It’s Not Fair! Guest Blog by Joella Bruckshaw*

It's not fair that women get paid less, are passed over for promotion, penalised for having children and criticised for being assertive. Our unhappiness with this state of affairs has been growing since well before women got the vote, 2 centuries ago. Now we are much more in touch with the social and economic cost of being a woman in our society. What we are less aware of is the cost to men.

Men suffer too. They are trained to hold back their emotions, to go out and be tough and never to show ambivalence or uncertainty. It isn't that they don't experience emotions it's more that they have less scope for their expression thereby becoming more comfortable with them. As a result, when they are faced with human tragedy, like a divorce or the death of a loved one, they are more at risk of depression, over using drugs, especially alcohol, of being violent or throwing themselves into work as a way of numbing the pain. Or dare, I say it, becoming sexually dangerous!

In the work place, everything to do with emotions is weak and is attributed to women who, by association, must also be weak! Because they have little experience of talking about their emotions, men may not develop the perceptiveness that comes from being familiar with a wider range of emotional response. The lack of emotional intelligence can play badly when faced with the need to influence people around them, to get buy-in and be downright disastrous if they are tasked with leading a senior management team.

This state of affairs makes it difficult to ask for help. Soldiers are trained to withstand all kinds of trauma, physical and mental and if they subsequently suffer from PTSD, it is very hard for them to seek help. If you aren’t supposed to have a problem why would you expose yourself to ridicule, as much from yourself as anyone else? Consequently, they may never know the regenerative benefits of falling apart and rethinking your game plan, a gift that is given to women every month!

Many men don’t realise how important they are to their children because traditionally, leaving the childcare to the woman has been a cultural norm. Consequently, they tend to lose out on the intimate parenting moments women experience that build a life time bond and embed valuable learning about how to be with others. Although this is changing, it will be hard for the younger generation to deliver on this change of heart as they are less likely to have had a good role model in their own father.

Both sexes have challenges brought about by cultural expectations that undermine their sense of themselves and their freedom to contribute. That’s why I focus on the brand rather than the sex of a client. Understanding and taking ownership of who you are and being able to articulate the value it provides, creates a platform for working together and having the conversations that get things done to achieve the best results.  After all, isn’t that why we are in business?

 

* Joella Bruckshaw helps senior leaders make successful transitions drawing on the energy of their personal brand. With a thorough grounding in applied psychology, Joella has worked 1-1 and with groups to generate motivation and behaviour change across all sectors. Her book How to do it by women who’ve done it focuses on how women get to the top. She is a popular speaker and facilitator and since 2003 has worked full time as an executive coach in the corporate sector. www.joellabruckshaw.com

Your company’s Inclusion Score: How does your culture compare to our Inclusion Criteria?

At Voice At The Table, we’ve been working on developing inclusive cultures for some time now: identifying the starting point, describing the look and feel of an inclusive workplace, and supporting our clients in designing and developing their own inclusive and diverse teams.

In this new series of posts, we will be scoring organisations on their attitude to diversity and inclusion.  Assessing companies’ culture relative to our own Inclusion Criteria, we give them an Inclusion Mark, gauging where they are on the journey towards a strong inclusive culture that nurtures diverse thinking and garners its many benefits.

Our 7 Inclusion Marks describe the various stages of that journey:

  • Don’t Get It! – organisation doesn’t see any benefit from Diversity & Inclusion
  • Window Dressing – organisation understands the need to be seen as valuing D&I
  • Let’s Fix It! – organisation sees lack of diversity as a problem.
  • Seeing The Opportunity – organisation understands the strategic importance of D&I
  • Building the Foundation – organisation is actively building a foundation for D&I
  • Growing & Nurturing – organisation is starting to reap the benefits of D&I and continues to embed them into the business
  • Immersed & Fully Benefiting - organisation has established a successful inclusive culture that benefits from the full value of its diverse workforce

Our first participant is international law firm Withers LLP.  Withers caught our attention because of its impressively-gender-balanced global partnership. It prides itself – rightly so – on a partnership that is 42% female, a statistic that many law firms find, at present, unattainable.  This is a commendable statistic and a great starting point to our investigation into the type of culture that makes this number possible.

