It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that offering flexible working (from day one) can be used as a competitive advantage in attracting the right talent.
There is overwhelming evidence of this everywhere. From detailed reports to everyday interactions with career-focussed people.
So why are a significant proportion of employers still missing this trick?
Offering flexible working from the point of advertising a role should be straightforward. You might argue I’m over-simplifying this. I’d argue you’re over-complicating it.
Let’s look a little deeper…
Firstly, a reminder of the talent gap.
According to Tech Nation, 55% of respondents site challenges recruiting tech skills. More broadly, half of all large UK businesses report difficulties finding the right people (Manpower’s 2018 Talent Survey).
Anecdotally, it feels like more than 1 in 2 employers struggle to access talent.
Furthermore, respondents to PwC’s 2019 CEO Survey cited “availability of key skills” as the second biggest threat to their company’s growth prospects.
So, what’s the ‘trick’ that some employers are missing?
Studies like this one from Powwownow are eye-opening. 81% of women and 69% of men say that flexible working would make a job opportunity more appealing.
That’s great! We can really appeal to the vast majority of people by advertising our jobs to offer flexible working. Talent gap successfully bridged.
But… only 11% of jobs advertised jobs offer flexible working (Timewise, 2018). Trick missed.
Flexible working: some myths and the reality.
There’s a strange, but common myth that it’s mainly women and specifically mums who want flexible working. That’s nonsense.
OK, then: men and dads. Anyone with baggage! Again, that’s short-sighted.
I speak to literally thousands of candidates per year. I know that flexible working would be game-changing for most people. That is, people in all situations, at all ages, and all levels of seniority.
People without kids but with outside interests; hobbies or important contributions they make to society/charity/their community. Millennials and experienced executives. Stand-alone knowledge workers and project leaders.
In many cases, the candidate doesn’t want to work flexibly because they have somewhere else to be or something else to do. The business case is simply this: they will be more productive.
So, what can you do and what needs to change?
Firstly, try it. Starting with the next job you advertise make a point of offering flexible working. Make it prominent and measure any difference in response.
Over-simplistic? OK, I’m not discounting the cultural and mind-set shift that needs to happen in many cases.
Then you can talk to businesses that have moved to fully flexible working. How did they do it? What where the main challenges/benefits? There are some great examples in the UK (see Glassdoor’s recent blog), including the likes of TalkTalk in the North West
I acknowledge that getting this right can take time. There’s the inevitable learning curve for managers in more traditional businesses. Managing a flexible or remote team takes strong leadership and some carefully considered principles (I’ll aim to address this in future posts).
Recruiters need to play their part, too.
If you’re serious about adding value to your company or your client, you’re in a great position to do so. You can demonstrate the benefits of flexible working at the point of advert, and ensure this message is continuous. I’ll be making this the subject of a follow-on blog next month.
Thanks for reading and please do share your experiences.