“I didn’t want to be a weekend dad: CBI urges flexibility”
So, I began my week normally, catching up on admin and checking the key business news and saw this headline and my immediate thought was here we go again, the same old business story regurgitated again. I did however, read this article as it always fascinates me when an established business comes out and says how wonderful they are in providing flexible working for their staff.
Firstly, I would like to say that if Simmons & Simmons are as good as they claim they are in this article then I applaud them. My experience of working with professional services firms for the past fifteen years though is sadly very different, with very few that seem to genuinely engage with their staff and understand what they want from a job and what they need to be able to perform at the highest levels.
There are some great exceptions and these tend to be the most progressive firms but often not the largest. My experience suggests that the largest firms are not the most productive, often the total opposite. They impose working practices on staff, they dictate what is happening in the workplace and expect staff to give up their lives for the benefit of the business.
What is interesting is that most people will quite happily commit more time and effort to a business if they are getting something back and not just money. If they can work in a way that suits their life and strengths, they will more than often give far more. I recently did some work with a firm who were struggling to attract new staff at all levels and as a medium size professional firm this was holding back their growth. Their challenge was ingrained in the partnership, they were used to working in a certain, dare I say old fashioned way and did not think this could change. Following a period of time, working with the staff, they developed a picture of a different firm, delivering the same, high quality of service, but in a way that meant their staff were far more content and happy to more ours, just not necessarily in the same way they had before. Technology played a big part, but most importantly was the communications within the business.
The result was impressive, their clients were getting a higher level of support, the firm became more productive and staff were far happier. Over time this has led to the firms’ reputation growing and they are now in a position where they can recruit new members who would not have looked twice at the firm before.
So we go back to the heading “I don’t want to be a weekend dad”. In the article there is a great graph that illustrates how far off the pace we are as a nation in terms of productivity. The only way we can address this is to stop thinking we have to do more and more hours and to start recognising that it is more important that someone focuses for the time they are working without other worries. If you are constantly thinking “I should be with my family” you are not going to give your best work.