It's understandable if your annual budget is consumed by talent and development initiatives: Organizations around the world are facing skills gaps. In fact, a 2017 CareerBuilder survey of U.S. companies found that two-thirds of employers increasing their full-time workforce during the most recent Q1 period could not find qualified candidates for their open positions. Even more distressingly, the survey determined that the skills gap is costing companies an average of $800,000 every year, and that's just the cost of extended job vacancies—it doesn't even include the cost of professional development for existing employees.

But companies shouldn't be losing six or seven figures to the skills gap every year when flexibility provides such a comprehensive talent and development solution.

For starters, flexibility is key in attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent, as our research attests. We found that 96 percent of employees in the U.S. workforce need some type of flexibility, but only 42 percent have access to the flex type they need, while only 19 percent can access a range of flex options. Additionally, employees without flexibility were twice as likely to report job dissatisfaction, and 1 in 2 employees said they would leave their job to find a more flexible alternative.

Flexibility also opens up your job openings to a more diverse talent pool. After all, the most qualified person for a given job might be someone with daily caregiving responsibilities, or a person living with a chronic condition or disability, or just a worker who does her best work outside of an office setting. Such employees might be dissuaded from joining or staying at a company that doesn't provide the proper flexibility. If you're losing qualified candidates or star employees, it might be because you haven't made flexibility part of your company culture and employer brand.

But flexibility can, quite literally, have an even broader impact. By implementing location-based modifications to the workday—e.g. giving employees access to Remote for location independence or DeskPlus for location variety—you can tap into the talent pools in geographies where your company doesn't have a physical footprint. In other words, you're not just limited to the job candidates in a commutable radius of your office. You can seek job candidates from anywhere, meaning the "where" won't limit the "who." If diversity and inclusion is a top priority at your company, location-based flexibility can go a long way.

Flex saves in other ways, too. By implementing time-based modifications to the workday—e.g. giving employees to TimeShift for unconventional hours or MicroAgility for schedule freedom—you allow your employees the time and headspace to pursue professional development. That means employees can continue evolving their skills alongside their jobs. Remember, it’s much easier and cost effective to develop people from within than it is to look externally for new talent who fit your criteria perfectly. Time- and location-based flexibility also amps your employees' productivity, whether it lets them capitalize on the dayparts during which they're most alert or lets them find the working space at which they're most efficient. In short, flexibility offers employees the chance to optimize their work and showcase their skills, which helps you assess whether the problem really is a skills gap in the first place.

To learn more about the business impact of flexibility, download Werk’s research here.