A quick glance at Withers home page gives you a clear idea of where this success might come from.  Front and centre on its website is a blog by a male associate talking about the recent Presidents Club debacle, voicing not only his view on the event but also providing guidance, seeking to mitigate clients’ potential exposure to similar outrage.  A law firm that isn’t afraid to openly address topics that others prefer to avoid.

Withers’ London office has been managed by a female partner since 2002, and is also the first City law firm to appoint a woman as chair in 1999.  And, while its management committee needs an uplift in terms of gender balance (evidencing only 2 women on a group of 13), within the EU, 5 of the 6 regional leaders are women while the global management board comprises 4 women and 4 men.

How does Withers measure up to our Inclusion Criteria?

  1. Working Culture

Suzanne Todd, a partner in the London’s family practice group, describes the culture of the firm as a ‘why not?’ culture, where it’s more common to ask ‘Why couldn’t a woman be the Prime Minister?’ or ‘Why couldn’t a woman be our chairperson?’ then to stick with convention.  Although traditional law firm etiquette and approach continue to dominate, the firm is open to change if it considers the change to be in the best interest of its clients and its workforce.

Suzanne describes the vast majority (upwards of 75%) of female partners as mothers, with a return from maternity rate that is second to none.  Virtually all 1st time mums return to their employment.  There is of course attrition at various levels, yet there are no noticeable discrepancies in attrition between the genders.

Many of the female lawyers work 4 days a week, serving as relatable role models to others, and there is a myriad of other flexible working arrangements across the firm.  In pockets, the firm continues to reflect our traditional views and expectations of private practice where men tend to work full time, yet this is starting to shift gradually, as well, with a few male lawyers routinely working condensed hours, i.e. 9 out of 10 days per fortnight.  The firm recognises that parenting is not the only reason that warrants the need to work flexibly and is fully supportive of agile working across the entire firm, both for lawyers as well as support staff.

On the recruitment side of things, the legal field does not suffer from lack of female graduates, so at the intake level, Withers takes on more than 50% of female trainees – and with a 42% female partnership record, it seems that it also is able to retain many of them.

Recently, Withers have been working very hard to widen their candidate pool to make it more diverse.  From using ‘Rare’, a contextual recruitment tool to expand the diversity of the group of universities from which it recruits, to sourcing a wider range of talent through the legal apprenticeship scheme, which enables qualification without the need to go through law school, Withers have been actively addressing this point for the last five years.

  1. Retention, Development and Promotion

In terms of retention, there are no noticeable patterns of attrition that indicate gender inequality.

The firm is very keen to ensure the path to partnership is consistent and clear and has put in place programmes for trainees and new hires that explain the firm’s criteria to partnership.  Transparency of the process does tend to vary from department to department, but there doesn’t appear to be an innate preference for promoting men over women.  The gender balance of partnership promotions may swing one way or another from year to year, depending on the business case, but women at the firm would agree that the partnership opportunities are as accessible for them as they are for their male colleagues.

  1. Diversity as a Market Force

Suzanne explains that Withers understands the need for a diverse workforce on two levels: (1) the firm’s clients are very diverse and the firm needs a workforce equally as diverse to understand and relate to its client portfolio; and (2) legal transactions are becoming more and more complex, and the firm understands that the best way to tackle complex problems is to approach them from a very diverse range of knowledge and experience.  The need, therefore, not only for diversity but also for an environment that nurtures and values it, is seen as a strategic business requirement.

This is also echoed in the firm’s Global Chairman’s statementOur client base is diverse. It is an imperative that we have a diverse workforce to ensure we are effective at meeting those clients’ needs. It means we can build better relationships with them and innovate to find solutions that work better for them.

