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Podcast Episode 2

Inspiring bosses: what makes for great managers of part-time workers.

What does it take, to be a great manager of part-time staff? Which qualities take you from ticking the boxes, to understanding and motivating teams? 

Kelly Keating, based in Bournemouth, is Head of People and Culture at Passenger Clothing Group, and worked at J.P. Morgan for many years prior, setting up their first job sharing platform. Andrew Eaton used to manage the shifts of 40 front of house staff, working all manner of shifts, before having to leave his job due to ill health. He is now launching a café/workspace for remote workers. Both have worked part-time, and both have been managed, while part-time. They discuss what it takes, to be an inspiring leader of part-time workers. 

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Transcript

[Music]

0.05

Claire: When I say part-time worker, what comes into your head, a mum returning to work after having a baby, someone who lacks ambition, someone in a junior role? You wouldn’t be alone in thinking any of those things. But you would need to think again. Work has gone through dramatic changes over the last few years. And it’s time to bring the picture of part-time working in Britain up to date.

8 million people work part-time in the UK. Part-time is of vital importance to our economy. It keeps people in work when otherwise they’d have to leave and enables them to keep saving for the future. It can also lead to better work-life balance, greater engagement and productivity, progression and the opportunities to develop other areas of your life. But only when the part-time working itself is a good experience.

I’m Claire Campbell. I’m CEO of Timewise, a social enterprise that believes flexible working is possible in any role and makes for healthier, fairer workplaces. In this podcast, brought to you by Timewise and the longevity think tank, Phoenix Insights, we’re identifying and celebrating the elements that make for a good part-time job. We’ll listen to some candid conversations from people who work part-time and have made it work for their employer, their career, their development, and their life.

In this episode, we’ve brought together Kelly Keating, who worked at JP Morgan for many years, where she set up a job sharing platform and is now head of people and culture at the clothing group Passenger, and Andrew Beaton, an entrepreneur who used to manage lots of people in the hospitality industry who work part time and is about to launch a parent centric co working cafe in Worcestershire called em and drew Andrew and Kelly are two people who have employed and managed part time workers all their careers, as well as starting to work that way themselves. Let’s hear what they have to say.

1.49

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1.54

Kelly: Hi. My name is Kelly Keating. I’m currently head of people and culture at a retail e-commerce brand. But I’ve had a very squiggly career throughout my 25 years. I’ve worked in SMEs, non profits, and over a decade in large global financial services.

Andrew: My name is Andrew Eaton. I solely worked from a very young age in hospitality, working in hotels, bars, cafes, clubs, everything from serving drinks and food, any of those things, you name it. And I’ve done it, and I’ve done that for just less than 20 years. I was a general manager, a multi-site manager, divisional project lead for certain things within compliance within that industry, and I was training to be an area manager at the time, when I made a life transition.

Kelly: What do you believe makes, what attributes and behaviours make for a great manager of part-time people?

Andrew: There’s certain traits, a characteristic a manager needs to have is curiosity. I suppose they need to be aware of what someone’s going through. They need to have that time management to be able to say, you know, Joe Bloggs, you know, what’s going on with you? You know, oh, you’ve got children, whether that’s a part of the recruitment process or an onboarding situation where you kind of really understand, and you remove the grey areas, and you understand what they need and what they can’t do, so you don’t make those kind of administrative mistakes. It’s having that awareness, and it’s about being empathetic towards people’s lives, asking those, those brave questions to people to see where, where their barriers, their boundaries, are.

Kelly: It’s interesting, listening to you, all of those traits around, you know, curiosity, empathy, listening and getting to know the person as a human. To me, they’re all excellent attributes for any leader. So, and I think that’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be different. I think because it is different, people are like, oh no, I won’t be able to deal with that. But I guess just building on it some practical things. So at interview, even if you are interviewing for a full time role, ask every candidate, what flexibility do you need to be successful in this role? I’ve heard so often that people are fearful. They don’t know when in the interview process to bring it up. Whereas, if a manager is being that thoughtful and intentional and saying, you know, what is it you need? And we’ll figure out how we can flex to accommodate that. I also remember, you know, having feedback from those that I’ve managed, and when I’ve been part-time, managers that are up front, and they might move a team meeting to make sure it’s on the day, or when you know people not booking meetings on the day that you’re out, sometimes unintentionally, people do. And then you get FOMO, and then you feel that, oh, I need to dial in for it, telling people and encouraging people. So I always used to put it on my out of office, and I remember, especially when I was not long back from maternity leave, I put my out of office on a Thursday, and say I’m going to spend the long weekend with my son. Look forward to connecting again. It’s next week, almost without exception, everyone that saw that pinged back going like, oh, just filled me with joy. What a lovely thing. And you know, by putting it out there, it then encourages others to not hide and actually be sort of loud and proud about the flexibility they need and why. But yeah, managers that basically think ahead and don’t make you feel guilty or awkward or different, that are just inclusive. I guess most importantly, as any good manager should do, what is it that you need from me to be successful once you’re in, you know, how would you like to be managed? How do you want to be communicated to? How are we going to deal with certain things? I think again, they’re all good manager attributes. But even, even more important with part-timers, probably.

