Member Blog | Tackling the skills shortage through flexible working
By Helen Townend, Technical Director, Amey Consulting and Rail
Bin the 9 to 5!
In a recent interview, I was asked by a young dad if, were he successful, would it be possible to leave early one day a week due to childcare issues. My immediate response was “Of course”. Post interview, my co-assessor questioned why he had hesitated to say yes immediately to this request. In this digital age why do we cling to the idea of bums on seats, 9 to 5?
Our sector does not fit into the 9-to-5 framework and it doesn’t need to. Today’s technology allows us to work anywhere 24/7. The key to flexible working is efficiency and productivity, to enable staff to hit clear targets.
Ours is a flexible industry, requiring site visits and fieldwork across the world. Field data collection is the basis of our industry and provides valuable learning opportunities for our teams. Fieldwork is vital to ensure we continue to provide practical solutions, rooted in reality. We therefore expect flexibility from our employees and they should be able to expect the same from us in return.
Flexible working requests are most likely to come from working parents but there are many other valid reasons that you may want to work reduced or flexible hours, such as a reduced commute, caring for an elderly parent, volunteering or making time to improve your mental wellbeing.
Investment in Career Progression
Flexible working can be perceived as a barrier to career progression, but why should that be? This outdated notion supports discrimination and is a hindrance to diversity. In our industry, where knowledge and experience is king, that knowledge and experience is provided by our employees, irrespective of the number of hours it may say on their contract.
We lose women in their 30s and 40s as they become bored and stagnate in positions where they are overlooked due to supposedly full-time requirements of subsequent roles. As an industry, we need to recognise the long-term potential of our 20- and 30-something women, rather than focussing on the logistical difficulties a period of theoretical maternity leave may cause. We must invest in these intelligent, competent, efficient, multitasking women who can successfully apply their skillset to anything thrown at them.
Embracing flexibility for all staff, will also enable working parents to share parenting responsibilities without detriment to either career, and opens your company to a potential talent pool who are often ignored by more traditional businesses.
Balancing the logistics of life
Working smart and accessing work via the best technology, can assist in attaining life balance. As an added bonus, employees are loyal to flexible positions that balance the logistics of work, home and private commitments. They may not work full time, but the business benefits from their knowledge and experience, and with advancing technology, they are able to impart that knowledge as and when it is required.