  1. External Evidence of Commitment

The law firm is subject to the new Pay Gap regulations which will require it to report on the discrepancies (if any) of their pay between women and men.  Moreover, the firm is also a signatory of the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter and is a member of the International Women's Forum, First 100 and One Loud Voice.

This short overview of the firm’s culture against our criteria leads us to award Withers an Inclusion Mark of Building the Foundation towards a strong inclusive and diverse culture.  This puts the firm in a prominent position in the legal industry, where female leadership and strong female representation among partners and senior staff is still the exception, rather than the rule.  Congratulations, Withers! You’re well ahead of the pack!

If you would like us to assess your organisation’s diversity and inclusion, please email info@voiceatthetable.com

The meaning of RESPECT!

By now, most of us will have seen Oprah Winfrey's rousing speech at the Golden Globes. What a way to start 2018, as she reminded us that our truth is the most powerful tool we all have. At Voice At The Table, where our focus in on all things Diversity and Inclusion, we've been talking about what this means to us in the workplace - and we think it's all about respectfor ourselves and for others. It means having the courage to stand up for ourselves, and what we believe in. Really living our values.

Carrie Gracie's decision to resign as BBC's China editor is a great example of this.  Despite being offered a £45,000 payrise, she just wasn't willing to collude with a policy of 'unlawful pay discrimination'.  Hats off to her.
When's the last time you spoke 'your truth'?

In our last Voice Circles of the year, Emma Codd, Managing Partner for Talent at Deloitte UK, talked about their Inclusion journey and the decision to focus on respect for others and on the value they can bring.  Deloitte produced this inspirational video, challenging us all to question our assumptions and look beyond our biases.  It's our personal responsibility to treat others with respect.

So our word for 2018 is RESPECT and we'll be working hard to help our individual and corporate clients challenge themselves and others to appreciate and celebrate the contribution we all make and to respect one another, no matter how different.

Are you comfortable calling out inappropriate behaviour?

Recent high profile events in the US entertainment industry and closer to home in the UK's political world have raised an uncomfortable awareness that inappropriate behaviour towards women is still prevalent in our culture and is tolerated in many organisations, yet most of us think it's less widespread than it used to be.

In fact, in a survey carried out by Opinium Research, 20% of women and 7% of men say they have been subjected to sexual harassment in their workplace. We also know that over half of all inappropriate advances aren't reported. The main reasons are that people feel intimidated, they often don't see any action being taken by management - or that the complaint isn't even acknowledged.

How do you think your organisation would respond if you raised an issue around inappropriate behaviour? Would you have the confidence to call it out if it happened to you or you witnessed it?  What would you do if a colleague told you they had been subjected to harassment?

None of this is easy, or comfortable - but we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our organisations to do something about it. Changing the perception of what's appropriate is a step in the right direction.  That starts with developing empathy, checking our assumptions about others and changing cultural norms.  It takes time and - with the right help and guidance - your organisation too can start the journey to an inclusive, respecting culture.

And the more we become aware of inappropriate behaviour, the more we see it around us.  Custom may dictate an acceptance of practices that, when we think about it, can make us feel uncomfortable. Here's an example: the famous statue of Juliet in Verona.  The custom is if you rub Juliet's breast, you'll be lucky in love. Tourists flock to have their photo taken with a hand on Juliet's breast.

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Is that fun, an age old tradition, or a practice that's had its day?   What's your view?

 

50/50 by 2020? Not without a new approach

The latest figures on female membership of FTSE 100 Boards show a slip back from 26.1% in 2016 to 26% now, and a worrying reduction in female appointments to Boards, with women making up 29% of appointments to UK Boards in 2016, down from 32.1% in 2014.

So…with this paltry rate of success is it realistic to think we can achieve parity in any company or even 33% by 2020? After 40 years of focus on achieving gender balance is it time to think about taking a different approach?

