Why we need to promote flexible working in financial services

Women in the finance industry

Despite reams of data which shows that employees prefer to have the option to work flexibly, and are more productive when trusted to do so, a vast majority of companies do not promote flexible working options, particularly for senior roles – and this is having a significant impact on access to talent.

In fact, data from Timewise shows that only 10 per cent of advertised roles with a salary of over £20,000 are available on a flexible basis. For jobs with a salary of over £100,000, the figure falls to just two per cent. This is despite the fact that 87 per cent of all full-time workers in the UK either already work flexibly or would choose to if given the option.

Looking at financial services specifically, female representation at senior level still leaves much to be desired, and this can, at least in part, be attributed to a culture of ‘presenteeism’ which is ingrained in the sector.

Although LinkedIn reported that the number of females hired into leadership roles within the financial services sector increased by 10% between 2008 and 2016, women make up just 24.4% of senior staff at 25 major international banks which shared their data with the Financial Times in 2017.  This perhaps explains why, according to official figures, this sector has one of the widest median gender pay gap in the UK at 24 per cent. Across the board, UK Statistics Authority data shows that women hold just 12 per cent of jobs paying £150,000 or more.

By not promoting flexible working options at the earliest stages of the recruitment process, businesses risk failing to engage with a significant proportion of available talent. And while agile working has, historically, been seen as more viable at executive level, it is often the most highly-skilled, experienced and innovative professionals who choose to work atypical hours once they are established in their career.

In fact, a recent report from Hydrogen and My Family Care found that 81 per cent of all professionals would look for flexible working before joining a new company and 53 per cent would choose to work flexibly over a five per cent salary increase.

A separate report by KRC Research on behalf of Staples Business Advantage, meanwhile, found that only 32 per cent of employees spent all their time working in, or at, their office and that the flexibility to work remotely is the ‘new normal’ for office workers with 43 per cent of employees saying it’s a must-have. Consequently, it is vital that employers communicate the scope potential recruits will have to work in an agile manner if they are to engage the widest pool of talent.

What’s more, promoting non-typical working options has a positive impact on not only a company’s ability to attract staff, but also output. There is a clear link between flexible working cultures and increased business productivity levels. A recent study of British businesses and employees by HSBC found that nine in ten employees surveyed consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace – a view shared equally among male and female employees (87% and 90% respectively). By comparison, just over three quarters (77 per cent) of respondents said the same was true of financial incentives.

HSBC’s report also found that regions where flexible working is more popular, such as London (where 30% of workers have the option) and the South East (where the figure sits at 32%), generally see the highest levels of productivity in the UK, where productivity, as defined by the ONS, is calculated as output per worker or output per hour worked.

Things are changing. The Women in Finance Charter, which was issued by HM Treasury and encourages companies to address gender inequality in the industry, has now been signed by 205 companies which have committed to having at least 30 per cent of their senior roles filled by women by 2021 through strategies including improving flexible working. What’s more, a recent study from Working Families, a work-life balance charity, found that six of the top ten employers for flexible working and work-life balance were financial services firms: American Express, Barclays, Deloitte, EY, Lloyds Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The reality is that many businesses are, in theory, happy to consider role flexibility at any level if it means that they are able to access the skills they need. But, likely unbeknownst to the powers that be, this is not reflected in the rigid, antiquated recruitment processes that are often being used by these same companies.

Innovative businesses must reassess these processes if they are to promote flexible working practices at the earliest stage of the recruitment process. Those that do will not only access the widest pool of talent, but also authentically demonstrate that flexible working is at the heart of wider business strategy, with leaders acting as role models rather than just paying lip service. And this will have a knock-on effect on access to skills, productivity and representation moving forwards.

AMS Vanessa Byrnes CropAbout the author

Vanessa Byrnes is the Sector Managing Director, Retail Banking & Insurance for Alexander Mann Solutions

Alexander Mann Solutions is passionate about helping companies and individuals fulfil their potential through talent acquisition and management. Today, over 4,000 of its talent acquisition and management experts are partnering with more than 100 blue-chip organisations, operating in 30 languages, and in over 80 countries. Delivering a distinctive blend of outsourcing and consulting expertise, together with specialist consultants Talent Collective, its unrivalled experience, capability and thought leadership helps its clients attract, engage and retain the talent they need for business success.

Vanessa joined Alexander Mann Solutions in 1998 as a Resourcing Manager within its Technology sector. Today, Vanessa holds the position of Managing Director of Global Client Services, where she is globally responsible for the integrated growth and service delivery of talent acquisition & management solutions to all Alexander Mann Solutions clients within the Financial, Insurance & Retail services sector. Over the last 19 years, Vanessa has held a number of roles within Alexander Mann Solutions including, Global Director of Client Services, Global Account Director, Practice Director for Telecommunications & Enterprise and the Director of People Capital. She currently sits on the Alexander Mann Solutions Global Operations Board.

For more information, visit www.alexandermannsolutions.com.

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