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Incorporating flexible working into your recruitment strategy

It’s vital to break down the perception that flexible working is linked to lower levels of employee commitment

Involving job applicants and having a clear strategy are key to making a success of flexible hiring, agreed a panel at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation's (REC) conference.

During a panel session on flexible working at the Talent Recruitment & Employment Conference (TREC) 2017, HR practitioners and job market website consultants discussed innovative ways that flexible working can attract top talent.

Panel chair and joint CEO of Timewise, Emma Stewart said less than one in 10 job vacancies advertised flexible working, adding that there is a great opportunity here.

Jo Brown, director of HR and OD at the London Borough of Camden, highlighted the reputational benefits of a company having flexible working, such as being seen as a transparent and open-minded employer. This also allows Camden council to tap into a greater pool of applicants, she said. She added the importance of conveying to new recruits that flexible working is not a reward for long service.

Overcoming management’s fears and anxieties was a challenge echoed by all panellists. This includes the stigma that flexible working shows a lack of commitment to the company. Andrew Porter, head of talent engagement (Europe) at Diageo, said one way to solve this is to have a clear definition of what kinds of flexible working are offered.

“Flex working isn’t [just] about people going on maternity leave. It’s now encompassing other elements like workers with caring responsibilities,” he added.

Having a clear definition of flexible working on job adverts is key, agreed Anouska Ramsay, talent director at Capgemini. Ramsay added that having a dialogue with candidates is important, which means hiring managers must have the skill to broach this subject.

“They [hiring managers] need to consider how this candidate can do the job to the best of their ability,” she said.

Gerard Murnaghan, vice president at Indeed (EMEA), pointed out that hiring managers are often willing to provide flexible working to new recruits but don’t include it in the job advert. Equally candidates often receive confusing signals from hiring managers on whether the company offers flexible working, he said.

Murnaghan said that advertising a few jobs as flexible and then comparing the difference in the quality and quantity of applications against non-flexible position ads, is a good way to test this approach and prove the benefits.

Gathering feedback from candidates and employees is another way of gauging the success of incorporating flexible working into job advertisements, said the panel.

“If you involve employees you get a much better idea about what type of flex working could work in your company,” Brown concluded.