Top Employers for Working Families: Special Awards 2015
The 2015 Top Employers for Working Families Awards showcases some of the best and most innovative current practice that there is when it comes to family friendly and flexible working. Long established categories like motherhood and maternity are still hot topics as organisations refine and develop their policies, whilst innovation is strong as they think about where, when and how work might be done. The introduction of Shared Parental Leave has been especially interesting this year, and it is evident that it has really stimulated some employers to move forward their provision for parents.
One of the key themes this year has been around refreshing and refining family friendly working. We have seen examples of investment in support for job-share, and repositioning and communicating existing flexible working opportunities as part of an organisational refocus on building a flexible culture appropriate for all employees. Culture is important, and the Awards demonstrate that employers are really embracing this. Getting it right can be a challenge, and one of the questions we asked this year was about evidence: how do you know that what you are doing is working? More than ever, employers have been able to back up their entries with metrics. The evidence base that employers were able to submit is important for two reasons: it shows how they are working to understand how policy unfolds into practice; and it gives a useful example to other employers who are wondering how they might start to quantify some of their own family-friendly programmes.
Related to culture, another theme that came through strongly was a focus on the importance of line managers (not just in the Line Managers award). Line managers are increasingly seen as the key to unlocking the full potential of flexible working, but to do this they need support and training to develop skills around managing different working patterns, and building trust with their teams. In this context, line manager training around flexibility is moving away from an opt-in option, to a required competence. Getting line managers to see the benefits of flexibility is, as these case studies demonstrate, easier when it is clear how it aligns with the overall strategy and plan, and people understand the ‘why’.
These case studies capture both responses to specific issues, and the evolution of existing practice. They showcase ideas that are well thought out, are designed to be embedded and long lasting, can be tested for effectiveness and, most importantly, are useful for employees. Any organisation interested in developing their own family friendly policy and practice can find a lot to learn from the 2015 Top Employers for Working Families.