I have recently been having very interesting and refreshing discussions with David A Evans, MD of The Diversity & Innovation Company, a social enterprise which has been established to send business leaders on real life immersion experiences with UK charities and Indian schools to change the way they think.

David set up the company after he had an epiphany when attending an International Women’s Day event aged 48, and found himself feeling uncomfortable and like a fish out of water as only one of three men in an audience of 600, and with an agenda and focus that was all about women and not men.

Up to that point David had always considered himself to be more than sensitive to the needs of advancing women in the workplace – his wife ran a very successful business and he had two teenage daughters whom he had always advised not to accept any constraint on  their career ambitions.  David explained “I immediately thought we need to provide this experience to male graduates on day one, so they gain some awareness of what it is like for women in the workplace, and hopefully carry that memory with them at pivotal points throughout their career”.

At that point David decided to set up a company to provide actual immersion experiences to business leaders to challenge existing norms and broaden leaders’ thinking.

We are now of the view that something in our existing business psyche is holding us back from making breakthrough progress – leaders understand the value of diversity, but experience it through their own life filters.  What we need is an approach that allows us to experience diversity in its purest sense and to understand – one person at a time – how we can benefit from that experience When leaders can develop greater self-awareness and empathy for others, many benefits flow.

To achieve this, David and I decided to collaborate and bring a fresh new approach which will lead to the breakthrough in diversity we all desire.

So if you have any qualms about the existing conventional approaches to improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, or any concerns about not achieving your company’s stated targets of female representation at certain levels, or any unease about whether the existing corporate structures and governance processes are the most conducive environment to encourage women (and, in fact, the future workforce more generally) to operate with the same long hours and stressful conditions which the predominantly male leadership operate….then join our debate about how we really can change the thinking.

David and I are looking for courageous influencers who want to consider taking a different approach, and who want to try alternative approaches to driving diversity of thought and inclusion in the workplace.  Drop me a line if you would like to attend some round table events we will holding in the near future and some new interventions we are planning.

Bringing your whole self to work: conference highlights

On the 21st of June, we held our inclusion conference Ordinary People, Extraordinary Contributions! 

We invited delegates representing a myriad of industries (including law, banking, insurance, the armed forces, consulting, engineering, and tech) to explore how, as individual contributors, they can bring their whole selves to work.

We also explored how organisations can tap into these hidden resources and how team leaders can leverage the complete individual.

We heard from companies that have introduced platforms that encourage individuals to bring their whole self to work, including Google, Accenture, RICS, Pi Consulting, Mercer, National Grid and many more.

We encouraged delegates to find their own hidden talent and think of ways they can bring it out in themselves and others.  We challenged them to think of new ways in which they can stretch their team members and colleagues to give more of themselves,and we urged them to leverage their own diversity and that of their colleagues at work.

Why is this important?

If we don’t feel that we can bring our whole selves to work, or worse, if we feel that there is an expectation of conformity and covering, a number of things happen:

  • Individuals don’t see themselves as leadership potential and therefore forego opportunities for advancement
  • Not being yourself is unsustainable in the long term, leading to high attrition rates
  • The millennial population has an expectation of being valued for who they are and place a high value on being authentic, so a culture that doesn’t respect that runs the risk of not being able to attract or retain talent
  • Above all for business, an inclusive culture allows diversity to flourish. Given that diversity is a key driver for creativity and innovation – the hallmarks of any successful business these days, without inclusion, an organisation cannot harness the diversity of its people.

How do you cultivate diversity? 

  • By allowing every person to bring his or her whole self to work;
  • by allowing each person to capitalise on his or her individual experience;
  • by allowing a bit of friction and difference of opinion in your teams.

What did we learn at the conference?

Our keynote speaker, Miriam Gonzaléz Durantéz talked of the importance of respecting one another, both at work and at home.  Respect evidences itself not just by being polite and kind but by allowing the other person the same liberties and entitlements as one allows himself or himself.

Addressing gender equality in particular, Miriam suggested that we need more men to recognise and acknowledge that women being equal doesn't make men weak.

