Why talk about flex in recruitment?

By Lisa Gallagher, Director and Co-Founder of Flexibility Works


Three in four Scottish job adverts don’t mention flexible working at all, despite the impact of the pandemic on working patterns, says new research published by our friends at charity Timewise.

While more than a million Scots have worked from home, or shifted their hours around home responsibilities during lockdown – busting the myth that flexible workers are shirkers – it seems this reality hasn’t yet filtered through to recruitment.


Aside from many employers simply not thinking about adding in words about flexible working to job adverts, the issue, I suspect, is that old chestnut called trust. Many managers still feel their staff need to ‘earn’ the right to work flexibly, proving their dedication and diligence before they are ‘allowed’ the flexibility they want or need.

Let’s not forget, pandemic flex was no-one’s choice. People had to work from home when they could, or switch up their hours to maintain social distancing. It was tough for everyone. But there were unexpected benefits – three quarters of employers credited flexible working with helping their business survive. Many more managers have been converted to flexible working, which is great news.

But either they simply haven’t thought about shouting about this during recruitment, or they’re still sceptical of new recruits who haven’t yet proved themselves.

We’d argue that if you’ve gone to the trouble to assess and interview someone for a role, and you trust them to do that well, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t trust them to work in a flexible way. The CIPD recently launched its Flex from 1st campaign, arguing the same point and urging employers and government to making flexible working a day-one right.

Our research with employers during the pandemic showed that most knew who they would have issues with working from home – it was the same people they had issues with when they worked in the office. Performance was quite separate to flex.

Attracting the right talent

Talking about flexibility in job adverts really does help businesses attract more, and better quality, candidates. Research by the UK Government’s Behavioural Insights Team and the jobs website Indeed shows offering flex explicitly in job adverts would increase applications by up to 30%.

While on the ground, we know of senior law partners who had struggled to recruit, and were then blown away by the change in the range and quality of applications when they mentioned flex and specifically part time roles. And Zurich Insurance, which employs around 240 people in Scotland, found a 45% increase in senior women applying for roles after it added wording about flex to adverts.

If flexibility isn’t mentioned, it will put off good people applying, especially women who tend to feel they need to tick every box. We recently spoke to a group of women returners. They were all smart women who’d previously worked in managerial roles and taken a career break. Every single one of them wanted flexibility, and they were really struggling to find it.

Starting a conversation

Mentioning flexibility doesn’t have to be a big commitment for employers. It’s not necessarily about creating lots of part-time, or home-working roles specifically. It’s simply about starting a conversation with the right person and seeing if there’s a way of working that is mutually beneficial.

Showcasing flex outside job adverts

I hope that if you’ve read this far (!) you get what offering flex can do for recruitment and business more generally. But job adverts aren’t the only place you can showcase happy, healthy work culture.

Candidates often research prospective employer websites and social media channels, so it’s well worth flagging flexible working and other work life balance benefits on these digital platforms to help entice quality candidates.

Future improvements

It’s important to point out we are going in the right direction. More job adverts mention flex than ever before. But with seven in 10 Scots saying they already work flex, or want to, clearly we’re a long way off supply meeting demand.

I hope that more employers who are already embracing greater flex as a result of the pandemic will soon connect the dots when it comes to reaping the benefits of flex during recruitment too.



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