Flexible working advice: “Be honest, and don’t apologise”

Sally PriceFor Diageo, the success of its business depends on the success of its people and they are firmly committed to creating an environment where all employees feel included and able to perform at their best in all aspects of their lives. 

As Sally Price, a Talent Engagement Lead at the company explains, “From improving diversity to tapping into a wider pool of brilliant people who we might otherwise have missed, the advantages of having flexible workers on board are pretty clear to us.”

“We know that our employees are often managing a number of different priorities within their personal lives as well as at work, so we have a number of measures in place to ensure all our employees are supported where possible in managing their specific needs” says Sally.

So, given the firm’s positive approach to fostering an inclusive working environment, which allows everyone to be their best at work, what advice would Sally give to candidates who are looking for a part-time or flexible role? Here are her top five tips:

  1. “At Diageo, all interview candidates have an initial conversation with HR before they meet anyone else. I really recommend asking to do this if you can and using the opportunity to raise the question of flexible working.

    “It gives you an impartial space in which you can find out about the firm’s approach to flexibility and see what options might be available. And it also means that when you meet your potential line manager, you can focus on your skills and experience, and on proving that you’re the best candidate for the job.”
  2. “When you have that conversation, be as honest and open as you can. If we know what your situation is, and what your specific needs are, we’re more likely to find a flexible solution that will work for you in the long term.

    “There’s no point trying to convince us or yourself that you can manage more than you actually can; that never works for long. And remember, you should never apologise for wanting a positive work-life balance”
  3. “Similarly, if you’ve had a career break, don’t feel you have to hide it. The chances are you will have gained useful experience on your break, which is part of who you are. Good employers will want you to bring your whole self to work.”
  4. “Accept that there may be limits to what an organisation can offer. At Diageo, having spoken to a candidate, we take some time to work out the best way to match their needs with those of the role. But it isn’t always possible to give them exactly what they want; a bit of flexibility on both sides is the key to a successful outcome.”
  1. “Finally, if you’re struggling to get anywhere with companies who aren’t openly flex-friendly, you need to rethink your approach. In today’s employment market, many companies are considering how they can support their employees through flexible working. So do your research before applying. Look at a potential employer’s website or LinkedIn page, or try and talk to people who work there. That way, you won’t be wasting your time targeting companies at which you’re unlikely to thrive.”

And in addition to her HR expertise, Sally knows from personal experience how important it is to find the right employer. “I wouldn’t have been able to come back from maternity leave if I hadn’t been at a company like Diageo. My employers have made it possible for me to carry on with a fulfilling role on a part-time basis, and to spend some of my week working at home. They get a positive, productive employee and I get the best of my work and personal worlds. It’s a real win-win.”

This article has been written in association with Diageo, one of our Timewise Partners

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