HR Breakfast – Supporting flexible working with the power of Wednesday

Published: 11 June 2014

Attracted by a great guest speaker and a very suitable venue, we recently hosted a number of HR Directors from the Media industry at the Hospital Club near Covent Garden. Stewart Easterbrook, who was the UK CEO of Starcom MediaVest, shared the journey he and his board have been on in changing the business from a traditional media buying company, to one that sells a “human experience”. If that sounds fluffy, it is anything but and the financials speak for themselves.

He took us on a half hour journey and proved to  be every HR Directors dream boss – he understood the power of listening to people, treating everyone as an individual, that the little things are important and that he knew it would take a different approach to engage a Millennial workforce (the average age in Starcom is 30).

Of particular note was how his business ensured returning mothers were engaged and supported when they came back to the business. The key to Starcom’s success in ensuring they retain top female talent has been their genuine support and belief in creating an environment in which a returning mother can thrive.

Building on the theme of the individual, this allowed for huge flex in working hours - for some this meant starting at 11 on a Tuesday, for others it allowed home working on a Monday and Friday. It is the understanding that everyone’s requirements are unique that separates their “policy” from others.

Much thought has gone into this and another worthwhile example he shared with us included ensuring that company meetings and events, are held on a Wednesday; the day when the majority of the workforce was in the building (especially those with flex arrangements) thus making communication more impactful and powerful.

As Stewart says, it’s the little things, but these make a huge difference. Staff turnover has reduced significantly, headcount and revenues have grown and this is making a commercial difference. Many people shy away from this, claiming it is too difficult to manage and perhaps in some of the FTSE100 that might be true, however a genuine and supported flexible working culture will ensure top talent remains within the business as an engaged employee, continuing to deliver results.

To receive an invite to our next HR event, please contact Tim Baker, Debbie Sutton or Harriet Surman in the HR Practice of Berwick Partners.

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