England & Wales HR, workforce and communications

Viewpoint: Timewise Councils


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The world of work is changing. How, when and where people work are now just as important as the roles they do, says Emma Stewart, Joint CEO at Timewise.

14.1 million workers are now looking for some form of flexibility in their next role. Yet the publication of our new research report – the Timewise Flexible Jobs Index – highlights that just 6.2 per cent of quality jobs are advertised as open to flexibility at the point of hire.

Both flexible working and flexible hiring are now essential tools for employers to use, in achieving a competitive advantage in attracting the best and brightest talent. And making flexibility work within the workplace can also ensure that existing talent is used in the right way, at the right time, to maximise performance and organisational value.

And no-where is this more important than within local government, where unprecedented pressure on budgets and services require innovative approaches to job design through both recruitment, workforce planning and commissioning.

Many councils are already undertaking agile programmes and investing in technology and hot-desking to drive a more flexible approach managing people and services.

But, this is only part of the story.

Whilst 82 per cent of managers believe flexible working benefits their business, driving a culture where people are empowered to make their own decisions about where when and how they work, is much harder.

And that’s why we at Timewise have developed the Timewise Council programme. To help local authorities develop and implement real culture change around flexible working and hiring.

Councils who undertake the programme are supported to re-think how to position flexible working in order to maximise performance for their organisation, managers and people; to change their recruitment processes in order to unlock more roles to be open to flexibility; and build a more engaged workforce.

Our programme also helps councils shape the market for services that they commission, rather than provide directly, in order to ensure best value: be it exploring how to reduce agency costs or look at job design within social care.

And councils who lead on flexible hiring have a real opportunity to share their learning with local employers, to address structural social inequalities in the local labour market, by unlocking more quality flexible jobs for residents who need them, as well as helping local families to raise their living standards, whilst fitting work with their caring commitments.

So why do local authorities decide to become Timewise Councils?

Because embracing flexible working and hiring delivers clear returns for organisations as well as individuals. Recent research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that £11.5bn is the amount that could be added to the UK from flexible working through more productive use of hours.

Larger corporate businesses who have been working with Timewise to implement and manage workplace flexibility, have seen an estimate of £15m in financial benefits per annum – through improved productivity, reduced travel and real estate costs and improved staff attraction and retention.

Flexible working can save organisations money, not add to costs.

So what’s changed for councils who have been through the programme?

The London Borough of Camden, which became the first Timewise Council in 2014, now encourages flexible working requests as part of all job adverts. Feedback highlights that this and their wider strategy to support flexible and part-time working is attracting applications from a wider range of quality applicants, and between November 2014 and January 2015, 20 per cent of new starters began work with a flexible working arrangement.

Lambeth, which has just become London’s second Timewise Council, is also now incorporating smarter approaches to job design and promoting already existing flexibility in order to both attract a more diverse, skilled talent pool of candidates, and realise efficiencies in how jobs are done.

The full list of councils who have now achieved Timewise Council status include Camden; Lambeth; Stoke on Trent; Leicestershire County Council; the newly established tri-council partnership between North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council; and Islington Council. Other councils that are currently undertaking the programme and working towards also achieving the Timewise Council status include Enfield and Waltham Forest Councils and Carlisle City Council.

Early feedback suggests many are starting to see, or expect to see, shifting management attitudes towards presenteeism with the perception changing from one of accommodating flexibility, to seeing that it is good for business.

This year, the Government Equalities Office and the Local Government Association are supporting the development of a Timewise Council network, with the chance to undertake the programme at a subsidised rate, in order to build insight and learning.

We know the challenges for local government are significant, and that becoming agile and flexible in how they work and manage their people, is just one way to become future fit. But it’s an important way.

As Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth puts it…“Being Timewise allows us to recruit a more diverse workforce and help raise the standard of living for the families of those we employ.”

And the opposite of flexible is not full time but rigid working, which isn’t good for anyone.

If you would like to find out more please do get in touch with us: [email protected]