Having worked in HR for over 15 years, I have seen a growing demand for employers to provide more flexible working practices. Employees want increasing flexibility for a variety of rea-sons and need different types of flexibility throughout their working lives. Many employers are keen to support this, however, often limit themselves to the statutory legal provisions and view flexibility in a very narrow way.
Flexible working options should not be limited to part-time working, it’s about considering the variety of choices employees need at different life stages and offering something for everyone. A well designed flexible working offering can make a significant difference to employee engagement and retention.
As Head of HRBP’s at Hilti, I’m part of a team that are striving to build a working environment and culture that stands-out amongst our peers as a ‘Great Place to Work’. Offering an outstanding flexible working approach is an important part of differentiating our culture. It also presents an opportunity to retain our fantastic workforce in a buoyant labour marker and to attract new talent to our organisation.
Prior to launching our new approach to flexible working in summer 2017, our policies were over-complicated and confusing. Applications for flexible working were low and only 3% of our workforce in GB worked in an altered way to their original contract. This was at odds with clear demand, evident through our employee engagement survey, that our people wanted more help to balance the demands between work and home life. Improving and simplifying our approach to flexible working provided an obvious solution to this gap.
Our new flexible working approach set out to simplify what we offered and identify new opportunities to expand our policy. The new options addressed the gaps in our existing approach. We introduced the right to request a sabbatical or career break of up to 12 months whilst pre-serving the contract and added the right to purchase an additional five days annual leave and to take one days’ paid emergency leave annually for unexpected personal situations.
Our family friendly provisions were already generous with 18 weeks fully paid for maternity leave and two months’ salary paid as a return to work bonus. But we wanted to do more for our dads, so increased paternity pay to two weeks at full pay and equalized pay arrangements in Shared Parental Leave.
To make sure our employees were made aware of their new offering we ran an internal campaign using the #Hiltiinmylife as we felt this perfectly reflected how we wanted our employees to balance their Hilti role with their lives.
This included a video message from our Northern Europe Region Head, to endorse his personal commitment to flexible working at Hilti, as well as some video case studies from team members who already enjoyed flexible working practices.
Following the launch in July 2017, we received more applications in two months than the total received in the previous two years. And our journey didn’t end there – we have since introduced home working for suitable Head Office roles, offer a day’s leave for our team members who are moving house or getting married and also now offer up to three days’ paid leave for fertility treatment .
In 2019, we have also taken the next step to add more flexibility to our field-based sales roles by designing a role that can be done on a part-time basis without compromising customer relationships or making it harder to hit target. We truly believe that by embracing flexible working in all its forms, we will have highly engaged teams who will want to stay and be part of our ‘Great Place to Work’.
Head of HR Business Partnering
Hilti Great Britain