Karen Mattison, co-founder of Timewise (www.timewise.co.uk) – a multi-award winning business that has brought flexible hiring to the UK recruitment market.
With more than 10 years of experience, Timewise is the UK’s first market place for candidates who want some flexibility on where and when they work, running multiple services: a jobs board, a recruitment agency and a content site showcasing flexible work in practice and consultancy and training services.
Karen and her co-founder Emma Stewart have both been made MBEs for their work, named as two of the UK’s most radical thinkers by the Observer; are Management Today magazine ‘Small Business Heroes’ and have been listed by Real Business magazine as one of the ’12 leading social entrepreneurs to watch’. In 2014, Director magazine named Karen and Emma as the UK’s most influential ‘Women Changing the Business World’ following a landslide public vote.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what inspired you to launch Timewise
I am the co-founder and Joint Chief Executive of Timewise (www.timewise.co.uk) – the UK’s first market place for candidates who want some flexibility on where and when they work, running multiple services: a jobs board, a recruitment agency and a content site showcasing flexible work in practice and consultancy and training services.
The journey that led me to launch Timewise, was borne out of the desire to tackle the negativity experienced by candidates when looking for roles that offer some form of flexible working options.
Ten years ago I faced the first brick wall of my professional life. I was ambitious and skilled, looking for a senior role with some flexibility and I was told by recruiters this wasn’t possible.
I realised that the problem wasn’t specific to me, but that there was a fundamental market failure within the recruitment industry.
In my continued quest to prove that flexible work also means committed, ambitious and business-critical, three years ago I launched the Power Part Time list in the Financial Times – a roll call of 50 men and women who work in senior roles on less than five days per week. This year’s search for our 2015 Power Part Timers is being supported by Management Today.
2015 has been a landmark year for Timewise, with the launch of our Flexible Jobs Index at Google’s London Headquarters. The first ever look at the UK’s flexible vacancy market, the Index highlighted the major ‘jobs bottleneck’ that Britons now face – with only 6.2 per cent of quality job vacancies that mention flexible working options.
The report found that the 14.1 million workers who do want to work flexibly to fit with modern life, are now competing over a ‘handful of vacancies’, bringing the issue of flexible hiring to the recruitment market.
Now, more than ever, I am determined to change the market for the thousands of candidates who, just like me 10 years ago, are unable to find quality part time and flexible work that matches their experience.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
Ask any entrepreneur, and they will admit that running your own business takes nerves of steel. And no matter how many years down the line you are, there will also be challenges to contend with.
However, for me, the greatest reward is knowing that I’ve created a business around an idea that I had. Being able to lead a company that I am strongly passionate about, create employment and, in our case, also help provide jobs for our 70,000 candidates, is what continues to fuel my desire to change the market.
What has been your biggest highlight since running Timewise?
Ten years on, and the highlights are still daily.
The world of work is changing, and it’s exciting. More than a quarter of our working population now works part time, and people are taking more control when choosing how and when to work. Running a business that facilitates people to find work, that ‘works’ for them, is a highlight that never tires to excite me.
What would you like to see organisations do more of in terms of part time working?
Employers should stop thinking about flexible working, and start thinking about flexible hiring.
As our Flexible Jobs Index revealed, flexibility is seldom mentioned in jobs ads and employers consistently underestimate just how precious the benefit of flexibility is.
Nine out of ten hiring managers say that they would consider flexible working for the best person. However, it if it’s not mentioned in the job ad, candidates do not know to apply.
My advice to businesses is to not start from a position of lack of trust, but instead think ‘how can I attract the best candidates for the role’. Flexibility, more than often, is the deal breaker.
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
My advice? Embrace it.
Women can often shy away from networking, but surrounding yourself with great people is essential for building your career.
The key to getting over the term ‘networking’, is to see it as a way to help cultivate long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
It’s as simple as that.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
Throughout my career, I have been lucky to have been supported by inspiring mentors and most importantly, by people who have believed in me and have been willing to support me in my journey.
Surrounding yourself with people with different skillsets to your own and who challenge you, is essential – especially when running your own business.
What tips can you provide to our members about setting up their own business?
Having the initial idea is the easy bit. When starting a new business, energy and passion is what ultimately will get you through.
There will also be people who say it can’t be done or that someone else has tried it, but growing a new business requires faith and belief. There is a line between balancing negativity and listening to your gut instinct.
And, above all, surround yourself with great people. My co-founder Emma Stewart is calm, intelligent and modest, and an amazing person to have worked closely with for the last ten years.