Tag

part-time Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

6 Lessons to Introduce Flexibility in Your Workforce

By | Culture, Flexibility

I have recently returned from speaking at the International Recruitment Conference in Fiji where the theme was “Recruitment at the Speed of Tomorrow”.  It was an inspiring couple of days learning about innovative ideas that are driving companies forward. In my session, I shared some of the key lessons I learnt whilst building a recruitment business and combating two of the biggest challenges in our industry – staff turnover and attracting top talent.  The recruitment industry doesn’t have a good record in this area and I met several companies who had appalling staff turnover! One company has an average staff turnover of 60%! The owner openly admitted that he doesn’t incorporate any flexible arrangements in his business. I have a feeling that this might not be the only issue, but let’s hope he might take on a few of the following ideas:

Lesson 1: Business culture enables flexibility or kills it

I learnt the hard way that the traditional recruitment culture of long hours, where client is king and being available 24/7 makes it pretty difficult to attract and keep the best talent long-term.  It doesn’t take long for people to get fed up from inflexible conditions. They  suffer from burn out or pressure from loved ones ultimately deciding they can’t successfully integrate a work life blend. The recruitment culture typically demands 8am meetings, expects after hours commitments and compulsory candidate calling nights. It doesn’t genuinely embrace flexible arrangements successfully. It wasn’t an overnight fix – changing culture, implementing innovative ways of doing things and getting staff to trust that the new way is okay takes time.

Lesson 2: A leader’s support and mindset makes it possible (or not)

During the conference discussions, there were many leaders who have identified this is as the biggest area that is holding them back from being a truly flexible employer – their own bias, trust issues and the way they have always done things. If a leader can’t successfully change their mindset to trust, support and believe that flexibility will work, it won’t. Forget it. Don’t bother trying to implement, it will fail. Part-timers will feel constantly watched, guilty and that they have to constantly justify their arrangement. Leading from the front is critical.

Lesson 3: Flexibility isn’t a fad that will go away…….learn to incorporate it

Work/life balance, flexibility, part-time, working from home…are increasingly being demanded. The show of hands during my presentation suggested that nearly everyone had experienced some type of request in the past 12 months. As a business leader, being on the front foot and being prepared for these requests can ensure a higher success rate.  Meet face to face, be open to new suggestions, and probe to find out the “real” reason for the request and a trial period might be a good starting point.  I remember setting up structures to help make it easier for me to accept a request eg: abolishing 8am weekly meetings and moving to daily meetings to ensure all staff had the opportunity to contribute.

Lesson 4: Productivity and performance won’t suffer, it will thrive

A quick survey of recruitment owners via rossclennett.com, showed me that the biggest concern they had in regards to implementing flexible arrangements was loss of productivity.   The thought of Consultants reducing their core hours, leads to an immediate concern for a reduction in billings.  In my experience, through the implementation of team structures and providing tools of trade, it actually had the opposite effect.  When given the autonomy, clear expectations and support, part-time Consultants proved that they could actually be just as or even more productive than their full-time counterparts.

Lesson 5: Essential ingredients for flexibility to work – teamwork & communication

Part-time successful Recruitment Consultants can’t exist or achieve significant results as a solo effort.  Through trial and error, it became apparent to avoid full-time resentment and other’s ‘picking up the slack’; team structures and communication systems were essential.  We moved from individual responsibility and accountability to team’s responsible for clients, jobs and candidates. It was the shared goals, offering full-time staff flexibility through buddy systems and days off, sharing of fees and rewarding team participation that proved that part-time ‘client facing’ roles did work.

Lesson 6: Take Action!

None of this is relevant, unless you are prepared to take action.  So many companies talk about flexibility, put in their employer value proposition and hope that things will change.  The best thing I ever did was jump in and give it a go. Our systems, structure and approach certainly weren’t perfect – I had to keep adapting and solving issues as they arose. But I can tell you that the outcomes and results were worth the sometimes-painful journey.  I was able to say goodbye to thinking about people issues 24/7, retention rates soared to 5 – 6 years per Consultant, succession plans were developed, new consultants called us to join our business and the financial results increased.

