Flexible working? Think ‘agile’ working, according to Emma Codd, Deloitte’s managing partner for talent. Here Emma talks us through what ‘agility’ in the workforce means for one of the biggest global auditing and finance companies. For case studies on how this new approach practically works for employees click here
The last two years have marked a huge change for my firm. Two years ago staff were telling us they wanted better work-life balance; despite us providing all the standard flexible working options you would expect from an employer of 17,000+. Our working mothers in particular were struggling to believe they could have a successful career and be the parent they wanted to be – and some were leaving us as a result. I understood – as a mother of twins (now seven), I have always believed my career does not have to be to the detriment of my children.
Today the story is very different – we have a reputation for providing our people with the means to balance a great career with commitments outside work. Work life balance is no longer the main reason people choose to leave our firm, women actually choose to join us because of our approach to agile working, and our people tell us they feel trusted to decide when, where and how they work. We have achieved this change by focusing on what really mattered: our culture and offering people options that really work for them.
To start with, we banned the word flexible. Agile is much more positive. We came up with three principles underpinning our entire approach – trust and respect; open and honest communication and judge solely on output. We secured the support of our leaders by showing them that agile working is good for our business. Then we made a few things clear. Firstly, agile working doesn’t necessarily mean formal approaches like reduced presence – it can mean just flexing hours or working from home when needed. Secondly, being out of sight doesn’t mean you aren’t delivering – my working from home day each week is when I typically achieve the most. It’s also the day I get to do the school pick-up, which I love. Finally, but importantly, we are a business – successful agile working arrangements must always reflect both the needs of the person and the team/business.
We also came up with something different – a way for people to take a month’s unpaid leave, each year, at a time that suits them and the business. This simple idea came to me in my back garden one afternoon when I was with my then four-year-old daughters. Having time out made me feel great, so why not enable all our people to do it? The rest is history – over 400 of our people have enjoyed a Time Out and many more are in the process of organising one. Our people tell us it is one of the things they most value.
It’s a long journey and we have more to do. But we have shown that by focusing on culture and providing options that people really want it is possible to start getting it right.