We then heard from a panel of speakers, including Claire Bennett, a former professional fencing athlete, about integrating skills they developed in personal passions into their daily work routines.  Claire, who now helps former professional athletes to transition into other professions, frequently falls back on the skills she developed as an elite athlete.  Skills like resilience, motivation, endurance, commitment, drive and initiative are the foundation of every elite athlete which will serve any of us working for a successful business.

 

Chuck Stephens of Google shared with us ways in which he inspires employees to bring their whole selves to work.  Having observed that certain unwanted consequences disappear once they have been openly highlighted, Chuck and the company emphasise these ramifications, allowing employees to self-manage their own behaviours.

 

 

Mark Walley. RICS. London. United Kingdom.

Finally, we heard from a panel of representatives from organisations like National Grid, Mercer and the RICS about programmes they have introduced that strive to tap into the full talents and preferences of their workforce. This includes understanding the strengths of each person on the team and supporting them in leveraging those strengths.

 

 

 

 

The panel also talked about fostering a culture that invites employees to bring their whole selves to work allowing team leaders to gather insight into the diverse pool of experience within teams.  One way an organisation can do this is the RICS’ Dare to Share and Dare to Ask platform which encourages employees to share their diverse experiences and backgrounds, as well as feel free to ask simple questions about people’s backgrounds and traditions.

Delegates connected face to face and on-line via our interactive event app, and responded to our LIVE polls

So what now?

We asked delegates to think about what they will be doing differently as a result of the conference.  Here are some of their answers:

  • 18% I will bring more of myself to work
  • 46% I will be a role model to others, encouraging them to bring their whole self to work
  • 24% I will be a more inclusive leader by listening and valuing the whole person
  • 55% I will embark on my personal adventure/journey
  • 24% I will find out how I/others in my team can contribute beyond the job description

Transforming culture

Changing a prevalent culture isn’t easy.  It is, in fact, very difficult.  But if we learned one thing today is that change is inevitable; our society demands it.  Businesses that delay this cultural transformation will be eclipsed by those who act and therefore risk losing out competitively.

What can you do?

If you think your organisation is ready to embrace the change, but you don’t know how to go about it, contact Voice At The Table .  We will be able to offer a number of different ways in which you can embark on the journey to inclusion that is right for your organisation.

We can also help you as an individual to embark on your personal journey or adventure.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for the help that you need, be it mentoring, coaching, or simply by connecting with others  experiencing the same frustrations.

Whether you call us or not, be sure to be the change you want to see!

Guest Blog: 25 Ways to Get Noticed on LinkedIn by Jennifer Corcoran*

Congratulations! You have an ‘All Star’ LinkedIn profile.  You must be doing something right.   Before you become too complacent, please ask yourself the following questions.

(1) Am I really leveraging LinkedIn to its full effect?

(2) Am I using LinkedIn strategically to grow my Personal Brand?

Having an ‘All Star’ profile can simply mean that you have added the various sections into your profile.  You may have very little content in these sections.

“Having a LinkedIn profile is no longer enough, especially if no one is seeing it. Or worse, people are seeing your profile but it does a poor job of representing you and what you do.”   (Melonie Dodaro, LinkedIn Expert).

OK so hands up, you admit that you are not doing as much as you could.

Does this really matter?

Yes.  Did you know that when someone googles you that your LinkedIn profile will usually come to the top of the profile search.  Try it now and see, your LinkedIn profile often ranks higher than your website.

Did you know that LinkedIn users are statistically 4 times more likely to visit your website then Facebook users?  40% of all users sign in daily and 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content.  LinkedIn also generates the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74% so if you are not fully optimizing this platform you are really missing out.

Fear not, here are my 25 top tips to help get you noticed on LinkedIn.