Organisations who value workplace flexibility and embrace it will stand out from the crowd. You’ll not only start attracting more and better performing Consultants, you will actually start retaining them too! Don’t miss the opportunity to gain an edge on the competition to build a more productive and sustainable consultant workforce through fostering a positive and flexible culture.

A flexible workplace culture WILL create high performing and productive Consultants who stay (AND attract others just like them)

Some fav pics from the RCSA Conference, Fiji and please visit here for video footage

Me, Greg Savage & Jacqui Cotterill

 

How to reduce staff turnover with a flexible culture

By | Culture, Results

Staff turnover is an ongoing headache for most businesses.  Even booming industries like mining & resources are experiencing their fair share of hurt with 18% of workers leaving within the first 12 months and total turnover costing over $140 million per yearThe recruitment industry is certainly up there with rates ranging up to 45%.  Factors contributing to this include long hours, demanding client expectations, cultures that don’t support work/life balance initiatives as well as poor leadership and performance driven by deadlines and commissions.

Certainly in my first few years of managing a recruitment business, I was a culprit for churning through staff.  I made all the classic mistakes of hiring on experience, rather than culture, ‘hoping’ they would make it and leaving performance issues to fester.  The results were certainly consistent with the industry averages and left me tearing my hair out.

One of the instrumental factors in turning it around was creating, supporting and encouraging a flexible workplace culture.  Let me just start by saying it wasn’t easy.  There was no quick fix or magic cure to move from the traditional 8am – 6pm workday with “nazi style” metrics and expectations of ‘being in the office’.  It was a gradual process that required ongoing communication, buy-in from all employees and a commitment to leading by example.  Trust me the first time I left the office before 6pm it felt very strange!

In the end, I had nearly half my workforce on part-time flexible arrangements and a 100% voluntary staff retention rate.  I also experienced the highest levels of revenue and profit in our history.  It taught me that a flexible approach and creating a culture where part-time is possible, creates loyalty, increases performance and reduces staff turnover.  Tips to making it work include:

1.    Be realistic – I learnt that high performing Consultants moving from full-time to part-time need to manage their own expectations of what they can achieve.  Being able to step back and say perhaps I can’t take on as many clients as I used to, or being able to ask for help is okay.  You can only do what you can do after all.

2.    Prioritisation – the key to finding the balance is to make sure that you are doing the important rather than the urgent.  In recruitment there always seems to be something urgent, but it is critical to be clear on what makes the difference and doing those important things first is essential. As General Manager, I worked 3 days a week and ensured that I divided my time between coaching consultants, seeing clients, performance management and planning.

3.    Productivity – in my experience part-time employees work fewer hours in the office, but are capable of being just as productive as full-timers.  When those Consultants were in the office, they didn’t have time to waste and they were extremely good at juggling a range of tasks. I had one Consultant who billed 80% of her full-time billings in the year that she reduced to 3 days per week.

4.    Strategic approach – Recruiters and leaders taking on flexibility requests, need to have a big picture view of how it will work.  This involves planning and being more structured with tasks and time management. Just saying we are going to be flexible and family friendly doesn’t work unless there are real strategies in place on how this will work in a practical day-to-day sense.

5.    Support – I learnt very quickly that part-time Consultants need the full support of their leader, their teammates and family for it to successfully work for everyone.   This ranges from having tools of the trade such as remote access; Ipads and iPhones through to open communication, disciplined notes in the database and having the right attitude.  Once part-timers feel they have this support plus your trust, they will always (in my experience) put in more hours and effort.  Funnily enough this commitment by high achievers will always deliver greater results than what you pay them. Wouldn’t any boss want to increase billable hours with no increase in fixed costs?

All in all, I found creating a flexible work culture to be nothing but a positive and productive experience.  I truly believe it creates a strong competitive advantage and goes a long way to attracting and retaining top talent.

