Breaking down your psychological barriers to flexibility

Man hurdleStephen Smith, HR Director at Lloyds Banking Group, gives his advice on asking for flexibility.

I’ve worked at Lloyds Banking Group for 43 years. In that time, I’ve seen so much change in the workplace. We now live in a world where people want to work more flexibly, but there are still some perceived barriers – not so much from the employer, but interestingly, I see it in candidates.

As a candidate I understand why you may see barriers. You are asking to break a traditional working pattern and you may have concerns about securing that job following your request. I say go for it, but always make sure you put forward a convincing plan. Simply asking the question, ‘can I work flexibly’, may not get you the right response, but asking the question, and then explaining how and why you see it working, will strengthen your case.

It’s not uncommon to see Joint MD’s at FTSE 100 companies, which goes to show that flexible working can be achieved at all levels. Be assertive. In fact, I believe you should apply for a full-time job and worry about the rest later, there is always room to negotiate and come to some compromise.

At Lloyds Banking Group, we call our approach to flexibility, Agile Working. As an organisation, we need to be agile in our approach to hiring and staff retention. Increasingly, we are seeing good candidates wanting more agility and flexibility. Through our Helping Britain Prosper plan we have publicly committed to a target of 40% of senior roles to be held by women by 2020. We see Agile Working as an important enabler to this. For many women, it was once a case of giving up your career to start a family, but now it’s about making both work so that the individual, and the organisation, are getting the best situation for their needs.

We’re all different and we all have different needs. Earlier this year, I made an appointment for Group Operations HR Director, but instead of looking at a traditional, full-time role, I brought in Charlotte Cherry and Alix Ainsley as a job share. To really mix things up, both Charlotte and Alix are based in Bristol, whilst we are based in Central London. They were strong candidates for the role, so I approached this hire – as I do with all hires – with a mindset of how we can make the situation work and not how it can fail.


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