25 ways to get noticed on LinkedIn

  1. First things first create a bespoke LinkedIn URL. I’ve seen some shockers full of digits which does not create a great first impression.
  2. Add your LinkedIn profile to your email signature.
  3. Add your Linked URL to your Business Card.
  4. Add your LinkedIn URL to your CV and application letter.
  5. Post status updates on your home page. Let your connections know that you are active and relevant in your industry. Out of sight means out of mind.  Use the AIDA copywriting formula (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action).
  6. Tag people and companies in your status updates. This is easily done by adding @ and their name.
  7. Join LinkedIn Groups. There is currently a maximum limit of 50. Join ones that are relevant to your industry and personal brand.
  8. If you are active on other social media platforms such as Twitter and don’t have a website you can add your LinkedIn profile.
  9. Write LinkedIn Pulse posts and share these on your social media platforms.
  10. Write your own blog and put the link in your profile. This is a great way of establishing yourself as an expert in your niche.
  11. Check your privacy settings, are you visible to all?
  12. Invest in a professional headshot which stands out for all of the right reasons.
  13. Add a cover photo. You can easily create one on Canva to complement your brand.
  14. Do you look at who is viewing your profile? If they look interesting, why not reach out and connect with them? Always think quality and not quantity.
  15. Always personalise invitation requests. You wouldn’t throw a business card at someone and then walk away would you? If someone accepts your request then adhere to polite etiquette and say hello and thanks. Be social and engage. It’s not called social media for nothing.
  16. Contribute in LinkedIn Groups. Share interesting content and actively contribute to discussions. Always follow the 80/20 rule. When in doubt, ask yourself ‘so what’? Will this inform, educate, inspire or motivate?  Don’t self-promote too much. This is equally as boring in both the online and off line worlds!
  17. Contribute to industry forums, show your knowledge, experience and insights and link back to your URL.
  18. Create your own LinkedIn profile badge.
  19. Check updates from your network as you may spot opportunities which may be perfect for you or other connections. Remember it’s often not what you know but who you know.
  20. If you don’t currently have an up to date CV you can turn your LinkedIn profile into a PDF. I don’t usually advocate the use of a Premium Account but if you are actively job seeking this will help as you can email people outside your usual network.
  21. Be a super-connector. If you have two contacts who you think would work well together than introduce them and explain why you are doing so.
  22. Have a call to action at the end of your summary and experience. Have you listed your email address or how people can get in touch with you?
  23. Tag on media at the bottom of your summary profile (videos, pdf, blogs, etc.) Unlike a traditional CV / resume LinkedIn allows you to inject some personality so why not make the most of this opportunity.
  24. Use keywords throughout your profile. When people are searching on LinkedIn they mainly search for ‘people’ versus things so bear this in mind when you are listing what you do. I’m listed as a Social Media Consultant.  If people search will they find you?  Think specifically about the words and keyword phrases your ideal clients will be using on LinkedIn in order to find you.   Your headline should grab attention and include keywords.
  25. Recommendations are the strongest form of social proof so don’t be shy, get tooting that horn and ask current and former colleagues, clients and connections to recommend you.

Will you be acting on any of these tips? I would love to hear from you.

Just remember…

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”.  (Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People).

* Jennifer Corcoran, Social Media Consultant, My Super Connector

Guest Blog: Making Home Working Work by Elissa Dennis*

Global IT company IBM, a pioneer of remote-working since the 1980s, is reversing its policy in the US and relocating thousands of employees back to central office hubs.  New Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle Peluso has stated that for the company to turn its fortunes around, having seen sales decline steadily over the past few years, things need to change.  Her recipe for success is a mixture of great people, the right tools, a galvanising mission, effective evaluation of results and creative and inspiring locations.

There is a certain logic behind wanting everyone working in one place, but with today’s technology, there are more ways than ever for people to connect; they don’t have to be in the same location to work effectively together.  In making this move, IBM could find they lose more than they gain.  In the long term, it is likely to lose a significant amount of its talent, as those who don’t want to relocate or have a long commute leave the company.  There is also likely to be a painful period of transition as the company goes through this change and employees adjust.