Andrew: With follow through as well. Actually say what you’re what you’re going to do. I kind of was going back in my, in the pool of my memory, of the kind of managers that use their staff. They use them to achieve their sales for that week, or the retention levels, and they always lost people very quickly. But actually, as a manager, you’re there for them aren’t you? You’re there for them to figure out, you have to problem solve that particular issue, whether it’s, they can only work 16 hours a week or etc, etc, and still make it work for everybody and balance the business as well. You’re there for them. It’s our role as managers.

Kelly: And recognition and opportunity. Don’t, don’t have them left out. Don’t make any assumptions. You know, it might be, oh, though they won’t want to do that training course because it’s on their day off. Actually, have we sat down and asked them? They might want to. So again, I think not making any assumptions about the person, just purely based on their working days or hours as well. Always have that open and honest encouragement and do recognise them as well. There is proximity bias, and if you’ve got people around you more that are working longer hours, it will be natural so to really be intentional with yourself around treating everyone kind of with equity, if you like.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah, that’s great.

06.52

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06.57

Kelly: When I sort of started down the journey of being a flexible working and part-time working advocate, we sort of went with things like the diversity angle, the gender pay gap, the women in finance charter and so forth. But COVID then happened, and actually we’re seeing it be more of part of a workforce strategy. It is still disproportionately women that need to be able to, you know, flex their careers, which often means working part-time. But people are looking to work differently. There’s younger generations in particular have a different outlet to work. They aren’t necessarily going to stay and climb the ladder. They’re going to have more squiggly careers. A number of young people I’ve worked with have side hustles. So I think actually, it’s no longer just a tick box diversity thing. It’s actually something that’s really strategic to help you grow and expand and flex your workforce too.

Andrew: It’s interesting how you said about mums as well, Kelly, I think I’ve seen a lot within kind of reading, within publications and so on, that there are a lot of companies that are trying to get mums back into work, but there’s still all the challenges of childcare and so on. Do you see it still being very disproportionate across lots of companies, or do you think there’s actually a turn in the trend for that?

Kelly: I candidly think we need systemic change and collective action from people in the workforce, because we’re still trying to operate an environment that was built for, you know, 50, 60, years ago, when a man went out to work and a wife stayed at home and looked after the kids and looked after the house, and I’m seeing disproportionately more women, but men too, all struggling to burn out because there literally are not enough hours in the day. So for me, it was actually an imperative to be able to work part time. My experience, both as a manager and as a sort of mentor to many part-time workers, is that, and I remember when I first actually came back from maternity, put my flexible work arrangement in, I was essentially doing four days condensed over three and a half, and my senior leader said to me, Kelly, I know we’ll get more out of you in those days than most people that work full time, and that, candidly, has been my experience for the majority of part-time workers that I’ve both managed and known. Sadly, there seems to be quite often inherent guilt in that person or gratefulness, which, again, I think we need to move the dial on, because actually, the one working part-time is being paid less. The likelihood is they will be a lot more effective and efficient. I lost count of the amount of waste I would see with full time workers, either going for coffees or, you know, scrolling the internet or doing their basic life admin. Because again, if you’ve got a family of two working parents, life still happens. You will still have dentist appointments. You need to take the car in for the service and part-time workers, on the whole, they will book those and do those in their day off. So they are more effective and more efficient, and they tend to just focus on the essentials, in part because of guilt, and in part because, in reality, a lot of the time, the scope of the work doesn’t necessarily reduce, even though the hours do. And especially with things like job sharing, where you literally have got two heads for the price of one. That’s two lots of experience, two lots of networks. And maybe I’m a little biased here, because I recall, I remember when I first started thinking back on my career. I first encountered part-time workers early in my career, when I was in not for profit. Not for profit have always been a lot more open to different types of flexible working, I would say. And I took over a team and inherited a job share. And I look back at myself, and I’m just appalled at what an awful human I was. Like, I thought I was being empathetic, but I really wasn’t. And they were kind of in an internal facing, client type role, and you’d get niggles from people going, Oh, I don’t know who’s in today, and I don’t know what, but they both did so much work behind the scenes to make it as seamless as possible. The built in resiliency of if one of them was on holiday or if one of them was ill, you know, there was still coverage, so I’m not going to call them out, but ladies, if you ever listen to this podcast, I apologise now, because I realise it’s not until actually stepping into being a parent and realising how much your life fundamentally changes that I can afford a lot more genuine empathy to those situations. And it’s not just working parents, for whatever reason, and that’s why I’m such an advocate of flexible and part-time working for all. I’m a much better human for it, I’m a much better mother for it, and I’m a much better worker for it, because when I am at work, I’m fit, healthy, engaged and energised.

