We implemented flexible working last year. In the recruitment world, we’ve got a very flexible approach to how we hire people, and it’s served us well. It’s getting away from that traditional mindset that the person has got to be at the desk, and watched over the whole time.
It’s astonishing how many companies today still treat returners as less of a person. They think that their mind is on other things, or worry about them needing to leave early, rather than thinking about what they can contribute in the time that they have got.
We’ve got a really high retention rate, partly because we’ve brought people back and worked around their schedules. When women come back from maternity leave, we put them on flexible working hours. For me, the key thing is that they are still doing the same job as they did before taking leave.
We’ve got eight returners here out of a staff of 25. We’ve hired a couple of people who wanted to be employed as recruiters on a flexible basis, but were turned down by the bigger companies. And we hired a man who came back from travelling abroad, and decided to do a business studies degree – we invited him to work for us for several hours a week, when he wasn’t studying.
We wanted to open a European operation, but didn’t really have the cash. A team member moved to Brussels, because of her husband’s job, so we set her up, at home as a recruiter. We now have four other people ‘from the school gate’ in Brussels who are working, from their homes, as a resourcing and recruiting team.
We pay them only commission, so they’re under no pressure. They have the time to do it, they speak both French and English, and it fits in around their family lives.
Our view is that four people working 10 hours a week equals a full-time person. Finance people accuse HR of being fluffy, and of not putting the numbers first, yet flexible working can deliver those numbers.
Why not have three part-time flexible workers instead of one full-time employee? Three people that you know and trust, rather than an untested stranger?
We’ve found that office morale has really benefited from us allowing people to work flexibly. And you get that level of long service and commitment to the customer. If staff chose to come back, we have a responsibility to help them.
Dave Pye, chief executive, Highams Group
Why it worked
- We fitted in around employees’ needs
- We ignored the conventions
- We recognised that our staff were our greatest asset