A new report suggests that flexible working agreements may address many of the fundamental inequalities of the workplace. But how can businesses meet the logistical demands of managing a highly flexible workforce?
Flexibility as standard
The digital age has spawned an abundance of catchy buzzwords – from paperless offices to uberfication – to describe what is, essentially, the decentralisation of the working environment. But this has often come with a downside: although some developments have improved productivity and personal freedom, others have opened the door to a new era of exploitative working practices.
Now, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has stepped into the debate over modern workplaces, with a report which recommends all employment in the twenty-first century should be considered flexible by default.
Fair opportunities for all: A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain studies the beneficial impact of flexible working hours in several key areas of employment. The study suggests that less rigid working arrangements may help to improve issues as wide-ranging as diversity, fathers’ access to paternity leave, and closing the gender pay gap.
The core of the EHRC proposals say that rigidity in our working culture creates obstacles for candidates who choose – or are forced – to take on extra responsibilities beyond their professional careers: factors which include parenting, adult learning, and disability. It is argued that flexible working agreements would rebalance the employment landscape, so that individuals who have to shape their working life around other commitments do not face discrimination. But why are we only discussing the issue now?
In short, it is a matter of capabilities. In the past, businesses have not had the facilities that enabled them to manage highly personalised working agreements with every individual. Today, we have recruitment software which solves the logistical and administrative challenges that have barred employers from offering bespoke working arrangements in the past. Database management services and semantic search engines can fill even the most specialised roles in a fraction of the time of a traditional candidate search. There is no reason why they cannot provide the answer to finding placements for candidates with the most complex of requirements, too.
Manpower publishes its Millennial findings
The EHRC recommendations arrived in the same week that the Manpower agency – which is responsible for the placement of 3.4 million recruits, temporary staff, and contractors – released survey data of its millennial workforce.
Far from confirming the popular misconception that millennials are an under-employed generation, the findings show that almost three quarters (73 per cent) of respondents are working for more than the standard 40 hours per week.
While full employment is seen as positive, there are signs that exploitation is on the rise, too: nearly a quarter of young professionals report regularly working more than 50 hours a week. That the legal maximum average of 48 hours per week is frequently exceeded suggests that some level of exploitation remains in Britain’s employment market.
Employment rises – but productivity falls
A conflicting set of figures have been released this week from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – showing that, while unemployment dropped to its lowest level since 1975 (just 4.4%), quarterly productivity numbers have fallen too (-0.5% in Q1 of 2017).
The conundrum of a growing workforce accounting for stagnant output has been dubbed the “productivity puzzle”. It is certainly a multifaceted issue, too complex to unravel in our short news round-up. But it does shine a light on the overlooked issue of quality of employment, as opposed to rates of employment. While job-share schemes and zero-hours arrangements may bring down overall unemployment numbers, there is now a significant concern that splitting one role between multiple workers may be affecting efficiency and output.
Volvo grows with decentralised recruitment tools
The Swedish car manufacturer Volvo is seeking to expand its UK operations with the 300 new technician roles. It aims to meet this goal by deploying its most decentralised and intelligent recruitment tool to date.
The company’s new recruitment portal will provide every individual Volvo dealerships with access to standardised forms and templates, enabling them to deploy targeted job adverts quickly, and to the most efficient channels available.
The portal will also allow dealers to receive, store and access candidate information quickly, communicate with and track applicants, and schedule interviews. Helen Davis, career development manager of Volvo UK, said that the use of “clever and intuitive technology” would allow the brand to “broaden the industry’s appeal to those who may not have considered a career in automotive retail in the past.”