Flexible hiring – it’s just smarter all round

beluKaren Lynch, CEO, Belu Water

We all need to talk more about the concept of ‘flexible hiring’. Why? Because it’s a great idea, it’s common sense and, most importantly, because the formalisation of flexible working is a relatively new phenomenon and we’re already at different starting points.

So why has the recruitment market been so slow to look at flexibility as a tool to hire talent?

Could it be because we simply haven’t talked about it enough to define a common language of definitions? And most importantly a way of measuring whether it can or is working, other than based on ‘knowing the individual is dependable and accountable’ from past direct experience?

Each of us will have heard of, observed or experienced our own flexible working situation and the very fact that we’re talking ‘flexible’ means the one thing that is certain is that there are many different definitions or ideas of what it is – or could be.

Within my network of friends and past colleagues, most of whom are still in larger organisations, I have recently seen a stronger presence of what I would call flexible working.

Less rigid working office hours so a personal appointment can fit in without the need for leave; days working from home; or a reduced or compressed working week. Most of the folks I know who have achieved this are high performers and have achieved a certain tenure or position within their existing organisation to be able to negotiate this.

And for most, it was no big deal to negotiate – they simply demonstrated it made sense and took accountability to make it work. And for the employer – it’s a great retention tool.

At Belu, we embraced flexible working right from the start

Why? Because at first we didn’t have an alternative but through that experience we discovered it was a key part of supporting us to become super-efficient and live the values that we wanted to define the organisation.

Belu gives all profits from the sale of our mineral water products and filtration services to WaterAid. So we’re motivated to keep overheads to a minimum but we want real talent to compete against other huge brands.

Flexible working at Belu means we support our team to work from home. We only travel when it make sense to do so and therefore we keep office space and cost to a minimum, not to mention conserving energy (personal and CO2) by avoiding that commute where we can.

Most importantly it means we’ve been able to attract talent through offering a different ‘Value’ package. Even in our small team we have examples of working a full contract in four days, a three day working week and an 80% of full time contract – in addition to the smaller ‘flexes’.

The overall message to employees is ‘always to be smart with your energy and time’, and our philosophy is that to have that discussion upfront and define a model that works both ways is simply common sense. The result in our experience is great accountability for outcomes and greater clarity on priorities.

Now I’m not saying that makes it easy. Or that it’s easier than managing a team or business on a more traditional model. It will only work if both the business and the employee can agree something that works both ways – and that’s why we need to talk more, not be afraid to try or test… and then talk some more.

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