At Diageo flexible working is instrumental to our business success. As a company that focuses on celebration, we want our people to love what they do. They need balance to give the best performance.
Despite this, we are sometimes surprised to be held up as a company that ‘knows how to do’ flexible working. It’s flattering, but we believe it’s an ongoing journey rather than a fixed destination.
Leadership commitment essential
There is a huge difference between compliance and commitment. At the moment everyone wants to latch onto flexibility as the latest thing. That sentiment comes with good intentions but starting with legal compliance is not the best approach: this generates a rigid framework of one size fits all, when by definition it should be flexible.
Commitment means bringing flexibility to life and making it part of talent management and part of the fabric of an organisation. We believe talent management should start with the individual, analysing what we can do to help them enhance their performance. It’s about having individual conversations with team members about their needs. What are the barriers to them performing optimally and how can we remove those barriers?
If someone needs to pick their kids up at four because their nursery closes then, we can talk about that. Equally, they may have to travel a lot and so value time working from home.
Agile working is perhaps a better description: we want to create an environment that is agile and responsive to people. There shouldn’t be a big difference between their home and work lives and personalities – the closer we can bring those together the more satisfied and fulfilled our teams will be. That translates into performance.
Diageo is undeniably performance driven and flexibility is part of that. It’s not looked at through a lens of gender or parenting, where some groups have more flexibility than others, but that of talent and performance. Flexibility is not just for women. It’s for people. We are an ambitious organisation and want to be the best so everything we do has to drive that.
Of course we can’t say yes to everything. We have a business to run. People in the HR shared services call centre environment can’t work from home, for example, so flexibility is different for them.
Valued by all
Whether our staff use flexibility or not, it is a valued part of working at Diageo. Flexibility here is different for everyone and they appreciate that, whether they are parents and carers or travel for work. It’s something that comes up in employee surveys and in conversations they have with people outside the organisation. It’s deeply appreciated by the employee population and they know it’s not something you get in every business.
We don’t currently use flexibility to brand Diageo. It is something we talk about when recruiting but it’s not the issue we lead with. It’s not a core part of our employment brand or external messaging.
This is something we are grappling with. Should we highlight the flexible aspects of working here so we don’t exclude a talent pool who require that flexibility? At the same time, we don’t want people to come to us for that sole reason. Flexibility is not a given, it is tied to specific circumstances and agreements between our employees and their line managers and a balance that works for all needs to be found.
Diageo has a significant number of women in the top senior roles and has been applauded for this by the Cranfield Female FTSE board report. I have been asked if flexibility has a correlation to the number of women in senior roles – that is really hard to say. What is clear is that our senior women are supportive of the flexibility agenda. They also do a wonderful job as role models, demonstrating that you can hold a very senior position in an organisation as large as Diageo and have a fulfilling personal life as well, whatever that means to you. These women are hugely successful, very accessible and the infrastructure is there to support them.