Flexible Working Thought Leaders

Neil Patrick of 40 Plus Career Guru talks Flexible Working

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Here at Flexiworkforce we aim to connect with the key thought leaders on workplace trends. Today, we spoke with Neil Patrick, the creator and editor of the popular blog 40pluscareerguru. Neil’s blog has quickly gained prominence as a one of the key online commentaries about career issues, particularly for mature professionals. Here’re our questions and his answers.

What is your background and why did you begin writing your blog, 40pluscareerguru.com?

I spent the first 20 years of my career in banking and finance. I initially worked for international banks, but later became a founding director of three fast growth financial businesses. Two were very successful. One was not. So I’ve gained a diverse experience of business within both large corporations and small entrepreneurial businesses. And critically of both success and failure.

More recently, I have transitioned from being an employee to a self-employed consultant. I also became fascinated by how the transformation of the employment landscape has passed most professionals by. Old ideas about our how we should manage our careers have been swept away by transformations in media, recruitment and the world of work. And the vast majority of people have been blissfully unaware of this.

Our jobs are so critical to our lives that I felt this subject demanded attention. It seemed that few people were paying attention to the perfect storm that had arisen through the collision of the digital age, global recession, globalisation and ageism. No-one seemed to have connected these dots and understood the big picture.

Particularly I noticed that my own peers, typically mature and accomplished professionals were virtually completely unaware of these changes. They had become incredibly vulnerable without really appreciating why or what to do about it.

These were the reasons I set up 40pluscareerguru. I wanted to inform people about these changes and what they needed to do to protect their futures. It’s a labour of love, but a mission that I feel is vital.

In your opinion, what are the main benefits that 40 plus employees bring to the multi-generational workforce?

I have written numerous posts about this subject. One of them is here and in it I set out the top 10 things which I think older employees have to offer.

One of the key strengths of older workers is that they are not on a mission to be the next big thing. They just want to do a good job. This brings a totally different attitude. They’ve seen success and failure so many times, that although they cannot easily show these things on their CVs, this life experience brings huge value to the teams they work with.

What do you see as the career priorities of over 40 employees? 

The over 40s are in the second half of their working lives. But they are in a far worse condition financially than their parents. The recession has wrecked their balance sheets at a stage of life when previously they would be heading towards a comfortable retirement.

In 2008 and the subsequent years, the professional middle classes in the US and Europe were struck by a tsunami so huge that it has devastated their personal assets.

Property asset values tumbled, investments had billions wiped off, pension plans shrivelled, savings interest rarely even matched inflation. All the while, living costs and particularly food and energy bills rose and rose. Hardly anyone in the professional classes became wealthier between 2008 and today.

In the words of one of my key collaborators, John Tarnoff in California:

There are many statistics available, but the most striking number to me is this one: 80 percent of us have saved less than $100,000 for our retirement. Given the economics of the last five years, and the prospects ahead of us, what this means is that the Boomers are going to have to keep working – and the problem there is that neither we nor society at large are prepared for us to remain in the work force.

Few are able to look forward to a comfortable retirement when they reach 65 unless they drastically revaluate what they are going to do to keep the money coming in.

To what extent does ageism remain an issue in the UK workforce? What could be done to improve this and enhance the prospects of over 40s? 

There’s very little data available to quantify this issue. Worse, it’s too easy for employers to sidestep their legal obligations regarding ageism. Ageism is not just a workplace issue, it’s a societal one.

However there is some data which is instructive. According to the European Social Survey in 2011, a major piece of research carried out across 28 countries, nearly two out of five Britons claim they have been ignored or patronised because of ageist views. Only in Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the figures worse.

One third of Britons think those over 70 are a burden on health services. Two out of five people in the UK say they have been shown a lack of respect because of their age. In the UK, youth is thought to end at 35 compared with people in Greece who said it ended at 52.

In the UK, 64% of people thought age discrimination is a ‘very serious or quite serious problem.’ Only in France, where the figure is 68%, did more people express concern.

The figures also reveal that in the UK, 41% of people thought that people aged 70 or over contributed little to the economy and in addition 36% thought that people over 70 were a burden on healthcare services.

According to the report, there were fears surrounding age discrimination in the workplace with around half of Britons interviewed who are aged over 50 saying they were concerned about employers showing preference to people in the their 20s.

In my view, ageism is that last of the ‘isms’ to become socially unacceptable. Only when it is taken as seriously as sexism and racism can we expect to see any significant improvement.

What is your opinion of the UK government’s recent changes to the right to request flexible working? Do you believe that the changes are a step in the right direction or are you of the view that more needs to be done to promote more progressive attitudes to working?

I think the new rules should be welcomed. But I expect little to change very quickly. Some enlightened employers have already embraced these new practices ahead of the legal requirement to do so and mostly their reports are positive.

Many more I think will drag their heels out of complacency and fear of the unknown. But gradually over time, I think flexible working arrangements will become more and more accepted as the norm and 10 or 15 years from now, we’ll look back at the 9-5 mentality as being archaic.

