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Business Careers Output Recruitment Working Culture

Employment, how long do people stay in jobs for?

The answer is not long. Employment has been hit hard over the last couple of years for sure. The impact of Brexit, the Pandemic now a cost of living crisis; it’s no wonder how many people’s careers have been affected.

So what has been the effect? We conducted a poll on LinkedIn and Facebook where people shared with Find Your Flex how long they have been in their current role.

Grass growing under foot? Chance would be a fine thing!

That pretty much sums it up. Out of all our respondents only 11.5% have been in a job for 5 or more years.

Now, it’s not uncommon for people to not want to stay in one job for too long. Or they may even be talented enough to move up the employment ladder quickly.

However, over 11% is alarmingly low especially when you consider the last two years worth of lockdowns. In the height of a pandemic it’s highly unlikely most people outside that margin left their jobs for a promotion or a better offer.

Is there an Employment issue?

When 27.9% have been employed for less than a year? And the same amount of people claimed they had only been employed in their current role between 1-2 years totaling almost a 56% all together. I would say so.

As this implies that the turnover for employers must be high. As employment lasting only 2 years or less cannot be considered normal.

Especially when half of those numbers are within the last 12 months where we have had no lockdowns. Furthermore, according to our Prime Minister employment is at an all time high!

This is further supported by job vacancy numbers which reached a record high between February and April.

The number of job vacancies in February to April 2022 rose to a new record of 1,295,000; an increase of 33,700 from the previous quarter and an increase of 499,300 from the pre-coronavirus.

So clearly there is an employment issue because these stats don’t add up… or do they?

High Employment + Short Range Job Longevity = Widening Pay Gap

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article on the BBC that reported the pay gap between bosses and staff is widening.

And just like that, everything makes sense! Stats that show employment is at an all time high. The majority of people in our polls saying they have held a job for less than 2 years, this is the end result and it makes sense.

How does that work? Well look at it this way: if an entry level employee joins a company how long does it take them to really start working their way up the company ladder, a year or 2? And how many more years before they have really progressed within the organisation?

The problem is; from our stats paired with government research, people are not in the role long enough to really climb the ladder. Whether the working culture is so bad employees leave by choice or they are let go by the company.

Either way that usually means they will be starting a similar role in another organisation. Probably around the same level of the role they left and on a similar rate of pay…

Yet little changes for the business (in the short term), they quickly replace the staff they have lost with new eager workers. Then in the next 6 to 24 months they repeat the process. Productivity is maintained.

There is little-to-no cost in promoting staff to higher paid, yet business and profits may continue to grow and therefore higher executive salaries increase. And this could be one reason why the gap is widening.

Yes the employment rate is great, but the wages are low and during a cost of living crisis that’s a huge employment problem. And it can result in severe consequences for businesses operating this way.

What is the impact for Businesses?

No good ever came from a company having a high attrition rate. It signals to three vital components of business; job seekers, target audiences and potential partners that they do not value staff.

It is never long before high staff turnover leads to a bad business reputation and raises flags for the aforementioned parties. Job seekers do their research, if they see employees don’t last long and why; they won’t want to work for an employer like that.

The same goes for potential business partners, in a society that is focusing more on the way staff are treated, companies won’t want to be guilty by association. Or partner with organisations whose values do not align with their own.

Productivity may be maintained in the short term through eager new employees wanting to impress. But this will ebb away when managers and other employees grow demoralised by having no consistent team and the constant need for training. Then you will see the quality of service decrease.

The Great Resignation and The Big Quit

Now this may come across laying the blame at the door of businesses. That wouldn’t be totally fair; brexit, the pandemic, the current cost of living crisis, these have had an effect on employers and they have had to make tough decisions.

Many businesses have struggled to weather these storms and are now trying to recover, which is not easy. However, the grace period where understanding of companies having high attrition as a result of lockdowns is quickly coming to an end. It will soon be an unacceptable excuse as to why businesses can’t or rather won’t retain staff.

Last year we talked about the ‘Great Resignation’ where employees where seriously considering quitting their role at the time. That seem to have happened if we look at the results of our polls.

This year I have read about a similar movement called ‘The Big Quit’ with employees having similar intentions.

And with job vacancies being at a record high it shows they are following through (although of course the government puts the positive spin on that as a high growth.)

Employees are making their positions clear; provide opportunities or they will look elsewhere and businesses can’t afford to not respond.

The ‘Mutable’ Solution

That’s not as simple as businesses saying “okay we’ll start promoting, raising salaries and providing more flexible working”. That’s neither practical nor sustainable to do all at once.

But there is a solution, one that solves this problem in the present and future. Businesses need to start aiming to become ‘Mutable’.

What is ‘Mutable’? It means being in a stage of constant transformation. Where rather than businesses competing with others they constantly compete with themselves.

This starts with having staff work to an output model rather than an hourly rate. This would especially work well for companies struggling with high attrition.

By buying into a shared workforce, a company can have employees complete weekly tasks and once they are finished the employees have the ability to earn even more elsewhere. Which would fix the turnover issue.

The future of employment, the future of working and the future of business is vastly different from the present. The future is ‘Mutable’. For more information on starting your Mutable journey click here.

Categories
Careers Working Culture

What Elements Make Up Toxic Working Culture?

Last month the topic of discussion was Working From Home and I said it was a phrase used so often that the original meaning is sometimes lost. But another phrase often used, especially in the last couple of weeks is Toxic Working Culture or Environment.

I have often heard this used when people explain why they hate or left their job; “It was a toxic working environment and I need/had to get out”. But what constitutes a toxic working culture?

I posted polls on LinkedIn and Facebook. Over 120 people voiced what elements they believes make a working culture toxic.