 

Nicole will be speaking at the 2012 RCSA International Conference in Fiji on: How creating a culture of flexibility will win the race in attracting and retaining top talent

“Part-time is a dirty word” & why it needs to change

By | Leadership, Recruitment, Women in Leadership

Last week in Adelaide, there was controversy and speculation after the CEO of the SA Tourism Commission was sacked with 9 months left to go on his contract.  This was the leading news story of the night, but it wasn’t that so much that got my attention; it was the newsreader’s description on the ad break.  She said something along the lines of “…and tonight the sacking of….and how he will be re-placed by a part-timer!” The inflection in her voice suggested how could such an important role be part-time, how absurd, can you believe it, how prospertious! The insinuation that a part-time person was not capable of doing a CEO role made my blood boil.  Now, I didn’t see the full news bulletin to see if this was their point, which I’m sure it wasn’t, but the newsbreak certainly created the drama.

It raises the question “can a part-timer be successful in a senior leadership role”? And what if the best person for the job is a part-timer?

I know when I returned to my general management role part-time in early 2008, I was met with a few challenges in terms of negotiating my new conditions and proving my contribution wouldn’t be any less just because my hours in the office had decreased. I had the support of my team who certainly weren’t concerned and I was positive, as I didn’t see that what I was doing was any less or that it was going to lessen my contribution.

The truth is there is still a stigma around part-time. There I’ve said it. Even if you, your boss and your team are all supportive and encouraging of such arrangements, you are constantly surrounded by other opinions, judgments and sometimes-even envy of being part-time. “Oh you’re part time” can often be the response, as if what you do is less significant and that you aren’t contributing as meaningfully as your full time counterparts. In this day and age, you would think the actual hours you are paid would be irrelevant as we embrace blending work-life balance and structure our businesses to ensure all employees have flexibility to achieve their goals inside and outside of work.

Last week someone in my network was on the look out to fill a mid-level role and I knew of someone with the right industry experience, degree qualifications, who lived close by (important for this role & location) and had the strong intrinsic motivation for the position.  However, this person wanted part-time.  The client dismissed it almost immediately. “No, we need a full-timer for this position”.  Well, no, you need someone to perform in the role, produce results and contribute to the company’s overall revenue.  The immediate assumption was that a part-timer could not achieve the objectives of this role.

Funny isn’t it, because the most successful financial year on record when I was in my leadership role, I was part-time and nearly half of my workforce were under some type of flexible work arrangement.  These agreements grew loyalty, increased retention and ultimately delivered higher results.

Looking at the flip side, sometimes people returning part-time don’t want to continue at the same level or want the same pressures or responsibility. A good friend of mine who is in a senior marketing role with a global business is going through this right now. In 3 days per week she is still expected to do a full time load plus some and it’s taking a toll. With two small children under the age of 5 and a husband who has an executive role involving lots of travel, she wakes every day at 5am to get herself and the household ready before doing 2-drop offs and getting to work herself.  To keep on top of her workload she often works into the late hours of evening to ensure her contribution, performance and achievements continue at the level that they were when she was full-time. Like many women in similar situations, she doesn’t want her performance to suffer due to fewer hours in the office.  The cost of this is less time with the family, no time for herself and even health consequences due to constantly being rushed and running on adrenalin.  It came to a head this week where she has said enough – we need to reduce the workload or I have to go, as this is not sustainable.  As senior talent she is pegged for a directorship and of course they don’t want to lose her so a compromise is being made.  I think she did the right thing speaking up, but too often part-timers suffer in silence not wanting to appear weak or incapable because “aren’t they lucky” to have a part-time role especially at an executive level.

Until we stop measuring performance and success by job title, status and hours and focus more on contribution, achievements and outcomes, the stigma of part-time will continue to exist. When considering suitable candidates for roles – the focus should be on skills and experience and more importantly competencies and motivational fit because the best candidate for the job just might be part-time.  Let’s lose the negative connotations of part-time and focus on the right person in the right role every time.