Offering flexible working may not be enough to attract and retain talent in today’s job market – agile working needs to be built in to hiring practices too, argues Fiona Cannon OBE, director of the Agile Future Forum. Here she discusses how this has worked at Lloyds Banking Group.
Recent research from Timewise has shown that 87% of employees either work in an agile way already or wish they could. Whether it’s people who want to be able to work from anywhere, employees changing their working patterns to fit with their lifestyle, or individuals returning to the workforce, demand for agile working is only going up.
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For HR professionals and senior management this means that where this demand isn’t being met, opportunities to hire from the widest possible pool of quality candidates are being lost. Simply put, unless you are agile in your approach to hiring, you risk missing out on the best talent.
And now, with recent data from the Office for National Statistics showing that the number of vacancies is at record levels, those looking towards their next career move have more to choose from than they’ve had in years. All the more reason to make sure your company’s advertised roles stand out from the crowd.
At Lloyds Banking Group agile working is key to ensuring our colleagues can have a rewarding career and achieve a healthy lifestyle balance, as well as helping us to meet our promise to our customers. We do this through several initiatives including part-time working, job sharing, reduced and home working. We have built agile working right into our hiring practices.
When a hiring manager wants to draw up a job vacancy they now need to consider how agility could be built into the role. For example could the role be job-shared, delivered by someone working on reduced hours, or across multiple sites?
This is then specified on the job advert. In fact if the hiring manager puts forward a hiring requisition marked “not agile”, this is picked up and challenged by our recruitment team. To enable this we have introduced training to all colleagues involved in hiring, something that helps support our push to create a culture of agile thinking across the business.
Across the group’s branches, we’ve allowed colleagues to include their preferred working patterns in a resource scheduling tool. Line manager-led, team-based discussions ensure the right mix of patterns align to customer demand. This means staff aren’t always simply working five days a week, rotating the Saturday, as it was traditionally. Rather we are able to strike a balance between customer and employee needs.
Tools like these have been vital in our efforts to encourage agile thinking across all our brands, and an option that will only grow in importance as demand for more flexibility at work increases.
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Unfortunately there is still sometimes a perception that you cannot work flexibly and progress to a very senior level. Our new approach to job sharing, launched in 2017, which includes among other things a new job share portal, has gone some way to change this. It has allowed us to recruit several job-share partnerships at all levels including director level. Yet more needs to be done.
When I spoke to Timewise co-founder Karen Mattison for a recent episode of the podcast The Agility Mindset, she expressed a need for more role models for flexible working, and I couldn’t agree more. If we are going to embrace flexible working more widely then we need to celebrate those doing it best.
There is also one area of the talent pool which we cannot afford to neglect, and that is returners. These are people who have often 10, 15 or more years’ experience and for whatever reason taken time out.
Often this is to raise children but it could be to study, care for a loved one, or just to take a leave of absence from their career. There is little to lose and a lot to gain by reintroducing these people to the workforce, which in turn benefits hugely from the experience they bring.
Our returners’ programme at Lloyds is open to both men and women who have been out of the workplace for 2 or more years and matches candidates to suitable agile roles.
Our own programme has led to the appointment of more than 70 candidates into these positions and the experience they bring is highly valuable. Employers who neglect this talent do so at their peril, and risk losing out to the competition.
Longer working lives
If it’s crucial to adopt agile working from the beginning of the hiring process then it is logical and necessary to carry this through to the end – by adopting an agile approach to retirement. We know that we are all probably going to be living and working longer than in the past.
Increasingly, rather than moving straight into retirement, employees are opting to work fewer hours in the latter years of their careers. At Lloyds, once they reach age 55, our colleagues can reduce their hours and have the option to start drawing their pension in order to maintain their income in the final stage of their career with us.
It is the implementation of policies like these that helps ensure businesses are catering to the needs of their staff, and therefore more likely to hold on to their best workers, at every stage of their careers.
The transformation of the workforce, responding to factors including technological change, demographic shifts, increased life spans and new ways of working are some of the biggest challenges of our time. But tackled properly, with an agile mindset, implementing these practices delivers not only what employees want, but the workforce that businesses need. It’s what we call the “sweet spot” of agile working.