There was a definite pattern and the results may come as surprise, especially to businesses. But I think employers should also look very closely, as what they think employees consider is a toxic environment may not be the case.

Micromanagement; the Number One Element of Toxic Working Cultures

I’m not surprised people considered this to be a toxic working trait of a workplace. Initially though, I was perhaps a little surprised at just how many people considered it to be the main element of toxic workplace culture.

Almost a third of the people who voted (31.4%) said that they felt that micromanagement is the largest contributor to making a working environment truly toxic.

It makes perfect sense; micromanagement oozes toxicity. Because it demonstrates one of the most de-motivating things an employer can show; a complete lack of trust.

What is micromanagement? It refers to a superior who will constantly seek to oversee, control and direct every aspect of your work from tasks important to minute.

In other words they don’t trust you to do the job correctly, or at the very least don’t trust you to do it as well as they can.

Of course this can come in all shapes and sizes. Constantly checking on you, giving direction on a task you have performed numerous times, strictly regimenting and monitoring your day, breaks, lunch etc. But it all comes down to trust.

And what person feels valued, motivated and confident in their job when you know that your not trusted by the higher ups? This is made worse when you know the person responsible has no business micromanaging aspects of your work they themselves don’t know

This happens far too often and to put it simply; we as employees don’t need that rubbish. You have employed us to do a job, now trust us to get on with it unless there are serious causes to do otherwise.

The alternative is businesses lose good talent. Who could have added so much more value to the company if they had been trusted to do their job.

Management Politics

I hadn’t originally intended to have Management Politics as an option on the poll. Simply because it didn’t spring to mind.

Until I was doing some market research on some businesses on glassdoor. I found that for a couple of businesses Management Politics was a big source for negative critique and was even the cause many former-employees listed their reason for leaving.

It had the second highest votes with 22.3% voting it as a main element of a toxic workplace. Which was quite the considerable number.

What is management politics? In this sense it is used to describe managers putting their own professional or personal agenda over the actual work/team.

For example a manager may wish to gain favour with their superiors by showcasing cost efficiency. The result of this could be a refusal to take on more staff that are severely needed and over-tasking a skeleton team. Another example could be blaming another colleague or department for their own mistakes to avoid reprimand.

But like with micromanagement, management politics can come in all shapes and sizes, but why does this create a toxic working environment?

That can also be a number of reasons, for one; as an employee I want to come to work to do my job, not to be used in a politicking chess match. It is also incredibly de-motivating when a manager puts themselves before their team.

Talk about the original meaning being lost; a manager is meant to be a leader, ensure the team is giving their best performance. That includes taking responsibility for when things go wrong. Standing up to customers and even upper management if their team are treated unfairly.

Inappropriate Behaviour (Sexism, Bullying, Racism etc.)

19% of voters said that inappropriate behaviour is the main element of a toxic working environment.

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia etc. all of it can sadly take place in the workplace. The range of this is massive; it can be anything from full on harassment in these areas to feeding into stereotypes.

The battle is ongoing to eradicate this from not only workplace culture but from society in general. Sadly we see stories where people still feel these behaviours exist and effect their careers.

Some of this can be attributed to unconscious bias or ignorance. While some of it may be more deliberate and underhanded.

Bullying is a highly toxic trait in workplace culture and this still goes on. Let’s not beat around the bush, sometimes, people take a disliking to each other for one reason or another. The results of this are often never good.

Bullying could come from a person with authority, singling a colleague out. Giving them more than their fair share of work, coming down harder on them than other team members or even showing appreciation to everyone else but them.

Cliques also form in the workplace and these seldom lead to anything good. They can also lead to bullying if a number of people decide a fellow colleague is not to their liking.

It can honestly feel like your back in highschool when this type of bullying takes place and it can often go unnoticed. This is especially the case when members of management are part of said clique.

Then the members can feel as though they have a certain level amnesty and can get away with inappropriate behaviour towards others.

Blatant Favourtism

It could be argued that this is a form of management politics, but I do believe it is separate to that. When discussing bullying, I had mentioned that sometimes people take a dislike to each other, the opposite is also true.

How does the old cliche go? It’s not what you know it’s who you know. I never realised before the negative implications behind that saying. But there is certainly truth to it and is it a toxic trait within the workplace?

9% of voters believe it to be a toxic element and I can agree with them on that. Favourtism is never a good thing and going back to clique conversation, even if it doesn’t lead to bullying it can lead to favourtism.

Why is that toxic? Because this can often result in people getting opportunities simply because the manager happens to like them. Whereas staff more deserving off these opportunities, the people who have the talent and work themselves hard, get overlooked.

The reason this toxic is because it builds up a culture of not how hard you work but who you cosy up to. And that is not environment in which talent can thrive. It also doesn’t say much for management that operates in this way either.

Other Toxic Workplace Elements

The above elements are the ones that were the most voted for. However there were several other elements the people believe contribute to a toxic working environment.

Some of the other elements people voted for included; overloading staff with work, blame culture, expected to work any and all shifts put to them. Some of these are aspects of traits already discussed, although they also stand alone.

Overloading Staff with Work

This refers to the extreme of staff expected to take on more work than can be coped with.

This can come from taking on more work due to a lack of staff. Or taking on work that is beyond their job description and even their skill level.

It’s worse if there’s pressure on staff to try and get too much work done within an impossible time-scale.

This pressure can have an effect on staff morale and effect employees mental health. At that point it becomes a toxic working environment.

Blame Culture

Colleagues throwing each other under the bus when things go wrong. Everyone looking out for themselves rather than working together as a team.

This was touched upon within management politics. Although managers blaming their team is certainly part of it, blame culture refers to everyone across the board.

This creates an environment without trust. A backstabbing culture. There would be no motivation or loyalty in a place like that.