Andrew: It’s astonishing how many mums in general are out of work, and yet they’re probably very skilled, aren’t they, purely because they’ve had years of experience.

Kelly: And that was my main driver for job sharing candidly, like I’m on a number of different Facebook groups, and on a daily basis, I would be astonished and heartbroken as to how many senior, experienced, capable women with, with, often, you know, a decade or two of experience that were either unemployed or massively underemployed. You know, the amount of women I’ve known over the years that have, you know, held really powerful senior roles and then felt that once they’ve had, especially if you’ve got more than one child, they’ve retrained as a teaching assistant, like, you know, on bare, on minimum wage, and I’m not downgrading teaching assistants, but when these women, you know, have got so much more to offer, it’s scandalous, I think. And I think, you know, in this country, where we have got a huge skills gap, if companies could be more open to that. Still, there’s still a lot more to do. What do you think could you know the benefits that could be sold more to people in your industry, do you think to get them to think beyond just the junior sort of entry level roles?

Andrew: Ultimately, if you look at some of the part-time people that are say, not in the, they’re not in the industry, they’re not working, but they could be, it’s because of childcare, it’s because of the cost of that, or the logistics of having to balance their life and go to work. I mean, there’s so much that can be done, and it almost seems like the recruitment process could be altered in some way. You know, let’s, let’s move the shapes and the blocks around so it fits and be able to kind of ask the questions, rather than pigeonholing people or applicants into one block which says, Oh, can you do 20 hours a week? Can you work Fridays, Saturdays? In my industry, obviously that’s very key, and if they say no to that, then I suppose you just throw that CV away, or you just move on. It seems to me like managers should be able to have, or companies should implement processes so their managers can fit people into what the structure is.

Kelly: It does go round to that kind of job design, if you like. And recruiters and managers being supported to think a bit differently, to think more strategically around actually, what are the requirements of this role? What are the outcomes and outputs of this role? You know, I appreciate in more frontline service type stuff, you might need a bum on a seat, literally, but so many roles within the knowledge industry don’t need that. And you know, we’re all different humans. Some will work better in the morning, some will work in the evening.

Andrew: I completely agree. I love what you said before about that gratefulness. You almost get a lot out of people because, they’re so grateful that you managed to put their 30 hours, or whatever it may be, and into what the business needs, so that the bottom line is achieved, or that productivity aspect is done within the business. I think that’s so, that’s so key, and people should learn from it, because they could hire somebody equally as capable as what they have already, or even better, but have somebody who’s so motivated because they’ve they realise they’re working for a very socially responsible company.

Kelly: Absolutely, you’re so right. Flexibility on the whole, breeds flexibility. You know, whereas, if you’re rigid with someone or you give them strict rules or tell them what to do, you know, as humans, we fight against that, inertly, well, no, actually, you want autonomy, meaning and purpose. I think that’s been proven as to what kind of people want out of a career, and if they feel that that’s been taken away from them, you know, psychologically, that will lead to discontent. It will probably lead to them not being as productive, being disengaged. I think again we just need to get out of the way that we’ve been conditioned into behaving and be a lot more innovative and creative around our workforce strategy.

15.09

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15.14

Andrew: Considering what you said about the improvement of people’s lives and my own experience of work life balance, Kelly, you’re absolutely right, because I myself, I happily went down from what I used to say was that 60 hour a week, checking inboxes at home, and then doing 48 hours in the premise itself, to part-time work. And unfortunately, it was forced upon me because I had, I have a health condition. I’ve got Crohn’s disease, and it’s not particularly serious, but the impact of too much work, not being able to have a regular routine and diet and affected my health. Ultimately, it’s quite simple. I also had a daughter during the time of the pandemic, so that really highlighted this disparity between the glory of bringing this beautiful thing into the world, and then going straight back into the machine of corporate hospitality. And yes, I suppose, like my reflection on that really is, after two years away from it, I moved into freelancing. I realised I was actually quite skilled at many different things. I built an online community through Meetup to talk to people that were going through the same challenges. And obviously, I was a dad going through those challenges at the same time, and a lot of dads feel a bit lonely. And actually connecting dads together was a real eye opener to see this, you know, there’s an opportunity here, as well as the fact that people really need the support, which is quite tragic. Along the lines of working part-time, I also was able to study. I was able to take a breather for a bit, and think of new avenues to go down. And actually, some days, just having a day off, having an actual disconnect. I was really proud, you know of everything that I achieved. And in a nutshell, I was essentially running two flagship stores within a company of 4,000. Always in the top, top five of sales performance, and I kind of clung onto that with pride, but actually didn’t see what was happening to me or feel it at the time because of obligations, responsibility and that pride, as I said. So I did take a step down. I took a few steps down to the level of management hierarchy, and kind of started to rebuild again, as well as kind of wanting to stay busy by starting my own company. So I don’t really feel like I’ve stopped working full time, but I’ve just used my time a lot better, and that self-development aspect for me. So I’ve learned something to then start something on my own, to still working, keeping my management and my leadership skills sharp, and then spend time with my family, which is, I don’t know you take, you take for granted when bedtime is not happening, right, but sitting with you now and thinking about it, I’m actually blessed. The timing of that burnout and the subsequent actions I took really kind of helped me move forward.

