Get flexible or fail

“Employers need to look at what is possible, and not what isn’t, when looking at flexible hiring strategies.” Stephen Smith, HR Director at Lloyds Banking Group, talks about the changing face of the 9 to 5.

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Business leaderI’ve been with Lloyds Banking Group in all its evolving shapes and forms for 43 years. I started when I was 18 years old when people had a job for life and climbed the career ladder with one organisation. Things have certainly changed at Lloyds Banking Group over the years. We’ve moved from a largely clerical environment to become a multi-faceted organisation, where around a third of our colleagues work in an agile way today.

Agile Working

Leaders still have work to do though. The world is changing. Society is changing and importantly technology is creating new opportunities for us to work in different ways.  All these changes impact how we engage with both our customers and colleagues and we are facing a huge shift in the regular 9 to 5. We need to be ahead of the curve and be open and adaptable to our changing society. We need to look at what is possible when a candidate or employee requests reduced or flexible hours, otherwise we face a real risk of losing good people.

At Lloyds Banking Group, we call it Agile Working. We need to be agile in our approach to hiring and staff retention, whilst, increasingly, good candidates want a more agile and flexible way of working. For women, it was once a case of giving up your career to start a family, but now it’s about making both work so that the individual, and the organisation, are getting the best situation for their needs.

Throwing out the rule book

We’re all different and we all have different needs. Agile working reflects and responds to the diverse needs of our customers and colleagues better and that is why I always try to think beyond the formal process for flexibility. In response to this, I recently made an appointment for Group Operations HR Director, but instead of looking at a traditional, full time role, I brought in Charlotte Cherry and Alix Ainsley as a job share. To really mix things up, both Charlotte and Alix are based in Bristol, whilst we are based in Central London. They were strong candidates for the role, so I approached this hire – as I do with all hires – with a mindset of how we can make the situation work and not how it can fail.

Charlotte and Alix worked together as a job share in their previous organisation and have become very symbiotic in their approach. So much so, colleagues and the senior management team don’t even notice they’re working with two different people.

With that in mind, I would argue that if we can make a senior level job share work, then why not the same approach with our customer-facing staff?   We have some good examples of branch managers job sharing too. With the right communication, I think we can leverage job sharing further across every part of the business

The future of Agile Working

At Lloyds Banking Group we are taking the future very seriously. We are increasingly seeing a younger generation of millennials who do not want a full time job, opting instead for a portfolio career. This is something we are looking to address, which makes our Agile Working policy even more important than ever. HR Directors really need to look at what can be achieved with every hire.

It is not always easy to embrace change but think about the benefits an agile approach can bring. With a job share, for example, you have two heads and two opinions. By offering flexible hours you are retaining talent that might otherwise leave the job market. I only wish I’d had this insight 10 years ago. At Lloyds Banking Group we are committed to building a culture that encourages innovative agile working policies and practices. We recognise that embedding these are essential if we are to truly benefit from the business advantages and employee benefits that different ways of working can bring.  We owe it to our colleagues to give them the best opportunities possible.