How many people work flexibly in your organisation? How open is your company to creating part-time or flexible roles? Do you have people in your Comms team who work flexibly?

Today I have a guest post to share with you written by Jane Johnson of Feel Communications, who has reminded us less than 7% of Comms roles are offered with flexibility.

She has more than 20 years’ experience in Corporate Communications and her last role as Director of Employee Communications at HSBC was a job share.

Jane has written for the All Things IC blog to share some insights into flexible working within Comms and her experience in this field. She also has a special offer for All Things IC readers – see the end of this article for full information.

Flexible work doesn’t just apply to parents. I’ve worked in places where people have had flexible hours for a number of reasons including caring for elderly relatives and to participate in a sporting team.

Hours to suit
As the mum of three young children (my daughter is five-years-old and my twin sons are two-years-old), I have created my business model to suit our family.

Working flexibly for me at All Things IC isn’t about reduced hours, but having the ability to manage my time and resources effectively as a business owner who works full-time and late into the night every night.

This enables me to do the important things, like go to Harvest Festival assemblies or attend medical appointments, both of which I did with my children this week. (Have still got some of those Harvest songs in my head as I type this!).

Every week I advertise vacancies on the All Things IC jobs page. The majority are full-time, but I was heartened to see First Bus recruiting for an Internal Comms Lead and seeking two people for that senior-level role, which is a job share.

Here’s Jane to reveal her thoughts on this topic and to share an offer for readers of the All Things IC blog…

Creative, problem-solver, capable of thinking outside the box and using common sense to challenge the status quo.

If these sound like the key attributes of an internal communications professional in your organisation, then we have just the challenge for you…

Imagine a Director of Communications with nearly 20 years’ experience, an Oxford graduate who rose up through the ranks of one of the top Financial Comms agencies, joined a large UK Finance company and advised employees, the media and investors on their IPO, led Corporate Communications at a UK plc that serves 20 million customers a day and did a stint on the Board of a large communications agency. Good fun, a consummate professional and a great team leader.

Does this sound like someone who would have trouble finding a job?

Well she does (and I’m not going to ask who assumed this was a man).

Talking about flexible working
She has two young children she needs to take to school some mornings and collect from after school club around 6pm each evening.  Finding a job within half an hour of her London home, is possible but not easy, likewise leaving the office each day at 5.30pm – and note I said leaving the office, not finishing work.

It isn’t easy because it requires a conversation with a prospective employer or recruiter about some kind of flexibility: occasionally working from home or simply having an employer who understands that as well as a highly qualified, hugely experienced Communications professional, she is also a parent.

And that is invariably where the conversation starts and promptly ends.

In the UK women are now a third more likely to go to university than men, according to data from the UK university entrance body UCAS.

Aside from the social issues of educating women to then exclude them from the workforce less than 10 years later, it is economic nonsense to invest in tertiary education for someone who is only expected to participate in the workforce for a limited time.

The talent crisis
The biggest issue cited by hiring managers in Corporate Communications this year has been the so-called “talent crisis,” 66% pf practitioners in PR and Communications are female, and less than 7% of roles in our industry are advertised with any kind of flexibility.*

It doesn’t take a first class degree to work out that companies willing to offer some kind of flexibility will have the competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining the most experienced people, and addressing these talent issues.

I have more than 20 years’ experience in Corporate Communications myself and my last role as Director of Employee Communications at HSBC was a job share.

So I know it can be done, and done to great effect for both employer and employee.

That’s why, I set up FEEL, a recruitment agency that does things differently. We focus only on roles in PR, Marketing and Internal Communications, our candidates each have more than 10 years’ experience and our clients offer roles with some kind of flexibility – which very, very rarely means part-time.

We recruit Comms people for some of the best-known brands, financial services, management consultancies, creative & PR agencies, and charities.

At FEEL we work from home and hold client meetings wherever is convenient for our clients. I have built the business working three days a week and doing the rest at some of the most anti-social hours you can imagine. I say this, to blow away any ideas you may have about part-time workers being less committed or less productive.

I always say if you can handle the sleep deprivation of a newborn, negotiate with the shrewd mind of a toddler, do potty training and keep your sanity, and still manage to get yourself and another small person up, fed, dressed and off to school before 9am then you have some highly employable skills and I’d love to hear from you!

Change in attitudes
Of course we aren’t only talking to women and flexibility is not the preserve of working parents.

But if we want to see a change in attitudes towards flexible working, then working mums are a good bunch of people to start with.

At the beginning of October Melinda Gates joined LinkedIn.  Hardly surprising as Microsoft purchased the Professional Networking site for $26.2bn last year. But what’s interesting is the platform she is using, to make her entrance:

We’re sending our daughters into a workplace that’s designed for our dads.

She is not just talking about Diversity but inviting people to start a conversation that will re-imagine the work place of the future and change things for everyone.

(You can see the video Melinda shared on her LinkedIn post below – Rachel)

Starting the conversation
That is what we aim to do at FEEL. To start a conversation that says, “Can any part of this job be done flexibly?”  Otherwise great candidates like the one at the start of this piece are entirely hidden to you, you will never even see her CV, just because of four little words on the ad: “Full-time, office-based.

Special offer for All Things IC blog readers
We are offering an introductory rate on our fees for hiring managers throughout November.

Our fees are already lower than other recruiters because we don’t have the same overheads they do, and for the month of November all new briefs will be discounted further.

If you’d like more information as a candidate or client please contact jane@feelcommunications.co.uk. I’d love to hear from you.

Post author: Jane Johnson, Founder & Managing Director, FEEL Communications.

Thank you Jane. You can find out more about Jane and FEEL Communications via her website or on Twitter @FeelComms.

What’s your view on this topic? As ever you’re welcome to comment below to share your story or you can find me on Twitter @allthingsIC.

So in answer to my question posed in the headline, yes I think you can succeed and work flexibly in Comms. But it requires our organisations and teams to start having those conversations about other options that are available.

First published on the All Things IC blog 12 October 2017.

*Data courtesy of the PRCA 2016 census and the Timewise Hire Me My Way campaign.

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