Kelly: And what a rich employee you’d be with all of that experience. I think again, many people I knew that work-part time were doing, they’re were probably working more than they’ve ever worked. They might have had their own career. They might have had philanthropic endeavours, to try and demystify that. Oh, someone’s part-time because they’re lazy or because they want to, you know, sit at home and watch TV or whatever. I mean, it’s, there are still some attitudes out there like that, sadly. And listening to your story, I can’t help but think it’s a wonderful story, and it’s, so pleased to hear how much richer and blessed your life is now. But again, I hear it time and time again from people that often, it takes something almost traumatic for people to realise that and then adjust. So whether that is the countless mothers I know that have been made redundant after having children, and then they go off to be an entrepreneur, because it’s the only way they can see of working flexibly, or, similar to yourself, people that have reached burnout and become poorly and then they realise they need to make changes in their life. Whereas if actually there was more opportunity out there for part-time working, then it hopefully wouldn’t take that to happen, people could, you know, they’d have more options available to them and wouldn’t feel forced down the route of entrepreneurship. Not that entrepreneurship is bad, but again, that comes with its own complexities and pressures.

19.31

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19.36

Andrew: The wonderful part of part-time work and that I’m fully experiencing right now is that is the time aspect, that if you do have a certain skill set, you have that drive to create something new, or to or to just genuinely focus on yourself, you will find a way to manage the finances that, of course, we’re missing from not working a full time salary. But for me, my personal experience is I found the way. I found the way around the challenges, paying the bills, and it’s all because I had the time to deal with those things one at a time. Okay, this is my problem. I’ll deal with it. This is my other problem. I’ll go that way, and then you create these good habits. You know, I realised Kelly might have different point of view, or anybody in my situation would have a different way of tackling, but for me, I got to spend time on studying, working in a different sector, meeting different people that really inspired me, gave me different ideas for me to kind of really kind of build upon for sort of the business that I wanted to bring to, to the UK. And that health aspect, that time spent on health, self-development, fitness for me, and then seeing the impact on you and your decision making, and you know your mood, you know all these different things that wouldn’t be possible unless I was in that full time bubble of just achieving that week by week, month by month, kind of managerial, kind of routine that I was very much in.

Kelly: Who wouldn’t agree with that? Andrew, just listening to you who you know to have that opportunity to step off that hamster wheel and be more conscious like, surely we should be designing careers and roles that where everyone can actually be fully human, rather than just constantly on the edge of burnout. It’s, yeah, it’s, I don’t know, it just seems so simple to me, but I guess from my perspective, I would sum up with part-time doesn’t mean part-time commitment. It actually often means far greater output, far greater productivity, much better loyalty. So I think if we can think from a place of abundance rather than scarcity, what more can we get? We can get fit, committed, loyal, healthy, productive, engaged, innovative employees, because of exactly what you just described.

21.59

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22.03

Claire: I love Kelly’s closing comments there about the value of part-time workers, about the abundance of skills and experience employers can benefit from. What’s clear is that if we get beyond the idea that someone has less to offer purely because of the hours they can do, then as a manager, you can be rewarded with a great talent pool to draw from. Our Timewise research shows that only 12% of jobs are advertised as part-time in Britain, far fewer jobs than there is demand for. So if you are advertising a role in your team, ask yourself, could it be done part-time? Could we cut this differently to enable someone great to join the team?

And if you do have part-time staff in your team, are you supporting them in the way Andrew described, getting to know them, asking brave questions to understand their wants and needs. Are you asking them, as Kelly does, what they need from you to be successful? And finally, if you are a part-time worker, remember you’re in a working arrangement that benefits both parties. Your employer gets access to your great talents and skills for less, you have as much right to training and benefits as your full time colleagues, and if key meetings and socials keep being arranged on the days you can’t make, don’t be afraid to question it. Work should be a place everyone can develop and thrive.

21.16

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