People Business » Why it’s time for the flexible FD

Recent CIPD figures show that 54% of workers currently have the option to request working hours outside of the traditional nine-to-five. However, as a sector, finance still has some way to go, particularly for women at a senior level.

Whether it’s part-time working, compressed hours or working from home, the range of options to accommodate the rise in requests for flexible working are plentiful. What’s more, the figures show that supporting a more flexible workplace, improves productivity, people engagement and turbo-charges your employer brand. Meaning there’s a compelling business case to build flexible working into your organisation – at every level.

Tap into a wider talent pool

Opening up flexible working opportunities within your business enables you to immediately access a wider talent pool.  70% of UK employees cite that flexible working makes a job more attractive to them with 30% preferring flexible working to a pay rise.

In accountancy and finance, a key challenge lies in promoting and retaining women, rather than recruiting them into finance roles. Graduate schemes tend to be split 50/50 between the genders, however, the numbers start to fall as employees become more senior – women reach a level of seniority at the same time as their personal and family commitments increase. A lack of flexibility makes it challenging for them to return to the workplace at the same level. But flexible strategies can help overcome this.

Flexibility drives retention strategies

By creating more flexible opportunities, businesses can significantly improve their retention rates; in fact CIPD research found 75% of employers say that flexible working has had a positive effect on retention.  Having invested in employees too, through training and professional development, enabling them to come back after a period of leave, can only be a positive when you consider the cost of attrition.

We’re also seeing more organisations commit to Return to Work programmes, bringing in team members after an extended career break. Returners build on the skills and experiences gained in their careers complementing these with training, mentoring and coaching to give them the confidence to transition back into the world of work successfully.

Flexibility fosters gender diversity

Diversity is more than buzzword in the modern workplace – it’s a mind-set and way of thinking that needs to go beyond checklists.  A flexible culture immediately opens doors to attracting a more diverse candidate base; it plays a key role in improving female representation at a senior level too, so vital as an inclusion policy. Again, this has traditionally been a challenge in finance roles.

With innovation, high performance and creativity featuring as key qualities of a diverse team, a lack of diversity – in backgrounds, experiences and thinking – can hamper your business’ competitiveness and growth potential. McKinsey research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to deliver financial returns above their respective industry average. What’s more, as the majority of organisations are expected to have a formal D&I policy, flexibility becomes a key strategy for gender balance.

Flexibility reduces costs

Flexible working used to be seen as a drain on HR teams.  But technology has transformed how we work with 42.5% of the total global workforce population set to work remotely by 2022.

The net result is organisations reducing both office space and overheads alongside their carbon footprint, and significantly reducing overheads. In fact, we’re seeing businesses use their flexible working policies to support their carbon neutral strategies.

Flexibility builds a stronger employer brand

Organisations embracing flexible working build strong employer brands; creating positive working cultures which in turn serve to optimise productivity. There’s a suite of tech out there that ensures teams stay connected from email through to Slack and What’sApp.  Here at Amito, our leadership team firmly believe that it’s about having the right person in the right role, not counting the minutes they sit behind their desk. Ensuring your team have understanding, autonomy and freedom to enable them to deliver in a way that works for them and the business leads to trust and loyalty in spades.

For my part, as a working parent, I’ve never been more efficient than knowing what I have to achieve within my flexible working week. Rather than simply being present I am focused on my output and what I need to accomplish in the time I have. As well as being your strongest assets, people are your brand ambassadors and advocates, and that ripple effect of a happy team can in fact be the driving force behind your organisation’s success.

With wellness becoming a key indicator in the modern workplace too, flexibility very much supports mental health programmes. Reduced commute time, time to exercise and pursue outside interests all contribute to a better work-life balance which ultimately means we bring a better version of ourselves to work.

For senior women in finance, we need to see a cultural shift. Organisations can start by looking at how they recruit, retain and develop the wealth of talent available to achieve even more commercial success. Flexible working is the first step.

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