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Flexible working in action

By Ellie Rich-Poole. Published on 14 January 2016

The latest Changeboard update includes an article by Eton Bridge Partners’ Ellie Rich-Poole entitled Flex for Success, What is your approach to flexible working? In this blog Ellie summarises the key points.

When I was asked to write an article about flexible working for Changeboard I decided to speak to three executive contacts to hear some first hand accounts of flexible working in action. I’d already heard some powerful examples at a recent Eton Bridge Partners event, Agile Working – Are you a leader or a laggard? and wanted to explore how others had adopted a more flexible approach to their work.

Chris Ainslie became the first male Vice President at BT to work a four-day week.

Chris explained how the death of his twin brother had motivated him to seek a greater sense of work/life balance. Soon after persuading BT to hire him on a four-day week basis Chris was asked to champion flexible working across the company.

A key contributor to Chris’ success was his idea to delegate VP authority to his direct reports on a rotation basis. That meant each of his MDs had two months’ experience deputising, developing their exposure and building their experience.

This programme proved so successful it was cascaded throughout the organisation.

“I don’t see myself as a trailblazer,” Chris told me. “I happened to pluck up the courage to do it.”

Catherine Nealon, Senior HR Business Partner – B2B & Marketing at E.ON, told me she wanted to test whether job share could work at senior levels and in customer facing roles. “If you can demonstrate flexible working can work in those roles, it’s very difficult for people to argue that other roles can’t be done on the same basis.”

She introduced a job share register onto which people at all levels could register their interest and find colleagues who wanted to do the same. Managers and unions both supported the idea and the programme was extended to 1,600 employees.

Although take up has been slow a small number of job shares have already started and there is an appetite from other parts of the business to try the scheme. I, for one, will be watching progress with great interest.

Vernon Barchou, now Vice President HR Specialist Services at DHL Supply Chain, saw flexible working as a way to help build DHL’s reputation as an employer of choice and also to improve customer service as people’s buying habits evolve.

He created and trained a network of 100 flexible working ambassadors to champion flexible working and identify ways of overcoming any obstacles to implementation.  The results were rapid and impressive with 82% of flexible working requests being approved. The scheme was particularly popular amongst parents of younger children and with those aged 55+ who wanted to work fewer hours or had other caring responsibilities.

These three leaders demonstrate clearly that there is a range of possibilities for those organisations considering introducing flexible working as a way of attracting and retaining talent. I believe the best approach varies from organisation to organisation and only choosing to do nothing is not an option.

To read the article in full click on this link: Flex for Success, What is your approach to flexible working?

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