Helping businesses hire flexible senior talent/people professionals is one of our busiest and most successful areas: the companies we work with are discovering it works extremely well. Let’s take a look at exactly why these roles are so perfect for flexible, and explore whether we can apply what we’ve learned to other roles.
What does a Head of People/Talent do?
We’ve collected the three key responsibilities that we see most often. Heads of People/Talent:
- Identify and hire great people for the organisation.
- Define, socialise and protect the company culture.
- Coach and mentor business leaders to develop a high-performance environment.
These all require a significant amount of high-value facetime – which is good, as a Head of People tends to be “people” focused (almost by definition). Their skills lie in influencing others and building relationships; that’s where they get and impart the most energy. Consequently their default working environment will be office-based, around others.
However, constant face-to-face engagement and a non-stop open-door approach can actually hinder some of the more strategic and reflective aspects of the role. Lots of businesses see this as counter-intuitive: their understanding is that the more time people spend in an office environment, the more work will get done. But this reasoning only works if the office is the most productive environment for every part of your schedule.
Forced solitude can improve performance
In order to be truly successful, a senior people/talent professional needs individual space. This time allows for strategic planning and reflection on big issues such as culture and overall performance. It can also be the only realistic time to tackle any necessary administration.
A flexible schedule allows for these essential tasks to be conducted in the most productive environment for each activity.
“Forcing myself to work from home gives me the space to ask myself ‘are we on the right track’ for ongoing initiatives. If the answer is ‘no’ I can address it then and there, and if ‘yes’ I know I need to formalise that behaviour/action/initiative to ensure we build a high performance culture, at speed!” – Darren Hirst – Head of People, Tide.co
Other functions which could greatly benefit from some forced solitude:
- As sales also tends to also attract “people” professionals, forced solitude allowing for planning, reflection and administration could ensure staff are focusing their energy on the right things and learning from their mistakes, boosting performance.
“It’s very easy to get carried away with the day-to-day account management that occurs in a month – working from a different environment helps me reflect, and focus on the larger projects that provide more value for clients and builds more business in future.” – Joe Batten – Customer Experience Manager, Juggle.Jobs
One of the reasons that Head of People roles seem to see such immediate benefits from a more flexibly structured working environment is that they have…
A schedule that is well-suited for flexibility
A Head of People schedule tends to fall into 3 distinct categories:
- Predictable appointments (interviews, culture workshops, formal coaching sessions) – 50-60%
- Unpredictable conversations (informal coaching, disgruntled employee meetings, relationship building with the leadership team) – 30-40%
- Independent work (reflection on culture and performance, strategic planning, necessary administration) – 10-20%
Heads of People in flexible roles have the luxury of controlling their predictable appointments to suit their schedule, knowing that they in turn need to be flexible with the unpredictable conversations. The natural give and take of this relationship means that both the Head of People and the business they work with feel well-catered for and in control of the situation.
Roles with a similar split on schedule:
- Predictable appointments (user research calls/meetings, sprint planning, collaborative workshops and stakeholder management) – 30 – 40%
- Unpredictable conversations (LOTS – it’s a role relying on osmosis!) – 30 – 40%
- Independent research, planning and administration – 30 – 40%
- Predictable appointments (client/investor meetings, company meetings) – 50-60%
- Unpredictable conversations (spur of the moment conversations talking about the company to potential clients, staff, investors, suppliers) – 20-30%
- Independent work (reflection on culture and performance, strategic planning) – 20-30%
Sharing the ‘burden’ of communication
Businesses resistant to the new world of flex are often fearful of the management overhead required to manage multiple schedules and needs. In the past, companies have been concerned with just one schedule (theirs) and just one need (theirs). The future of work seems to complicate this, but it doesn’t have to.
We have observed that professionals most successful at “flex” are those that a) know to ask for what they need, and b) are cognizant of reciprocity for a successful working relationship. In effect, they are self-managing.
Heads of People are particularly good at this when it comes to negotiating and communicating their flexible working needs. They view flex as a need but not a right. They feel gratitude to their employer for the flexibility, but never apologise for needing it.
It is perhaps this candid and nuanced level of communication around flexible working which has ensured Heads of People can flourish as flexible workers more than any other reason.
“Being stimulated but also rested at work are not mutually exclusive concepts. I am undoubtedly a better and more productive employee as a result of flexibility and delighted to have found employers that understand this. Isn’t it just common sense?” – Tamsin Webster, Chief People Officer, Alizeti Capital
Hire for flexibility and let individuals thrive
Our experience with Heads of People has shown that senior roles can be done well, if not better, flexibly.
By becoming better at identifying characteristics of self-awareness and adaptability in employees, businesses can simply provide a trusting flexible environment that unlock performances. This sounds like common sense, but we’re discovering that this doesn’t happen “automatically” – it often takes formalising a flexible arrangement to start the process.
Some tell-tale signs of a self-starter candidate that will take ownership of flexibility and use it to maximise both your business output and their own satisfaction:
- They are very results-focused and press you for expected outcomes for their role and the business as a whole.
- Rather than coming to you with problems, they tend to present a well-thought-out plan of action in a collaborative way.
- They are less sensitive to and involved with internal politics because it interferes with productivity.
How to get started with a flex culture
If you are ready to make your next hire a flexible one – be this full-time with flexible location, as described above, or part-time at 2 – 3 days per week – let Juggle help.
Our experienced flexible hiring team can help you identify top-quality professionals with flexible working experience as well as help you identify how to improve your culture to better support flexible working.
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