And personally I can’t wait for the day when I can get into my car at 8am and expect to be able to drive more than a couple of miles!

We’d like to thank Neil for his time and the insights he has shared with us. You can follow his blog here. He’s also on Twitter @Newcareerguru.

 Find UK-wide remote flexible working/home working opportunities on  flexiworkforce.com 

 

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Whatever Tomorrow’s Outcome, Flexibility is the Future!

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It’s the eve of the referendum of Scottish independence, and in the run up to the event, Flexiworkforce CEO and founder Tracey Eker has been meeting with politicians from both sides of the  the campaign in order to discuss the ways in which flexible working will be of benefit to Scotland both within the UK or as an independent state.

First the Flexiworkforce team met John Mason, a Scottish Nationalist and member of the Scottish Parliament who sits on the Committee for Equal Opportunities. Secondly, we met with Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire Jo Swinson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations.

“It was great to meet with representatives from both factions” Tracey Eker stated, “It enabled us to gain a balanced view of how flexible working would be advantageous to Scotland’s future, whether it may be within the Union, or as an independent country.”

From a political perspective, the benefits of flexible working are numerous, and include:

  • Flexible working may help to alleviate the ongoing skills shortage, in that in-demand professionals who have previously left the workforce may be brought back in on a part-time, flexible basis
  • Flexible working will improve diversity and equal opportunities within organisations ranging from SMEs to large corporates companies, by improving inclusion of groups such as women, the over 50s and those with disabilities or mental health issues.
  • The result of this will ultimately be a decrease in overall unemployment.
  • Increased flexible working may also help to decrease working poverty, in that increased transparency in job ads will enable individuals to access work appropriate to their skills level, therefore, freeing up minimum wage roles for other job seekers.
  • Increased flexible working may decrease unemployment unemployment ‘portfolio’ workers who work several roles simultaneously. This form of working is especially prevalent in the ‘Gen Y‘ demographic, in which unemployment is high.

Therefore, whatever the result of the Referendum, we hope that the trend towards flexible working continues, whether Scotland votes for independence, or  continues to be part of the Union, in order to bridge inequality, solve the skills shortage and make our society fairer.

Vote for Flexible working!

How the UK Skills Shortage Will Boost Flexible Working

War on Talent Continues as Top Talent Demand Flexible Working

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August 2014 saw a record drop in the number of candidates applying for permanent and full-time jobs, a recent report commissioned by the Bank of Scotland has revealed

The Bank of Scotland chief economist Donald MacRae consolidates the report’s findings: ‘There was a record drop in people available for jobs and growing evidence of strong growth in pay, confirming the tightening of the jobs market’. However, this drop has been countered by a marked increase in individuals applying for short-term and part-time roles, confirming that the Scottish jobs market continues to go “from strength to strength”.

The change may be interpreted as a result of the skills shortage currently affecting the UK. A dearth of skilled candidates means that certain sectors continue to struggle to fill full-time positions, including the medical and care sectors, IT and computing and the engineering sector.

“A huge number of skilled candidates have been excluded from the job market because of a lack of part-time roles and flexible working positions. The ongoing skills shortage means that these professionals are highly sought-after, and are in a strong position to dictate their salaries and working conditions, including work schedules’. Flexiworkforce CEO Tracey Eker confirms.

Nevertheless, the growth in flexible, part-time and short contract positions may also be seen as a boon for employers seeking to broaden their talent pool by increasing their access talented candidates.

By hiring candidates on a flexible basis, companies can effectively get the skills that their business needs, for the money they can afford, something especially vital for emerging SMEs, many of whom rely on contractual workers. In particular, engineering and construction saw a marked increase in temporary job openings. This suggests that this rise modern flexible working has come about as a mutually beneficial option, resulting from the convergence in the needs of employees and businesses.

The skills shortage shows no sign of stopping, meaning that level of bargaining power that workers have to negotiate their working conditions is only set to increase. As the war for talent rages on, it is likely that flexibility will be a major factor in determine which companies ultimately survive, thrive and fail.

‘The last bastion of differentiation in the fight for mind share and market share for a business is its people. Yet hiring, retaining and motivating the best talent is no easy task in an age where loyalty to one job for life, or even five years, is starting to sound prehistoric’. Eker states.

‘Developing a flexible company culture that will help attract, retain and motivate the best employees to achieve amazing results is essential’.

Click here for more information on how you can hire the best candidates for your business.

Flexible Working Thought Leaders

In a new series featuring leaders in the world of flexible working, we speak to Work From Home Wisdom blogger Judy Heminsley.

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Judy is the founder of Work from Home Wisdom, a blog that provides advice and inspiration for home workers, and author of Work from Home (How To Books).She was a pioneer of Jelly coworking events in the Uk, and her How to Start Your Own Jelly guide is available on the blog.

