6 Ways to Incorporate Flexible Working into External Hiring

By Lindsey Newman

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In the last two posts of this three-part series I looked at the business case for flexible working and the practical solutions for implementing flexible working. In this post I want to explore why more companies should be actively creating flexible roles for external hires.

High calibre candidates are seeking flexible working positions. If you want to remain competitive and desirable as an employer, now is the time to look at shortages 'differently'. You can recruit flexibly to meet both the needs of your company and your future employees!

According to the Timewise Jobs Index: 46% of people in employment in the UK want flexible working, however only 6.2% of job ads offer flexible working options. This is a huge gap between supply and demand. The question you have to ask yourself is, “are you missing out on the talent that's essential to your future success?”

Why actively recruit for flexible working roles?

Whilst technological advances and recent legislation have facilitated a burgeoning growth in flexible working, flexible at the point of hire is unfortunately lagging behind. The Timewise report – The Flexibility Trap, found that jobs advertised with flexibility are so scarce that 77% of flexible workers feel 'trapped' in their current role. This invariably results in the best talent having to take jobs way beneath their level of skill and ability.

Timewise chief executive Karen Mattison MBE, said: “Businesses are missing out, as they consistently fail to realise just how important flexibility is to people looking for a new role.” At Purple House HR I regularly speak to companies who are struggling to attract the skills they need. If this sounds like you, widen your talent pool by putting 'flexible at the point of hire' firmly on your agenda.

One of the major challenges facing businesses today is finding, recruiting, and retaining quality talent. If you've already implemented flexible working practices for current staff, I have no doubt that you're already feeling the benefits in motivation, efficiency and retention. The next stage is to start advertising flexible working as part of the recruitment process. With a bit of discussion I often find companies are open to flexible working for the right person and role, yet they don't advertise it as part of their recruitment process. The problem is that 42% of candidates fear asking about the possibility of flexible working if it's not already advertised. Candidates are concerned that if they ask it will have a detrimental effect on their application.

By failing to advertise your openness to flexible working you're effectively cutting yourself off from a growing talent pool of quality candidates. Candidates increasingly want employers to openly state whether a role could be flexible (for the right candidate) at the point of advertising.

To kick-start flexible hiring within your organisation ask yourself “for the best candidate, will I consider flexible working for this role?”. If the answer is yes, it's time to start advertising flexibility to potential hires.

How can companies successfully recruit for flexible working roles?

Flexible working can offer an array of benefits for employers including: improving employer brand, creating a global presence, increasing diversity, reducing staff turnover, and reducing operating costs.

By including flexible working in your job ads you'll be able to access a wider talent pool increasing your chances of finding the right candidate. To help you successfully recruit for flexible working roles, here are some points to consider.

1. Get it right from the start

Your first port of call is to identify the business drivers to offering flexible working. This will help you to assess why offering flexible working will be beneficial to your company. Many companies will simply be facing skills shortages. Others may have 24 hour business needs or are lacking diversity. Once you've identified your business drivers it will be easier to get your team on board and handle any objections they may have. It's really important that you're honest about the types of flexible working that will work for your business, your team and team leaders. Doing this early on will help you to avoid any issues in implementation.

2. Use clear and precise language in your job description

When it comes to writing a job description it's important that you set out a clear and detailed description of the type of flexible working on offer. Whilst vague descriptions offer some degree of hope for applicants, they can be off-putting and are prone to misinterpretation. Describe the type of flexible working on offer, what this will look like, how it will be facilitated and so on. This will inspire confidence in potential hires that your offer of flexible working is a thought-out approach and not merely an afterthought.

3. Does your hiring process need to adapt?

If for example you are looking to offer flexibility for diversity reasons you may need to consider a different hiring process to help get the results you want. These may include blind CV’s or applications, lengthening the hiring window relative to your usual timescales and reducing the list of requirements in the job specification.   

4. The devil is in the details

Internally it's very important that you work out the finer points of how flexible working is going to work in your organisation. Be sure to get the buy in of everyone involved. If future staff are working remotely how will you encourage integration? Do you have the tech that you need to support flexible working? Do you have a review process in place?

5. Start as you mean to go on

During the hiring process discuss flexible working at every stage. It's essential that you establish whether the flexible working arrangements on offer meet the candidate's needs. Flexible working is only going to work if there is honesty and clarity on all sides.

During the induction of flexible hires make sure your new hire is set up with the tech or processes needed to work flexibly. Be sure to set up regular meetings and agreed dates that they will be in the office to ensure that they are fully integrated into the team. Who is their line manager? Who do they go to for IT support? Having a clear and detailed approach will help your flexible hires work to the best of their ability.

6. Measure, monitor and review

To ensure flexible working is working for both you and your employee you'll need to have a regular review process in place. Get an agreement from all parties as to how this will be done. How will you measure success? How well is it working for your team manager and employee? What feedback can they offer to improve the process? Don't be afraid to ask whether it is still working for all parties involved. By doing so you'll be able to have an open and honest discussion to ensure that everyone's needs are met.


Written by Lindsey Newman, Director of Purple House HR, a niche recruitment consultancy specialising in the placement of Human Resources professionals. If you would like some advice on implementing flexible working into your recruitment programme, then get in touch:

0117 957 4100


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