enlightened leadership initiative, which nearly melted the internet, and it’s easy to see why. This initiative represents exemplary leadership with a focus on trust and continuous improvement. Finding new ways to do things smarter will be with us always and I believe the four-day work week will unlock discretionary effort and promote collaboration, flexibility and productivity.

In the first week after the announcement more than $2 million in PR value was generated locally and internationally and interest continues to build. It is not a new concept as such, as countries such as Sweden have trialled similar things. 

I know I am speaking for many when I say that there are never enough hours in the day, and weekends are never long enough. This initiative empowers people to have strong foundations in their work and their personal life and enables time to breathe. 

Thriving at work and at home requires a relatively full tank. Less hours at work, same pay and more home time is a great combination to help people thrive and thriving people contribute to thriving organisations.

I read recently about the demise of the phrase “work-life balance”. Now it is just “life”. We only have one each, and it is our responsibility to make the most of it.

The unrelenting and unprecedented changes in today’s world present problems and opportunities never faced before – by anyone. We cannot expect success by applying old solutions to
new problems.

Here’s where I see the immediate value 

in implementing this kind of constructive initiative. It builds trust and enables a very dedicated focus on continuous improvement and productivity. 

Trust is a strategically critical issue.
A relationship without trust is not really a relationship at all. Over the long term, business success depends upon a network of positive relationships.

Continuous improvement is the prequel to creativity and innovation. Innovation can be anything apart from business as usual. Innovation to me is any change, big or small, that unlocks new value. A focus on continuous improvement encourages innovation. 

Productivity is discretionary effort unleashed. To reach for the stars we must all be standing on our toes. In order to do that, we need to do all that we can to unlock discretionary effort across our organisations. 

Discretionary effort, in turn, is underpinned by healthy, productive relationships.

Since launching this initiative, Andrew has been interviewed by media outlets from all over the world. Everyone is interested in how it was set up, how the company plans to measure the success of it and how they will disseminate the findings following the trial period. Watch this space.

Staff driving Perpetual branded company cars are greeted all over by people waving and giving them the thumbs up and, the best part, everyone now wants to work there. The CV’s are flooding in. It seems the whole world has a spotlight on this New Zealand company’s semi-novel idea, hoping to see if it works. 

We are in a market where attracting and retaining talent continues to be a focus for most organisations. Those able to be collaborative and flexible are the workforces of the future.

The lunchroom, boardroom and over all the business world at any given time will have some form of AI built in, there will be at least four generations in the room and it will be connected across
the globe. 

It’s not possible to solve the problems of tomorrow while being stuck in yesterday’s thinking. Today’s employers must be flexible and Andrew believes that by offering employees a more flexible arrangement when it comes to working hours, his teams will feel more engaged at work, which will in turn enable productivity, whilst being compensated accordingly.

It’s always been about the people and if there ever was an incentive, isn’t working four days and being paid for five one of them? Give it another few weeks and the success of this pilot will be the conversation to be had. 

Andrew, congratulations on this initiative, I wish you every success.


Jane McCarroll is the marketing and membership manager at IMNZ. The Institute of Management NZ, helping leaders step up and lead since 1946.

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