What a great night last night. There were so many fringe events to go to that it was hard to decide what to do. I ended up going to several but the best ended up being in the Rain Bar where around 20-25 awesome HR people who mostly know each other through social media just turned up, drank and enjoyed themselves.
The fringe side of things has vastly improved in recent years and I welcome this development.
I also slept well, and given that we are hearing from Lenny Henry later on, if my Premier Inn stay had been less than perfect he would also have been hearing from me.
I’ve made it to the CIPD Manchester breakfast camp on flexibility at work. This is a fantastically well attended event for a fringe event with about 60-65 people here to discuss making flexibility at work a reality for all.
Well done to Rachel Burnham for organising and running this event.
I write and speak incessantly about flexibility at work and it’s a common theme in many things that I do, so I was interested in seeing what others are doing.
The discussions were table based with expert facilitators moving round to ask different questions.
On the first round of this, our table discussed the challenges in convincing senior managers to embrace flexibility, and we shared many of the commonly heard and expressed barriers that we get from senior managers.
As a senior manager myself in many of my later jobs, I attempted, with varying degrees of success, to lead by example. It wasn’t always easy and I met with lots of suspicion in some places. But in other places, other people followed my example.
I guess the culture makes a difference.
Our next facilitated discussion drew on the experiences of the Flexible Hiring Champions, and this was great because we were able to listen to some real life successful examples of companies structuring their entire talent acquisition processes around flexibility and getting good results from it.
Importantly here we also discussed how some people don’t want flexibility and that they can’t or shouldn’t be forced to work flexibly. If people want to work Monday to Friday 9 to 5, let them.
A barrier here that most had encountered is that job applicants usually won’t share their desires to work flexibly until a job offer has been made, as they feel that sharing such desires would mean the job offer is not made at all.
Our third facilitated conversation was on the elements of cultures that support flexible working.
Flexibility for everybody was the first of these. But let people find their own flexibility, and give them choices.
Flexibility in all its forms is the second element. This is about understanding that flexibility doesn’t just mean one or two particular methods or styles but can be almost anything that varies when and where work is done.
The third element is trust. We often tend to trust people we can see, and if someone is working elsewhere there is a risk that they are not trusted. A good example of trust is from Sussex University who apply flexibility by default and managers must make a business case for jobs NOT being flexible.
The fourth element is about managers who “get it”. Flexibility has so much positive impact, but so many managers don’t understand this.
The fifth element was a great policy that enables, not restricts flexible working. Give managers the support and structure they need to make it work.
And the final element is technology. The technology that you get people to use when working flexibly should be the technology they use when in the office. The communication methods should be the same and the ways of working should be the same.
Our final conversation was facilitated by Manchester City Council on how they support line managers to embrace flexible working, but at this point I needed to dip out to go and see someone else.
A great start to the day.
Till next time…