TalentEmbracing flexible work arrangements is about enabling diversity across your organisation.

Offering flexibility allows organisations to tap into all of the available talent in the market – especially highly educated and experienced women for senior roles.

However, in 2012, the World Economic Forum reported that Australia ranked first in terms of women’s educational attainment but 45th for their labour-force participation. So Australia has one of the most highly educated female populations in the world, and 55 percent of university graduates are women, yet barriers still exist to women’s full participation in the workforce. [i]

And it’s not just about women. There is a large section of the Australian workforce which will only consider flexible options. This includes many women, and also older workers and people with disabilities.

Catalyst’s ongoing longitudinal research tracking high potential talent, reported in 2013 that flexible work arrangements (‘FWA’s’) are desired by young and old employees, and the lack of access to FWAs has serious consequences for top talent, especially women. In fact, career aspirations of high-potential employees are affected by access to FWAs: (i) women’s aspirations to the top increased nearly 30% when they had access to FWAs; and (ii) at workplaces without FWAs, women were twice as likely as men to downsize their career aspirations. [ii]

So why would Australia’s top corporates endure the pain of the change necessary to mainstream flexibility in their organisations?

The Male Champions of Change, brought together by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Liz Broderick in 2010, have recognised that ‘tapping into the full talent pool will give us a diversity advantage, creating commercial, societal and economic value.’ [iii] Also, ‘mainstreaming flexibility will transform our workplaces for the better.’ [iv]

How specifically, will embracing flexibility and therefore enabling diversity bring better results to the bottom line?

  1. Research undertaken by McKinsey in 2012 indicates that companies with more diverse executive teams have 53% higher ROEs and achieve 14% higher EBIT margins. [v]
  2. Companies with women Board members outperformed those without women Board members by 26% over the past six years in terms of share price, return on equity, gearing, book value and average growth. [vi]
  3. Workforces that are both diverse and inclusive have 12% higher employee productivity; 19% higher retention; 57% higher team collaboration – diversity of thought and therefore innovation; and 42% higher team commitment. [vii]
  4. In terms of diversity of teams and experience, an EY survey found that 85% of respondents stated this improves reputation or financial performance or both. [viii]

Do your organisational processes ensure you are identifying and developing diverse talent, or are you recruiting in your own image? Does your organisational structure allow opportunities for experienced people as they move through life stages and careers?

When considering how to take advantage of the flexible workforce, consider the following:

Get a $150K candidate for $90K – Accessing top level skills to lead a team for two or three days a week can be more valuable than hiring a junior person to work full time.

Attract specialist skills – Consider splitting a full time role which may attract a generalist, into two part time roles to attract two experienced professionals with specialist skills.

Not all jobs are full time – Improve efficiencies by examining the realities of the role you are seeking to fill. Open up possibilities by not defaulting to the ‘full time’ option at the point of recruitment.

Engagement, commitment and productivity – Flexible work arrangements are highly valued, especially by women at various life stages, as they move through their career. Part time employees are known to be highly motivated and productive – and a FWA encourages them to stay connected to an organisation and to continue building skills and networks before returning to a senior full time role in the future.

Offering flexibility makes a role – and your company – more attractive, which leads to you having a wider pool of qualified candidates to choose from. It will frequently attract skilled, senior people whose expertise you would value, but may not otherwise be able to access or afford.

To tap into the flexible workforce, contact Penny at penny.holt@seedrecruitment.com.au

[i] World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2012

[ii] Beninger, A., and Carter, N. M., ‘The Great Debate: Flexibility vs. Face Time – Busting the Myths Behind Flexible Work Arrangements’, Catalyst, 2013

[iii] Australian Human Rights Commission, Male Champions of Change, 2013 ‘Accelerating the advancement of women in leadership: Listening, Learning, Leading’, p4

[iv] ibid., p27

[v] McKinsey, Is there a payoff from top-team diversity? 2012

[vi] Credit Suisse Research Institute, Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance, 2012

[vii] Corporate Leadership Council, Creating Competitive Advantage through Workforce Diversity, 2012

[viii] Ernst & Young/Economist Intelligence Unit, Globalisation Survey, 2010