Expected to Work Any and All Shifts

There are still businesses out there who expect staff to be “fully flexible”. Or expect you to “work to the needs of the business”.

That’s code for; your life outside of work is irrelevant to us, you will work however we decide, don’t like it? There’s the door.

I’ve lost count of how many times in my previous employment I was told that anytime anyone took issue with a shift. It’s one step removed from zero hour contracts.

So it is understandable why this could be considered an element of a toxic working environment.

How to Change a Toxic Working Culture

When it comes to eradicating a toxic working culture, the only way to really change things is to treat the root cause.

Often that root cause is a lack of self-awareness, unconscious bias or even ignorance on the part of the employer. They may not even know they have a working culture that is toxic.

However, there are telling signs; high attrition rates, staff feedback, low productivity etc. This signals there is a problem even if an employer doesn’t know exactly what is causing it.

In any case, it’s up to businesses to reach out to consultants. Or take notice when a business is reaching out to them due to these issues.

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Future of work

Working From Home: Are Employers Biased About It?

The term Working From Home or WFH, has been used a lot in post-lockdown times. Maybe too much? What I mean is; when a phrase or title is used so often, we can forget it’s literal core meaning.

Because of that, Working From Home has been a talking point as of late. And it is always referred to as a form of flexible working, which it is. But how flexible is it really?

Honestly, there are variables which mean that this question has a number of different answers and there inlies the problem. There is no solid answer to that question and yet there seems to be bias about the flexibility and freedom Working From Home offers.

What is the bias against people who Work From Home?

This all started when I saw a post on LinkedIn. A woman was calling out her husband’s employer for questioning why he needed a shift change to perform parenting duties. When his wife Works From Home…

This alone shocked me. But what shocked me more was the number of people commenting who related to this story. Which led me to question if there was a bias from employers about employees who Work From Home. I set a poll asking this question on LinkedIn and Facebook and 80 people responded.

Only 2.5% said they believed there was no bias against people Working From Home and that businesses understood the limitations. 42.5% said they felt some businesses understand and others don’t. While 55% said that they felt employers have the bias that Working From Home offers far more freedom and flexibility than it really does.

To add to this I saw even more shocking stories in the comment section of what this stereotype has done to people, their living situation and their families, some of them are extreme.

But what surprised me the most is how brazen employers are when questioning the working arrangement of other people who live in their employee’s household.

I fail to see how anyone cannot appreciate how inappropriate and unprofessional that is. If an employee is asking for any kind of leave or change in shift, it is no business of the employer to question why a person outside of their employ cannot perform the task needed.

What flexibility does Working From Home actually offer?

As I said before, it depends on the individual employer how flexible their form of Working From Home is. And the range of that is as long as it is short.

However, if we take it for it’s core definition, this way of working only refers to one thing; the location of where someone does their work.

So in theory, Working From Home in terms of flexibility only really impacts one aspect of someone’s working day. And that is the need to commute into work. This is the only solid difference between an employee who works in an office and one who Works From Home. Every other aspect is completely subjective.

Yet some businesses seem to think that employees who Work From Home have all the free time in the world. I have seen first hand this is not the case.

I know of people who WFH, whose shift patterns including; start time, break times and shift end are just as strictly regimented and monitored as if they were in an office.

Then, I know of people who used to commute to the office and are now casually expected to use the time they used commuting as extra time to spend working.

WFH, Parenting Roles and Unconscious Bias

A point was made by one of the commenters on the poll, questioning whether (when it comes to parents) employers’ attitudes differ depending on which parent is the one Working From Home.

This comment got a fair few likes. Then when I looked further, I realised the majority of people who voted were women and everyone who shared a personal story on the subject was female.

This does beg the question of whether this is a bias on WFH or more unconscious (or perhaps even conscious) bias against women in the workplace who WFH?

This could be yet another insight into the ongoing existence of gender bias and inequality in the workplace. With a bias against mothers Working From Home adding yet another layer to this.

Do I think that this is in actual fact the case? I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. I believe there are employers who still have gender equality issues and I believe there are employers who have an unfair bias about people who Work From Home. Some of these will overlap and become mixed with one another, but both need addressing.

FTDAWWFH (Free To Do Anything While Working From Home)

Clearly in extremes, this is what some believe Working From Home actually means. There needs to be a serious crash course on what WFH actually is.

Lesson 1 for businesses is reminding them what the ‘W’ stands for. Just because the location of where it is being conducted happens to be home, that doesn’t give the employees the magical ability to be able to take care of all domestic responsibilities while they are at work.

That insinuates that the work they do is less important or easier because they happen to be doing it at home, which clearly isn’t the case. Lesson 2 should be on further flexibility.

It’s clear from our data that some businesses believe WFH is all the flexibility anyone needs. First and foremost, if someone has 8-10 hours worth of work to do in a day, where are they supposed to find time to:

  • Clean the house
  • Do the laundry
  • Pick kids up from school
  • Look after children at home
  • Drop kids off at football, dance, karate etc.
  • Cook meals
  • Look after a sick relative
  • Deal with an unforeseen emergency
  • Go to a doctors, dentist or vet appointment

This list could go on and on, for some people their daily lives consist of this and more. So between all that which they apparently have full availability for, where are they finding the time to complete the 8-10 hours of work that has been set for that day?

Are they expected to work into the early hours of the morning? Because that sounds flexible. So why should they or their wife, husband, partner, mother, father etc. be denied any kind of flexibility to help with any of these responsibilities?

The Solution

Honestly, I think if there are any businesses suffering from any of the aforementioned bias I think they need some serious HR consulting. Working From Home is purely about location, what flexibility comes with that is a totally separate conversation for individual employers to have with their employees.

