How enabling flexible working can help HR teams satisfy the wishes of the board

On 9 April the results of the 2019 Harvey Nash HR Survey were published. Over 1100 HR professionals gave their views in what was the eighth year for the popular survey. There are many great points to be taken from the survey as always, but I’ve decided to take a look from the perspective of an internal recruitment team and how enabling more flexible working practices can help them achieve their goals. But first, to fully understand how this all plays out, we first need to examine the pressures that weigh upon internal recruitment teams from above.

The key issues identified by boards

Survey participants were asked to pick the top three key business issues that boards are looking to HR to address. The top three responses were:

  1. Recruitment (27%)
  2. Leadership capability (24%)
  3. Employee retention & motivation / Employee engagement (both 23%, joint 3rd in the list)

Unsurprisingly – with many boards focussed on growth – the most pressing business issue communicated to HR was the recruitment of talent. But it’s not just any talent they’re looking for, it’s high-performing talent with the potential to drive real business growth. Easier said than done. Employees are becoming more selective than ever about the companies they work for. Harvey Nash have observed that rather than just looking at the successful output of a company, potential employees are now paying much closer attention to the cultural values of prospective employers. Suddenly being an already successful company or a recognised brand is not enough.

On top of cultural values, job seekers are also looking closely at working practices. In particular, employees are putting a much higher emphasis on flexible working than ever before. For instance, the 2018/19 Drewberry™ Employee Benefits Survey asked SME workers in the UK what benefits they looked for when considering a new employer and the top 3 answers were:

  1. Flexible hours (42.3%)
  2. Private Medical Insurance (31.3%)
  3. Work-from-home options (29.2%)

That’s over 40% looking for flexible hours and close to a third of employees desiring the option to work from home. So how are employers performing in this regard? Not well. Only 24.6% actually offered flexible hours and a meagre 13% offered workers the option to work from home.

Woman doing very flexible exercise
Could your working practices be more flexible?

There appears to be a considerable gulf between employee expectations and employer delivery. It therefore stands to reason that any company offering these desirable benefits will enjoy a significant advantage in the recruitment market. And, by offering these same benefits, employers will also help to tackle the issue of employee retention as well as producing an environment conducive to higher levels of employee engagement. Scratch 1, 3a and 3b off that hit list of board issues for HR to deal with. Check, check, check.

But wait, how exactly do you go about providing flexible working hours and work-from-home options? Well technology, as always, has its part to play. For instance, our hosted desktop service has been making huge waves in helping our customers to provide the flexibility that their workforce craves. When a technology solution allows you to work from anywhere, at any time, on any device, and to perform 100% of your work-related tasks, then you know you’re on to a winner.

Employees don’t need to worry about Frank the caretaker locking the office at 7pm or the office being shut at weekends. They can perform their job at 11pm at night or even on a Sunday if they so wish. They can work from home to wait for a new fridge to be delivered, they can go to their child’s nativity play and not have to play catch up because they’ve essentially borrowed time they’d normally spend commuting to work from home instead. It’s a flexible new world and I like it. In fact, you can read exactly how my hosted desktop has helped me feel more engaged with my employer.

The key issues identified by internal recruitment teams

So with recruitment being the number 1 issue that boards would like HR to address lets now take a look at the key issues that internal recruitment teams feel that they need to address. The Harvey Nash survey respondents rated the top three issues as being:

  1. Building an employer brand (73%)
  2. Building a pipeline of talent (57%)
  3. Attracting more diverse talent (55%)

That’s a staggering 73% of HR leaders that see building an employer brand as being their chief concern. According to the survey, HR leaders believe: “…if they get this aspect right, so many of their other priorities follow, such as attracting more diverse talent or reducing agency spend.” However, it’s clear that they can’t rely on building an employer brand alone, because building a brand is getting tougher. Harvey Nash state: “Increasingly, potential recruits are looking at the culture and ethics of organisations”. They make the interesting point that many companies that were perhaps once held in high regard thanks to their “customer-facing products” are now facing closer societal scrutiny of their cultural values. In other words, employees are developing more of a conscience when it comes to selecting between prospective employers. And that’s something that’s really great to see.

Woman looking through a magnifying glass
How would your companies cultural values fare under close scrutiny?

However, it does pose a conundrum for HR leaders. They can’t afford to put all their eggs into one basket and tackle the beast that is the organisational culture. That will inevitably be an arduous, and often fraught task, as they fight to get buy-in on potential reforms from a whole host of stakeholders. So what else can they do? Well for a start they could take a look at our aforementioned hosted desktop solution. That would certainly help in going some ways to tackling numbers 2 and 3 on the internal recruitment team hit list. The issue is that identifying the solution is only half of the problem.

At this juncture communication with the CIO is key. While it may be the CIOs remit to implement automation and perform digital transformation, CIOs may not always be best placed to identify the tools that will help HR leaders achieve their goals. Nor will they be as focussed on this. It’s more than likely that the bulk of the CIOs time will be spent on projects that provide real benefits to the customer and drive revenue growth. It’s therefore paramount for HR leaders to retain a close relationship with CIOs to ensure that the tools they’ve identified are put firmly on their radar.

In summary

As mentioned, there are many more intriguing results from the survey but obviously we’ve honed in on the major HR action points from the perspective of the board as well as internal recruitment teams. And these two hit lists are inextricably linked, with the chief concern at board level being recruitment. As such, there’s undoubtedly a lot of pressure on internal recruitment teams to produce the goods. But building an employer brand is no mean feat and that alone won’t entice the top talent to your doors. With flexible working arrangements being top of the agenda for potential new employees, recruitment teams must also focus on how they can impact this and ultimately how they can deliver these benefits.

Support from the board will go a long way but technology will undoubtedly have its part to play. And that’s clearly not solely limited to hosted desktop technology. HR leaders and internal recruitment teams must identify the technology that will help them satisfy the top requirements of the board but also the wishes and needs of potential employees. We live in a consumer-led world and, for an internal recruitment team, potential employees are the consumer. So you’ve got to give them what they want or ultimately they’ll go elsewhere and leave your company at a competitive disadvantage.

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