For companies to thrive the right leadership and culture must be in place, that embraces and supports employees, wherever they may be located, stimulating them to be highly motivated and productive.  By taking this approach location becomes less of an issue and companies can draw from a much wider pool of talent, bringing those who are restricted by their circumstances or caring responsibilities into consideration for jobs.  People like mothers with young children or those with a disability, who often feel excluded from the employment market as they can struggle with fitting into the traditional work set, but have a lot to offer become potential employees once more.

In the UK, the trend for homeworking has been steadily growing, as companies recognise the benefits it brings both to them and to their employees.   Analysis from TUC that was released around National Working From Home Day in May last year, reveals that 1.5 million people regularly work from home.  This has risen by almost a quarter of a million in the last decade.  The biggest rise has been among women, with an increase of 35% in the last 10 years.

However, there are still further 4 million people who would like to work from home part of the time who are currently not able to do so.  This shows there is a huge demand that companies are not meeting and that could be damaging employee engagement.  Working flexibly is a top priority for many employees, especially when looking for a new job.  It’s particularly important to those in their 20s, who want a healthy work/life balance and value this type of flexibility.

While it is not possible for every job to done from home, there is definitely more scope for more employees and their employers to enjoy the benefits of remote working.  For this to be successful, it’s not simply a case of providing people with smart phones, laptops and remote IT access. Companies need to think about their working practices and make adjustments to ensure homeworkers feel included, valued and part of a team. Here are some areas that should be considered.

Set up homeworkers with the same care taken with office-based workers

For the best results, homeworkers should have a dedicated area set up for them to work from.  This can be as simple as using the kitchen table, but employers should know where their employees are working from and provide guidance to them about how to set this up in an ergonomic way.  The working environment has a significant impact on productivity, so companies need to invest in the same care and attention into the surroundings for home workers as they do for those who are office-based.

Train line managers in people management

Most line managers are promoted because they are good at their job, not because they have the right skills and expertise to manage people.  A good relationship between line managers and their direct reports is a vital building block for employee satisfaction and has a major influence on staff retention. Too often, managers are not given training into how manage staff effectively or given the time to concentrate on that element of the role.  This is especially important for those managing remote workers.  It is vital that a rapport is built with staff who they don’t see every day to make them feel part of the team. This can be done through training or mentoring from other managers who have experienced how to do this successfully.

Make the most of new technology

There are many tools now available to help people stay connected and employers should make the most of these.  It’s easier and cheaper than ever before to talk to people in different locations or even countries.  With Skype or Facetime it’s possible speak face to face as often as is necessary.  Collaboration tools like Slack, make team communications quick and simple.  Remote workers can set up these tools quickly and feel part of the organisation.  Developments in virtual reality could have significant benefits for home workers.  In just a few years they could use it to join meetings as if they were there in person, enabling communications to be slicker and more engaging than a call or video conference.

Effective advance planning

If employees work from home on a regular basis, ensure that all members of the team know where their colleagues will be every week.  Contact details should be circulated so home workers are easy for anyone to reach.  Putting together a weekly plan including where each team member will be, will ensure meetings can scheduled when everyone needed is available and highlight any times when being in the office is absolutely necessary.

Home working can open up possibilities for many employees who feel excluded from the workplace.  There are huge advantages for companies who embrace it and put the right measures in place to ensure home workers can contribute effectively.  To be successful, time and effort needs to be put in to planning, preparations and management.  All indications are that the trend will continue to grow, especially as advances in technology make being in the same place less important, so to attract the best talent, now and in the future, companies should take the time to explore how it can be made to work for their business.

*Elissa Dennis, Marketing & PR consultant, Out Of The Many

As a working mum for the last 10 years, I know the difficulties of juggling a full-time job and raising children.  During that time, I’ve worked in a number of different industries and seen first-hand how companies that manage flexible working effectively are able to tap into the talents of many employees who find the traditional commute and 9 to 5 working hours impossible.