How did you start working from home and what inspired you to begin writing about the subject

I didn’t plan to work from home at all! I just fell into it when I helped to set up a cleaning business in the 80s. As a new business we wanted to keep costs down, and running it from a spare bedroom was the obvious choice. I ran the business for 12 years, employing over 20 part-time staff, and never considered moving out of home into separate premises.

Having sold the business and moved to Cornwall I stumbled on the MA Professional Writing course at Falmouth University. No, there was no big plan to any of this! As a non-fiction writer I had to come up with a book idea for my thesis, research the market, write sample chapters and submit it as a commercial book proposal. It was when I was thinking about this that I realised that almost everything I’d done for the past 20 years had been based at home. I discovered there were no current books about working from home, and so there was my idea.

The great thing about the course was that the thesis not only got me my MA but later led to a book contract with How To Books. I set up the blog as a way to keep the subject fresh, not knowing that such a lot was about to happen – coworking spaces, Jelly, mobile and flexible working etc – and that the blog would grow along with it.

Do you think that employers attitudes to remote/agile ways of working are changing?

Yes and no. Marissa Mayer’s decision to take staff back into the office at Yahoo was disappointing, but I feel there was a lot more behind it than was made public. The vast majority of my readers are freelancers or home business owners, and some are employed by corporates who appreciate the benefits of home and flexible working. So it’s always a shock to hear about employers who don’t want to let staff out of their sight, as the advantages seem so obvious. But the 9-5 ethic is so deeply ingrained in our psyche.

What is your opinion of the UK government’s recent changes to flexible working legislation? Do you see the change as a step in the right direction or are you of the view that more needs to be done to improve access to flexible working?

As a former employer I’m very aware of the effects of employment legislation on business, particularly small businesses, so I’m maybe less militant about this than you might expect! It’s a step in the right direction. It’s much easier for the self-employed as they can change working practices instantly, as long as they still get the work done.

What do you think the future holds for flexible and remote working? Do you think there will be a greater uptake of remote working in the future?

As technology enables more people to do more, wherever they are, inevitably it will become more widespread. I also see the ageing population as a major driver, as more people need to combine work with caring for elderly relatives for an extended period of time. This is already affecting me and all my friends, and it will become a massive factor in many more people’s lives. One home worker I know looks after three elderly relatives, all living in different places across the UK.

 In your opinion, what is the best thing about working from home?

For me, it’s having the freedom to mix work and personal commitments in any way I choose. I’ve always enjoyed taking time off when I wanted, and working early or late because I was in the mood. Now that I’m a distance carer for both my parents, working from home enables me to handle their household affairs during office hours, and contact banks, utility companies and so on if necessary. My sister, who works full-time, simply can’t do this.

Follow Judy via TwitterPinterest and Google +.

For more tips on working remotely click here

Find UK-wide remote flexible working/home working opportunities on  flexiworkforce.com 

 

How to Write an Effective Personal Profile

 

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A key concern to bear in mind when putting together a new CV is the personal statement, sometimes called a candidate profile or career summary, that allows the employer or recruiter to quickly identify your core skills and the value that you can bring to the business. Your personal profile should be concise and persuasive enough to convince the recruiter that you are a candidate more than worth interviewing.

Summarising your entire career history into a short 50-200 word paragraph (no more) may at first seem like a daunting task. Indeed, many candidates find it difficult to stick to a few core points, and end up rambling as a result. However, following these few simple steps will enable you to quickly create a compelling profile for your CV

1. Match Your Profile to Your Job Specification

This may seem obvious, but tailoring your experience and skillset to the job description is one of the most important things you can when attempting to show how you would be perfect for the role in question. If you believe that you are a perfect fit for the role,

It’s important to read the job specification carefully and ensure not only that your skills and experience match but you reflect this in your statement.

2. First or third person?

It can be difficult to know whether you should write your profile in the first or third person, as there are no definitive rules about what is best. However, some CV writers are of the view that first person is preferable, in that it gives your CV a sense of direct authenticity that third person does not. In a CV, you are essentially telling the story of your life, and arguably, writing in the first person is most effective way to do this. Crucially, never mix the two!

3. Include the following 

-Who are you? (What is your employment background and education)?

-How will your skills help the organisation? (Be sure to match your own skills and experiences closely to the job specifications!)

 4. Finish with a career aim

This will show employer that you have ambition, and are capable of proving your skills in order to move up in their organisation. Again, try to match this to the job description or the role provided.

 Example:

“As recent graduate from Strathclyde University, with a 2:1 honours degree in International Marketing, I have undertaken several internships within local start-up businesses such as Glasgow Radio and Clyde PR. These placements have enabled me to develop not only specific marketing industry experience, but also key transferable skills set in this fast-paced sector.

During placement with Glasgow Radio, I worked in the marketing team contributing to projects – such as social media campaign– and managed my own research, liaised with journalists and the digital marketing manager, put together media reports and participated in group project meetings. Using excellent communication skills, I developed and maintained successful working relationships with those round about me.

 Looking to secure a position in marketing/PR, where I can add value to the organisation and continue to build on my current skillset further”.

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