Take your flexible working deal with you

Graham PooleAfter six years as Head of HR at Camelot, Graham Poole has moved to a senior role as Head of People Partners at Metro Bank in Holborn.

“It wasn’t something that I mentioned at the beginning of the recruitment process, it didn’t come up. But it became more important to me to preserve the arrangement as the process went on,” explains Graham, who had negotiated a flexible working pattern at Camelot of a nine-day fortnight, which allowed him to spend one day every two weeks looking after his young son.

“Fortunately Metro Bank has a flexible approach to working which is very people-centric – people are hired for attitude, not just skill,” he says.

Graham was approached for the role by the bank. “I met lots of people, including the CEO, the Chief People Officer, the head of resources, and the client group,” he says. Flexible working was mentioned, but not formally. Graham realised then how important it was to him to keep his nine-day fortnight. “By the second or third interview I started to play it back in and work it out,” he says.

By the time Graham came to the final stage interview with the Chief People Officer the issue of his request for flexible working was resolved. “It was seen as a positive opportunity for a senior role in HR to demonstrate flexible working,” says Graham.

Graham was attracted to Metro Bank by its internal and external ethos. “They offer a very different proposition to traditional banks. I’m also fortunate; at a senior level you get a degree of autonomy and I can manage my own time.”

In Graham’s view, flexible working isn’t simply about the number of hours that employee colleagues can deliver – it’s about the value that they bring within those working hours.  “It’s a question of trust and agility versus ‘presenteeism’,” he explains. “You have to take a view on any job; the measure of success should be on output and value, irrespective of the working pattern. My starting point is always ‘why not?’”

Flexible working at senior levels can also have benefits for other colleagues, says Graham. “Work expands to fill the time – if someone works five days a week, it will take five days to do the work. But if they work fewer days they’ll look at ways to be more efficient and to delegate, which also gives the opportunity for other colleagues to develop.”

Graham advises those wanting to work flexibly to be honest and upfront. “How can you bring value and demonstrate that? Show that working part time is not a limiting factor,” he advises. “As in any new job, you need to prove yourself and the value that you bring.”

Graham is seeing the beginnings of a shift in employer attitudes towards flexible working in senior roles. “I’ve seen some job adverts that say that they’re open to discussion around flexible working. It’s about breaking down the assumption that senior roles must be full-time, but part time working is still the exception rather than the rule. Such a fundamental shift is needed and it’s slowly starting to percolate through.”

Will he carry on working a nine-day fortnight when his son is old enough to go to school? “Absolutely! It can work, and I make no secret of it.”

Article written by Amy Schofield

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