Although, no employee whether they WFH or not should feel unable to ask for certain needs to be met. And this certainly should not be the case for people who happen to have a member of their household who Works From Home.

There is no other way to put it: that it is not an employer’s business. It is quite literally someone else’s and that business just happens to have their employee Working From Home. And their work is every bit as important, time-consuming and attention requiring as any employee who does not conduct their Work From Home.

Either way, there is definitely a misconception about Working From Home and how flexible it is. The same could be said for the 4-day week which is another hot topic right now. See what John Adams has to to say on the subject and how flexible it really is.

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A Day In The Life Of... Careers

A Day in the Life of Director: Sally Marshall

Find Your Flex is delighted to be delivering our latest installment of the Day in the Life Of series. Sally Marshall is someone who wears many career hats, but is still able to find true work-life balance!

Sally is a social enterprise advisor as well as the director of her own business. Take a look at how Sally finds her day to day and what drives her in her career!

WHAT DOES A WORKING DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

I currently have 2 contracts with Social Enterprise Kent, working with business owners as a social enterprise adviser. This involves talking to businesses about where they are and where they want to be, putting in place a strategy for increasing awareness and growing their network.

I also work with community interest companies and charities and they often want help identifying and applying for funding. I also run my own business, so I work on that during the evenings and weekends.

I publish a business magazine, so networking is important when keeping the magazine in the forefront of people’s minds. I can do this through social media and engaging with other businesses.

I also have a membership for businesses offering group coaching, a monthly digital planner and social media templates. I know how difficult it can be to do everything in a business so I use my knowledge and experience to support others.

HOW DO YOU FIND A LIFE WORK BALANCE?

My role is pretty flexible and depends on which programme I’m working on and where my clients are based. For the Steer Your Business magazine, I schedule articles on social media during the weekend or evening which doesn’t take too long so it doesn’t impact too much on my personal time.

I’m also setting up a membership for sole traders and this again is automated a lot of the time, with intervention in the evening and over the weekend. I enjoy what I do so it doesn’t feel like work. I do however, plan some down time so that I switch off.

One of the downsides of having your own business is that you don’t switch off enough, so I know how important that is. Walking away from the laptop helps and switching off the phone as well which I do at the weekend.

ARE THERE ANY OPPORTUNITIES TO PROGRESS?

There aren’t any learning opportunities really at Social Enterprise Kent, particularly as I only work on short term contracts. But in my own business, I’m always learning.

My background in the House of Commons set me on the right track but there’s always room to learn more and develop my own knowledge and experience in different sectors.

WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT YOUR ROLE?

The flexibility it gives me and the choices I have to work with different people in different businesses. I love the challenge and helping other businesses thrive.

IS THERE A DIFFICULT PART TO YOUR JOB?

Juggling everything! I need to be well organised in order to fit everything in. That is one of the reasons for developing the digital planner in a way that works for me and hopefully for others. It helps keep me focussed and on track. I also automate as much as possible so that I have more time for the face to face meetings.

IF SOMEONE WAS CONSIDERING A CAREER IN YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THEM?

I have a lot of transferable skills which I learned at the House of Commons. I didn’t realise how much I knew! I think it’s the same for everyone – you assume others know what you do so we all have something to offer.

I would advise them to research their market, work out what they have to offer and then just go out there and get started. If you wait until it’s perfect, you never actually start so running a business is a steep learning curve but in a good way.

THANK YOU SALLY FOR SHARING YOUR INSIGHTS AS A DIRECTOR! 

A great piece of advice from Sally! It’s inspiring to see a strong business leader so dedicated to her role and one who has so much passion within said role!

If you would like to gain even more insight into how to maintain a work-life balance while working in multiple roles, have a read of a day in the life of a lead power systems engineer and author and founder?

Categories
Flexible Working Future of work

Flexible Working and the Four-Day Week

We all know that one of the major outcomes of the pandemic has been a surge of interest in flexible working. I’ll admit I was a bit concerned this would be a short-term blip but no, I am seeing many more jobs advertised as flexible or employers making clear they are open to remote working.

Interestingly, I had to drive to our local train the other day. Getting a parking space after 8.30am was impossible prior to the pandemic. These days there are always spaces available, a sign that many people are working from home or hybrid working.

Has Working Culture become more Flexible?

Before we get carried away thinking working culture has changed for the better, some organisations seem to be very confused about what flexible working is. Some are offering a thin veneer of flexible working when what they’re actually offering to staff is inflexible working.

Nothing demonstrates this more than the present debate about the four-day working week. There’s even a campaign group calling for a four-day, 32 hour working week with no loss of pay (you can check out its website here).

I have issues with this. Anyone with a genuine interest in flexible working should do. Why? Well, a four-day working week might mean one less day working, but in every other way it is a rigid work pattern. If someone is trying to work flexibly because they have childcare or some other caring responsibility, a four-day working week is unlikely to help much. You still have to organise childcare or fit caring responsibilities around your work hours, hours that are likely to be very rigid.

A Four-Day Week is not always Flexible

Last year, staff from Vice Media Group lobbied management for a four-day working week. When I saw the publicity photograph used to generate publicity for their campaign, I could not help but laugh. It featured a group of Gen Z Vice staff, outside of their office pulling poses that would have looked great on Instagram. I found it very hard to believe that any of them had children or any other sort of caring responsibility.

For Gen Z creatives, a three-day weekend would have meant an extra day to go on a European city-break or to go surfing. I’m not criticising Vice staff. The desire to have more leisure time is a superb reason to work a shorter week. As this poorly thought-out publicity photograph shows, however, there’s only one small demographic who were likely to benefit.

What other impacts does a Four-Day Working Week have?

