Juliet Turnbull, founder and CEO of 2to3days, recommends employers take a flexible approach to flexible working, especially if they wish to attract experienced female staff
Each week I speak to companies telling me that they want to find experienced female talent to join their organisations. I also speak to experienced female talent who want to find organisations that they want to work for.
The main connection piece, or more accurately the disconnection piece, boils down to the ability to work flexibly. 76% of people want to work flexibly. So, what’s stopping flexible working being the norm for all?
Most are Baby Boomers and Gen X who have spent their careers working in a full-time office culture (predominantly male workplaces). The main fears around flexible working are that:
• Productivity will drop.
• Clients won’t be serviced properly.
• It’s hard to manage a workforce working different hours, from different locations.
The evidence says otherwise. Flexible working improves productivity, increases staff loyalty, promotes innovation and inclusivity. What needs to happen is a shift in mindset, and the will to pilot new ideas.
Leaders need to ask themselves some searching questions.
• Are you aware of your beliefs around flexible working? Are you an advocate of integrating work into your life?
• When you see behaviour that doesn’t support people to integrate work into their lives, do you ‘call it out’ or ignore it?
• What’s your set up at home? Do you share domestic as well as working responsibilities equally?
Line managers – the heroes or the fall guys?
The implementation of flexible working often comes unglued here because they aren’t given sufficient training to support a flexible workforce. They get blamed for adopting a blanket approach to managing staff by having them in the office five days a week rather than accommodating and managing individual flexible working requirements. It’s easy to depict them as the fall guys. The onus should be on the senior leadership team to upskill and train their managers as they are often the heroes of the day.
Reframing the focus
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to flexible working – and this is a good thing. It is forcing leaders to be better communicators, to listen harder, to understand the needs of each individual to be able to perform their job to the best of their ability.
Advocates for change and flexible working tell me this is precisely what they’re doing. With an open mind and a willingness to experiment, organisations can transform their working practices; the prize for those who do will be to attract and retain the experienced female talent they’re so desperate to find.
Otherwise, companies become a ‘flight risk’. It’s time to buckle up. Keep your belt on whilst you work your way through some turbulence of changing work patterns but enjoy the flight as the destination – for all is sweet.
Juliet Turnbull, Founder & CEO 2to3days