HR Hartley

Flexibility is key to retaining top talent

I’ve got a senior colleague who has just asked for, and been granted,
compressed hours. He wants to spend more time with his children, so he is
packing five days’ work into four.

Another wishes to live in Spain, and reckons his current job can be partly
done from Barcelona, given technology and great communications. He will work
from the London office every other week. We trust him to deliver, so we’ve
agreed to the arrangement, to be reviewed periodically.

We’re an organisation that takes flexible working seriously, and we’re
trying to practice what we preach. Yet, one in eight employers refuse requests,
according to a survey by the DTI. Sure, the numbers are creeping up and fewer
workers’ wishes are being turned down than a few years ago. But not enough.
Possibly because they can’t stand the thought of more paperwork, the burden on
HR, and the endless fight with line managers worried about losing control over
staff, just because they can’t see them.

Ask yourself: what’s the alternative? Losing good people after spending
thousands on recruiting and training them, simply because they can’t balance
commuting to HQ with caring for their family every day?

Staff usually want flexible working arrangements for very good reasons –
they can no longer practically live their lives around rigid hours.
Organisations that accommodate their needs are likely to attract and retain the
best talent for long periods.

In a future with an ageing population, a rapidly falling birth rate and less
youngsters available to work, we need a system where everyone wins. It’s called
flexible working, and luddites should commit to it.

Hartley is an HR director at large

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