A further issue with the four-day working week is that work hours often lengthen. Some employers are up-front about this and ask staff to work longer hours in return for a three-day weekend. For others, job design and workload do not change meaning people often sneakily work during the weekend or evenings to keep on top of things.

This, of course, is probably the biggest issue with the four-day working week. In many respects it is based on presenteeism, not outputs. If a particularly efficient employee can complete all their tasks in three days by cutting out the commute and working from home, why not let them work that way?

A further fear of mine is how a four-day working week could impact on gender equality. My concern is that employers will be much more open to female employees working a four-day week on the assumption they have family commitments. This simply reinforces unhelpful gender stereotypes: i.e. men’s correct place is the workplace and for women it’s the home.

A Four-Day Week is just one form of Flexible Working, it won’t suit everyone

A four-day working week should only be one option available in the flexible working mix. For some people it will be the correct approach, but it simply does not work if you impose it on all employees. Employers also need to be very clear about whether staff will be working compressed hours or if they work 32 hours a week and they need to be extra careful about reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Oh, and one further interesting point. Back in 2017, Vice published an article headlined: A 4-Day Work Week Isn’t Necessarily Better For You. It actually makes for a very interesting and balanced read. Isn’t it ironic that it was published by the very people now lobbying to adopt this method of working?

Of course, a Four-Day week is not the only form of flexible work that has been overly focused on by businesses since the pandemic. Hybrid working has been largely looked at by businesses as the only form of flexible working that is necessary. But take a look at why this is not the case and why Hybrid isn’t always flexible.

Categories
Career Returners Career Returners Careers Equality and Diversity

Gov Returners Programme for Women in STEM

Back in June Find Your Flex released an article questioning whether society is doing enough for women in STEM roles. Nine months later on International Women’s Day 2022, the government announced it’s plan to introduce a returner programme for women in STEM.

We’re happy that the government is catching up and acting on the clear path forward. Returner programmes are nothing new, Find Your Flex have hosted several returner programmes including STEM industry programmes.

However, a government implemented scheme designed specifically for women in STEM is a huge step in the right direction. Or is it?

How does a returner programme help get more women into STEM?

The aim of this programme is to close the gender-pay gap in the STEM industry. So how does this returner programme accomplish that?

In order to build upon something, the foundation needs to be maintained. Women who are currently in the STEM industry need to be retained and women who have stepped away from the industry for a time need to have entryways back, otherwise there will be nothing to build upon.

This is also about making sure the gap doesn’t widen by having women leave a role in STEM for temporary reasons and those roles being filled by men. And not having valuable knowledge and experience that women possess in this industry go to waste.

Women often report that they don’t feel as if they belong in engineering and computing fields … This more tenuous sense of fit with the professional role of an engineer was found to be associated with a greater likelihood of leaving the field.”

This shows there’s a battle on two fronts; trying to get women into STEM roles and trying to keep the ones already in place. Returner programmes are the middle ground; trying to get women back into STEM roles who have left.

Are women in STEM the priority?

The government implementing a STEM returner programme specifically for women is a wholly positive move. Although the way in which it was announced does bring into question how much of a priority this is really? It was introduced almost as a subsidiary of the transparent salaries pilot scheme, as it was showcased within that announcement.

However, STEM returner programmes for women feels like a totally separate scheme to transparent salaries. Though both can be used as tools to close the gender-pay gap, they also have other effects outside of that. Transparent Salaries affects all industries and tackles multiple issues. This programme focuses on one issue in one industry.

Getting more women into STEM roles and returning to STEM careers is a separate issue and a prominent one. It would have perhaps been more prudent if this returner programme had been announced separately or at least been given equal focus. This would have shown the government is just as committed to both.

Although, the fact that a government is running this programme is a huge step in the right direction. It shows that there is a need for more women in STEM roles in general and this should have a positive impact on that.

Returners and Retention in STEM could lead to further female talent Acquisition

Having a government backed returner programme will make it easier for women to return to higher level positions. Previously they have found this difficult if they did want to return to the STEM industry. Re-entering via roles they are overqualified for.

The 2021 STEM Returners index survey revealed that 61% of returners found the process of returning to the industry difficult or very difficult. Those who did return commented on being overqualified for their role and had entered at levels below where they were prior to their break.

This is one reason the returner programme will aid in helping new female talent enter the STEM industry. If experienced, qualified women are re-entering the industry at a lower level, this results in less opportunities for new talent. If qualified women re-enter at the same level they left, there will be more opportunities for new female talent.

There is also the chain reaction of the more women retained and returning in the STEM industry the more role models there are. An existing barrier is there is not enough female representation for girls in education to pursue a career in STEM.

A pwc report contained testimonials from female students. Some said they don’t want a career in tech as it is a male dominated industry. 83% of female students could not name a prominent female role model in tech. The more women in STEM, the more role models and prominent figures there will be.

The future of Women in STEM

No matter how you look at it, the future is far more hopeful for women in STEM after the government’s announcement. It’s one thing for businesses to individually or even collectively do their part to fix an issue. But when the issue is big enough to warrant government action, it results in an important shift within the industry.

Could more be being done? Of course! But this is just the beginning, getting more women into STEM roles will require far more time and investment to achieve the end goal. But this is a big step towards that, now we can focus on what the next step is.

For more information on women in the STEM industry click here.

Categories
Equality and Diversity Future of work

Transparent Salaries Scheme to close Gender-Pay Gap

On International Women’s Day 2022, a government pilot scheme was announced aiming to lessen the gender-pay gap for women. By having employers have totally transparent salaries in job descriptions.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Find Your Flex have participated in research and are always aiming to be a driving force in eradicating the gender-gap. This will undoubtedly make a positive change in this area, but in other areas as well.

