Flexible Employer Event #2: “Employer Branding — Embedding Commitment to Flexibility”

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On the 5 November 2019, representatives from seven major UK employers met at MNHQ to swap employer branding advice, explore new Mumsnet insights, and discuss flexibility in the workplace.

At Mumsnet Talent, flexibility is our mission statement. Our Flexible Employer Programme offers employers a host of resources and support to help them to make the changes necessary for a fully flexible work environment. 

 

Employer Branding and building a reputation for flexibility

While our summer roundtable focused on “Going beyond the policies — how to support parents in the workplace”, our autumn event took employer branding as its theme; “How can employers clearly show their commitment to their life policies and build a reputation for flexibility?”. To discuss this, representatives from both sectors and multiple industries took the plunge, from companies including Metropolitan Police Service, BT, Royal Air Force, Selfridges, Cabinet Office, and Independent Clinical Services. 

“Employer branding” is a buzzword in the recruitment world - and for good reason. Mumsnet Talent recently ran a poll which revealed that 85% of respondents said that a good company culture was “very important” to them when deciding where to apply; a majority 45% said it was “rarely easy” to tell from a company's website whether it might be a nice place to work; and 83% said they “always” look at a company’s website before deciding to apply. It’s clear that for attracting the untapped talent pool of people who require flexibility, being able to shout about your policies and culture is key. 

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The new government bill making flexible working compulsory

One topic that caused a stir was the government’s upcoming vote on the Good Work Plan, a proposal to support families through mandatory flexibility in the workplace. If passed, this bill will require all jobs to be advertised as flexible, with non-conforming companies required to appeal for an exemption. All members of our programme are there to improve their flexibility, but this extra pressure really brings into focus how vital it is for companies to change.

 

Flexibility: challenges and solutions

Despite the gap between private and public sector, and the vast range of industries, the challenges faced by the Flexible Employers seemed to be similar. All wanted to, in the words of Selfridges’ Sarah Cleary, “bring a richness of experience and knowledge into the business”. And while many attendees already had great family-friendly policies, they were struggling with how best to get them across to an audience.  

It emerged that there were similarities across the board — while the Royal Navy was a very different kind of employer to BT, for example, there were learnings and ideas to be taken from all businesses. And it wasn’t just the guests with advice — Mumsnet users also chipped in with their own requests and suggestions on flexibility, taken from the Talk boards. 

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The four-day week

The four-day working week was repeatedly mentioned by users on this thread; user “HJBeans” said that a four-day week would be “a godsend”, with many users agreeing. In response, a representative from the RAF highlighted that they had just launched options to work a three- or four-day week, as well as their existing family-friendly policies. The problem was not the flexibility itself, but how the business could communicate that to potential candidates. This viewpoint was shared across the board (many of the attendees had already implemented similar policies) but they were at a loss as to how to best communicate this. 

 

What did we learn about employer branding?

All too often, it was discovered, flexible benefits such as a four-day week or flexible hours are mentioned as add-ons, when they should be centre-stage. And as Mumsnet user “CMOTDibber” points out, flexibility benefits everyone, not just parents; “When we stop the conversation being only about parents and talk more about employee satisfaction, retention, and performance, the more chance there is of meaningful change”.  

A main learning to come out of the roundtable was this — that when advertising jobs, flexibility should be the starting point and the main event, rather than just an add-on. On Mumsnet Talent, we’ve seen clearly how much difference this approach makes to the number of applications and positive word-of-mouth as a result of employer branding. 

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