by Paula on May 16, 2014

This week I have introduced you to the 13 Guideposts strategy used by Consumer Intelligence to set out their way of working and shared with you some of the activity behind this through the eyes of their Head of Talent Jane Ginnever.

Today in Part 3 of this blog I look at what they’ve achieved, my thoughts on it and whether it’s something that can work for you.

When I saw the Guideposts at Consumer Intelligence I was pretty excited and keen to find out more. What I was seeing was EXACTLY the way I work as a freelancer, happening right there in a company with employed people.

Yes, that’s right – exactly how I work.

Weekly ClockEach week contains hours and days. None of those days is by name more precious or less precious than any other. It is a blank canvas of hours. Then in go the fixed time commitments. Some clients I am meeting, or I have to be on site to run some training etc. There are also appointments with school, dentist a friend etc – pre-arrangements that have time-slots.

Then I am left with a list of other things I need to achieve – work and life, business and pleasure. These get slotted in around the other things. i.e. I’d love to take the opportunity to bike ride with a friend on Tuesday because that’s when they’re free and I’ve got a management report to write which I can do on the Saturday night because my husband is out and my son will be in bed. Saturday night has no more value to me than Tuesday morning just by its name, only by the opportunity costs of each portion of time. It is up to me to ensure that by the end of the week I have been everywhere I said I’d be, I have had some fun, some exercise and I have got all of my work done.

So why aren’t employees entrusted with the same level of responsibility and could everyone motivate themselves to manage their time in this way?

The bottom line to me is that Jane is very fortunate in that in Consumer Intelligence she has found the perfect company within which to make this brilliant way of working happen.

  • Directors who are all 100% committed and behind this way of working
  • The majority of the staff are young (average age 36)
  • The company is at a size (45 employees) where it’s small enough for Jane to be able to directly coach & support managers & staff
  • The type of work is such that much of it can be done remotely
  • There is clearly a budget of time and money for training & its importance is valued
  • The type of employee that would be attracted to this dynamic & technical work is the same type that is eager to do more, show more & learn more i.e. not looking to do the minimum they can get away with
  • They have high levels of employee engagement

So can this work in every business?

I am someone who strongly believes that time isn’t money, time is life. Life is about choices, commitment, growing, challenges, family, health and motivation. Life cannot be put into boxes:

BOX A: Work – time to concentrate 7.5 hours per day, work hard, go home, be stressed & unhappy & resentful

BOX B: Home Life – time to do the things you want to do, even though you’re tired or it doesn’t fit with the rest of your family and you dread that you have to go to work again

Ok that’s an extreme example but for some that is reality. Lack of trust, building resentment and ever-increasing demands on our time means many are unhappy with their work-life balance and yet too tired and miserable to see a way out. (And while I’m here don’t get me started on the “work-life balance” phrase meaning that work is not considered to be living!)

Yet in answer to “Can this work in every business?” my answer, at this stage, is probably No…

My vision can’t currently see it working in businesses that:-

  • Have Directors who don’t believe in it or who aren’t able to trust staff
  • Have a type of business that requires staff to be physically present e.g. to operate machinery
  • Are not 100% committed at all levels to making it work
  • Contain a large percentage of people who are very set in the standard ways of working and would struggle to adapt
  • Are large and communication is weak
  • Already have such a poor morale & commitment that staff are abusing their working situation by not pulling their weight anyway

In these situations, Jane acknowledges too that there would be a lot further to go to gain anything like the working practices demonstrated so successfully at Consumer Intelligence. It is not something that could be done in a half-hearted way as it would fail. Yet would it be impossible? I like to think not. With true Director-led belief in a way of working that benefits its people and an ability to really see the opportunities this brings, along with the right people committed to making it happen, I think you’d be surprised at the possibilities.

P.S. Since writing these blogs I have heard from the CEO at Consumer Intelligence. He advised me that his own experience through this was not a straightforward “Yes this can work” but rather a journey of learning and overcoming prejudices as they gradually adapted the new way of working. He also knows that it is not a journey that has ended but rather an on-going one. This a) gives me further optimism that there is opportunity even when there is concern and b) that the future of this for Consumer Intelligence is a positive one as the recognition that the process gradually evolves is the perfect mindset for making any change a success.

Thank you for reading my 3 blogs this week and thank you to Jane for taking the time to share her experiences with me. I’d be genuinely interested in your views on the approach to Flexible Working that I’ve shared. Are you doing something similar? Is it something you can see working for you and your staff or are you an employee that would like to work this way but don’t have the opportunity? 



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