The main aim of this scheme is to remove barriers for women, which is excellent and more than needed. But transparent salaries will have other positive impacts too on job seekers in general.

Although this is a positive step in the right direction, there are questions that this raises. Such as; should this only be a pilot scheme? What are the all round impacts of transparent salaries for employees and job seekers? And what more needs to happen in this area?

How will the Transparent Salaries Scheme affect the Gender-Pay Gap?

First and foremost; transparency in general within the workplace has a positive affect on the removal of all inequality. However, in terms of the gender-pay gap, transparent salaries put men and women on an equal playing field from the get go.

If the salary is transparent in the job description, that means there is little to no chance that the employer is going to pay a man more than a woman for the same role. Whereas, if the salary is advertised as Negotiable or On Application, there is no telling what an employer factors in when deciding what your salary is going to be.

By being transparent, everyone who applies knows they will be getting paid the same regardless of gender. Information is key, and Minister for Women Baroness Stedman-Scott appears to take this stance during her announcement of the scheme:

The UK can only grasp its full potential by championing its brightest and best, and ensuring everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to succeed.

We believe that increased pay transparency will build on positive evidence of the role information can play when it comes to empowering women in the workplace.

It certainly empowers a woman to know what they are going to be paid if successful when applying for a role. If an employer offers less than what was advertised, the applicant is in a position to challenge that.

Though positive, should this have happened sooner?

While we all recognise this is a positive move in the right direction towards gender-equality in employment. Not to put a negative spin on it, but it is important to point out that this is a move that should have happened long ago.

Why is it important to point this out? Because we measure the speed of progress by how long it takes to achieve certain milestones in the present. In reality, making salaries transparent in job descriptions is a really simple yet effective move. One that could have been implemented much sooner.

The conversation on transparent salaries decreasing the gender-pay gap and discrimination has been ongoing for years. Many employers who adopted a transparent salary policy have advocated it’s use to eradicate discrimination.

In 2016 Huffington Post spoke to several business leaders and owners who advocate transparent salaries. Ian Pearman, who at the time was the CEO of one of the UK’s biggest advertising agencies and he put it in the simplest terms:

Nothing is more corrosive than the sense that there is inequality in the system. And layered on top of that may be specific concerns relating to gender and race – ‘Am I paid less because I am a woman? Or from an ethnic minority?’ With transparency, these questions don’t even occur.

When you put it like that, it seems obvious that all organisations should have transparent salary policies. And if you think 2016 is as far back as this goes, you’d be wrong.

In the same article the global food shop Wholefoods stated they have been making the salaries of their employees public since the 1980’s! Yet in 2018 there were still arguments being made against all companies implementing this.

Is there an argument against transparent salaries?

That depends on your point of view. In an article by Time which was published in 2018, with the pros and cons were being weighed up. With the pros still being the eradication of discrimination, closing of the gender-pay gap and employee benefits.

Some of the supposed drawbacks included; risking pitting employees against each other due to jealousy and businesses struggling to hire people to lower rate roles.

In response to the latter; if a business is really struggling to secure applicants, the role must be extremely unappealing and not just from a salary standpoint. If increasing the salary is not possible then there needs to be other benefits to the role that will make up for the lower salary.

As for the former; jealousy and resentment in the workplace is a whole separate issue. If it exists within your organisation there will likely be more to it than just salaries alone. Sadly this is sometimes unavoidable whether employees know each other’s salaries or not.

Though these are challenges, they really cannot be used as excuses in the face of eradicating discrimination and closing the gender-pay gap. It may mean more work for HR department and recruitment but in the long term every company would be better off.

Why is this only a pilot scheme?

Judging from what we have laid out already, you may be wondering why the government is only rolling out a pilot scheme. If the pro’s are so vast and con’s are so minimal shouldn’t a full scheme/legislation be implemented?

That is certainly the hope for the future. However, because this scheme has been planned to achieve a certain goal i.e closing the gender-pay gap, a lot goes into this.

Existing policies, practices and processes may need to change and then if after a set amount of time has past, the scheme will be reviewed. If the objectives have been achieved and the overall outcome is positive then it may lead to a wider scheme or piece of legislation being implemented.

So what could this lead to? If a wider scheme is introduced many big companies will ensure their salaries are transparent. Any companies that don’t will look increasingly unethical. Possibly gaining a bad employer reputation if they don’t make the shift.

Of course the main hope is that a major piece of legislation is passed which will require all UK businesses to be transparent and state salaries on job descriptions. Then they will obligated to do so which would be a major victory for employees and job seekers alike.

Transparent Salaries will not only help close the Gender-Pay Gap, but benefit job seekers in general

Although this scheme is being piloted in an attempt to close the gender-gap. The fact of the matter is that it is a huge step in the right direction for job seekers in general.

In August of last year, Find Your Flex conducted our own research into this topic. We asked whether job applicants are put off applying for a role where the salary is not stated in the job description. Over 4,000 people voted and the overwhelming majority said they would be put off.

They expanded on their reasons providing view points that gave us an understanding of what is important to job seekers.

So why are transparent salaries vital in job descriptions? The most obvious answer is that pay is one of the most important parts of the job for applicants.

What we are paid is what facilitates our lives, so we need to know if the role we are applying for will continue to do this. Not stating a salary from the beginning puts the applicant at a disadvantage.

If the salary is stated as negotiable or on application, the employer holds all the cards. Offering applicants different salaries for whatever criteria they see fit. This is why transparent salaries are not only a tool to combat a gender issue, but discrimination in general.

For all an applicant knows, they are being offered less because of their gender, age, race, experience-level, who knows? If the salary is not stated only the employer knows, how is that fair or right?

Now job applicants will know from the beginning what their salary will be. They know it will be based on their ability to do the job and nothing else. And they will know whether or not the job is worth applying for without wasting their time.

