Flexible working is an admirable aim for many employers and employees and yet the term itself throws up many contradictions in the current job market.
Increasingly, the term is applied to the gig-economy, where workers cannot guarantee the number of hours they work, what their projected income will be, or indeed whether they enjoy the same rights as members of the full-time workforce.
Global trends are hard to understand. Whilst many economies have seen a rise in part-time work, Australia bucked the trend at the end of last year with a dramatic fall in the statistics for part-time workers, having seen an amazing increase from 2007 to 2016.
During that period, many employment experts were concerned that the country was becoming a nation of part-time workers, yet a closer analysis suggests that the potential workforce is being underused, especially in executive positions.
Upward career curve
Other countries are looking at the issue of flexible working and how to champion it, helping parents returning to work to find appropriate jobs and ensuring that they enjoy an upward career curve in their chosen field.
A taskforce in the UK led by the Government, employers, trades unions and charities, has published a report focusing on flexible hours and outlined how companies can be involved and encourage the take-up and availability of positions which offer this option.
An indication as to how seriously the issue is being taken is reflected by the involvement of cross-industry organisations. If changes are to be made in this area then HR departments, line management executives and recruitment companies will need to be engaged.
A major issue, which needs to be addressed when recruiting, is that all jobs, whatever their seniority within the company, need to be available to those seeking flexible hours. Simply by using the phrase “happy to discuss flexible hours” in job adverts companies may be able to find their ideal candidate.
There is an argument to be made for flexibility as a business paradigm, especially when companies are looking to create an agile and responsive workforce. Employees should not be worried about taking the leave they need because of family circumstances, nor should their career development be impacted. Firms should be looking to embrace the possibilities rather than reacting to accommodate caring responsibilities.
The argument for flexible hours has been relevant since employees have been given the right to request time off because of their personal needs. The case made for this kind of corporate approach has shown the importance of employee loyalty and numerous examples of increased productivity and reduced costs when the right balance is achieved.
Companies which see productivity related to the hours spent in the office are missing out on the efficiency which flexibility offers. By looking closely at what an organisation needs from its departmental workforce, employers may be able to establish an employment protocol which will better reflect their aims.
Treasury departments are a classic example. When profiling potential candidates, companies will be looking for applicants who are technically skilled, enjoy making things happen and embrace problem-solving. They will also need applicants to show a willingness to have an ethical approach, show integrity and win trust.
Sound familiar? Why should employers not exhibit similar values during the recruitment process?
Problem-solving, strategic thinking and the appetite for challenges and change are key skills and attributes which potential treasury staff are expected to demonstrate. The employer should also be able to illustrate these skills and attributes when filling posts.
Opening opportunities to older members of the workforce, those with a carer’s responsibilities and returning parents will enhance the list of candidates and ensure that firms are getting the best fit for their organisation.
Retaining and developing skills is not only an issue for employees who have temporarily left the workforce, but also for employers. Welcoming back skilled workers into the workforce is a bonus for employers and can save time and the costs associated with training. Flexible working should, then, be a key part of every organisation’s strategy when it comes to retaining and attracting staff with the necessary skills and talent.
Some companies may have an entrenched organisational culture which inhibits the adoption of a different approach to flexible working and they will need to address this in an increasingly competitive market. Line managers may need to be trained to adapt to flexible employment policies and support them from within.
Adopting this approach and advertising jobs as flexible as a default option, can only widen the potential talent pool and help to drive the business forward.
Simon Lynch is the owner of Treasury Talent.
Treasury Talent is a specialist treasury talent, recruitment and search provider solely focussed on the treasury market with offices in Sydney covering Australia, Singapore covering Asia, and San Francisco covering California and the USA. To make contact firstname.lastname@example.org