A step in the right direction

All in all, this is a step in the right direction to close the gender-pay gap, erase discrimination from the workplace and empower job seekers.

Should this have happened sooner? Yes it absolutely should. And it does show that as far as progress goes, both the government and employers have a ways to go. We know what the issues in both the workplace and in the employment process are, so it should not have taken this long for this scheme to arise. The time for action is now.

Although, as the old cliche goes: better late than never. And we do want to stress that this is a positive development, if not only for the scheme itself but hopefully the domino effect it will cause.

We are looking forward to what effect this scheme will have on the future of working and we will be watching this space very closely in the meantime.

Thank you for reading, if you would like to find out what more Find Your Flex has to say on this and other topics click the link here.

Categories
A Day In The Life Of... Careers

A Day In The Life Of The Lead Power Systems Engineer and Author & Founder of Butterfly Books

We’ve been lucky to gain so much insight from people in a number of different roles. Now Find Your Flex is ecstatic to be presenting the next installment of our Day in the Life Of series.

The amazing Kerrine Bryan tells us how she achieves life-work balance with not one but two roles! Kerrine manages a career as a Lead Power Systems Engineer and is an Author and Founder of her company Butterfly Books. Take a look at her working day to see exactly what balance is!

What does a working day look like for you?

I work in the energy group for WSP USA, which is a global engineering and professional services consultancy. Based in New York, my role is a mixture of technical, project management and business development work. I’m working on some exciting power generation projects including co-generation, energy saving studies and renewable power. For my engineering role typically – I start early around 7 am and start off responding to emails and sorting out any admin. My role involves design so I use software to calculate electrical requirements to ensure electrical systems are safe for use. Mid-morning and early afternoon I tend to have meetings – those could be internal or client meetings. Then back to design work in the afternoon. Occasionally I have project site visits, mainly in the New York area, but I have also traveled to other states and countries for my work.

My work for Butterfly Books includes general running of the business, writing new books, and coordinating with the team on content that will help us make a social impact and spread awareness about our mission. We work closely with other organisations when creating the books so there are often collaboration meetings and our busiest time is when we have a book launch. But that’s also a lot of fun too!

How do you find a life work balance?

I’m married and have two daughters who are 4 and 2 years old. My husband and I moved to the US just before they were born so we don’t have the family support that we would have if we were in the UK. Pre-Covid, just like many industries, the engineering and energy industry were less flexible, but the pandemic has forced them to move to more flexible working patterns and companies have been able to see that it can work. My current employer has always been flexible. I’m currently working part-time in my engineering role, so that’s 3 long days per week. This gives me the time I need for organising the kids (including school run and extra-curricular clubs) and also keeping Butterfly Books going – which is a UK based social enterprise.

I work on the Butterfly Books on the days off for the few hours whilst the kids are in school and also in the evenings once they are in bed. My husband does the school run on the days that I’m engineering, and I do the school run on the other days. The flexibility of my engineering role has really helped be achieve work-life balance.

Are there any opportunities to progress?

Yes definitely, particularly with the skills gaps in engineering there is always an opportunity. I was recently supported by my employer to study for and take a US professional exam. This involved me taking some time off to study, working lots of late nights. In terms of running Butterfly Books and being a business owner, that’s more self-learning/. By building a network of people doing similar things, as I have done, we learn from each other too.

What is the best part about your role?

The best part of engineering is that not one day is the same. Every day presents a challenge, so work is never boring, plus I always learn something new every day. Similarly with running my business, Butterfly Books, it’s a continuous learning curve. But what keeps me going is knowing that we are working towards having a positive impact on equality across industries and different careers.

Is there a difficult part to your job?

I can honestly say that there haven’t been too many difficulties in my engineering role. The publishing industry, however, is very traditional and rigid with many barriers to entry. This is something I’ve had to circumnavigate when setting up Butterfly Books.

If someone was considering a career in your area of expertise, what advice would you give to them?

If someone was considering a career in engineering I would say to speak with engineers – and if you don’t know any then there are plenty of resources or organisations that can put you in touch with engineers – such as the Institute of Engineering and Technology. When it comes to publishing – I’m still learning – but again it’s the same approach of reaching out to organisations and building a network to share ideas and learn from others.

Thank you Kerrine for sharing your insights as The Lead Power Systems Engineer and Author & Founder of Butterfly Books!

Thank you so much to Kerrine who an excellent role model for anyone who is driven and is looking to have a varied professional life while still maintaining life-work balance!

To read more about what a working day looks like in different roles, why not take a read of the day in the life of Business Support Manager Akinsanya Tolulope!

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Future of work Output

Productivity, Productivity, They’ve all got it in for Me!

The figures from the Office of National Statistics are in and they make for very interesting reading. What figures are these? Productivity estimates for Q4, 2021.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. The figures show that remote, flexible working has created a more productive workforce. Not just productive, but a workforce that is more productive working fewer hours.

Line Graph showing the increase of Output Productivity and hours worked from 2008 to 2021.
(Line Graph showing the increase of Output from 2008 to 2021.)

The Productivity Numbers Don’t Lie!

There is a vast amount of statistical detail and analysis behind the figures produced by the ONS so I’ll keep it simple. Prior to the pandemic, average hours worked by UK workers were 32.1 a week. For the final quarter of 2021, it is estimated the average number of hours worked was 31.6 per week. Output, however, was 0.8% above 2019 levels.

Interestingly, on the day these figures were published, my wife had been working in her office. It was the first time she had gone to her workplace for ages. I happened to tell her about the ONS stats and she said: “Well I left the house this morning at 7.30am and I’m just back now, so that’s a 12 hour day and I’ve spent maybe six of that actually working.”

I think my wife’s comment sums up the problem with the old, inflexible working culture. Everyone wasted time commuting to an office to use a laptop when that same device works perfectly well at home.

So to Maximize Productivity should we Abolish Office Working?

No, I am not suggesting we should get away of all offices forever. I think that is unrealistic and they do serve a purpose for team building, training, occasional meetings etc. Nonetheless, the figures suggest a predominantly home-based workforce, one that doesn’t pollute the planet travelling to work each day, is more productive.

I had long wondered what impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on productivity. It was reasonable to think things could be that bad because I didn’t hear any employers saying the productivity of their staff had tanked when the ‘work from home’ orders were in place in England. I have to caution that the ONS stats are estimates, but if they are correct, they show that remote work is productive work (It is also worth noting this set of stats are the first set to be produced following the ending of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which had an impact on productivity levels).

Creating a Productive Future of Working.

What I hope this leads to is a discussion about presenteeism and flexibility. If you can be more productive working fewer hours, why should you be online or in the workplace simply because your contract says you should? Better still, if you can be more productive without travelling to a workplace, why should you experience the stress of making that journey in the first place?

This is particularly relevant for fathers. Research carried out at the beginning of the pandemic by the Fatherhood Institute found dads spent more time with their families and took on more of the domestic burden when they no longer had to commute to work.

Could we possibly reach a point where employment contracts state that they expect you to work: “38 hours a week or until you have completed allotted tasks to your manager’s satisfaction, whichever comes first”? I’d like to think this is the next logical step.

Prioritising Productivity Going Forward.

Now is the time to ask these questions. The work from home order is no longer in place in England and it does feel like we are entering a new phase of the pandemic. Potential conflict in the Ukraine and Prince Andrew’s legal battles are dominating the news headlines (for all the wrong reasons I should stress) but COVID is way down the news agenda. After two years of this nonsense, we seem to be drifting to a point where we are adapting our lives and accepting the fact COVID is here to stay.

What COVID did was get everyone thinking about working culture: Employees, employers, trade unions, academics and policy makers. As part of this drift to a new normal, we must not forget about the progress made in adopting flexible and remote working. There’s now evidence to show productivity has improved by working this way. If anything, now is the time to shout loudest to make sure we don’t slide back to less productive working patterns. After all, unproductive working patterns are bad for everyone.

To find out more about Output based working have a read of our piece on Input and Output – The Human Mechanics of Work!

Categories
A Day In The Life Of... Careers

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BUSINESS SUPPORT TEAM MANAGER: Akinsanya Tolulope

It’s important in every company to keep the ball rolling in all areas of business. That is why the role of Business Support Team Manager is one of the most instrumental roles within any business, as they are often the people to turn to for all forms of support that will ensure employees meet KPI’s.

This is why Find Your Flex is so excited to be presenting the latest installment of our A Day in the Life of series. As we gain insights from HMRC’s very own Business Support Manager Akinsanya Tolulope! Who explains the responsibilities of her role and how she maintains work-life balance.

What does a working day look like for a Business Support Team Manager?

I ensure that the CCM and regime teams are supported in delivery of the Large Business operating model. Directly line manage a cross regime team of Band AO’s who support all stakeholders across LB SNI and undertake general corporate support duties. I ensure that my team meets all KPI’s and successfully deliver on the support functions within their remit. A day in my role would start with ensuring that the arranged cover for the regional mailbox is available and if not, to find a suitable cover as soon possible. To find a suitable cover, I will have to communicate the situation with the team and ask for volunteers to cover fully or partially. I must ensure that work is picked up across the team and that nothing misses the KPI’s.

I review my teams leave position, approve any request and discuss any inconsistencies with the affected person. I am also one of the single points of contact for the regime handling systems. I manage access and permissions for colleagues on the regime handling systems and the mailbox within my line of business. I am a key member of the Race network, actively supporting the business to deliver on REAP. So, I spend part of my days catching up tasks to deliver on some of the network’s projects.

How do you find a work life balance?

HMRC is one of the best organisations when it comes to supporting employees on work-life balance. As a mother of two and an employee who lives an hour by driving from my primary place of work, I have benefitted greatly from available support. My role allows me to work from home, office or a mix of both.The organisation takes individual circumstances into consideration and appropriate measures in place for adequate interventions.

Are there opportunities to progress?

My role comes with opportunities such as apprenticeship, management development programme and wider HMRC/Civil service opportunities. This opportunities do not only help to excel in my current role but also have the potential to develop the right skills for future endeavours.

What is the best part about being a Business Support Team Manager?

The best part about my role is the opportunity to learn a little bit about everything and learn something new almost everyday. Managing a team that works across regimes means that aside from gaining knowledge on these regimes, I also get to collaborate with colleagues across different regimes. So I’m constantly meeting new people and regularly updating my knowledge of how the organisation works.

Is there a difficult part to your job?

Managing people can be quite challenging especially when there is the need to align their personal needs with organisational needs to achieve a positive outcome. I navigate this by gaining comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter. Communicating the benefits for the organisation and the individual to the affected person(‘s) and negotiate the best outcome for all.

If someone was considering a career in your area of expertise, what advice would you give them?

Be open to learning and make the best of every opportunity.

Thank you Akinsanya for sharing your insights as a Business Support Team Manager

It’s exciting to hear about such a challenging and varied role! And one that clearly takes a lot of passion to do well and we are so grateful to see how passionate Akinsanya is about her work. We know this will inspire readers who are of the same mind and what like to get into a role in the same field!

There are a variety of roles out there! If you want to read what its like to work in these, why not take a look at are other ‘A Day in the Life Of…’ installments!

Check out A Day in the Life Of R&D Category Lead: Aline Mor to find out more!

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