By Juliet Turnbull, CEO of 2to3days.com
Having worked in business for over 20 years, it feels like there is a revolution afoot in working practices. With less focus on “presenteesism” and more attention given to outcomes; less assumptions about a job being full time and more curiosity about agile and flexible working. This is an exciting, new world of work that I can see shaking up some of the old problems that we used to face.
For example, as someone with my own business, one of the key problems that I think such flexibility should now start to alleviate is that of recruiting talent.
There is nothing more rewarding and exciting than having the “right” team around you – people who share your vision and who are helping you to get the job done. Yet finding that talent is currently one of the most challenging things to do. It takes time and patience. And at senior levels, there may be the additional complication of attracting the right experience but not necessarily full-time, which would be a cost too high for a start-up’s budget.
However, now that good IT, accompanied by good attitudes, is setting staff free to work in whatever way is most efficient for each individual, we’re starting to see a whole new range of possibilities for people who may not have previously been able to commit to a full-time, nine to five job.
A crucial group that fits into this category is mothers – some of whom may want to work alongside caring for their children but who to date haven’t been able to contort their lives to fit around traditional working practices. Many of these mothers have years of experience managing teams, budgets and projects but as a pool of talent, they have been almost invisible to the eyes of employers.
Particularly now, in a globally competitive economy, this is not only an exciting but also an important development, allowing the UK to capitalise on the full extent of its talent. We’ve all heard the saying, “if you want something done, then give it to a busy person”. In my experience, this makes mothers truly great employees!
I admit that I’ve seen the change in myself. When I was at work before I had children, I had “soft” deadlines – a time by which I’d ideally like to get something done and then get home. But now I have very hard deadlines! And I am much more efficient for it.
In my late 20s and early 30s, I was always telling myself that I really must try to prioritise better. Now I simply have to prioritise. And again, I’ve developed a level of focus that I think is hard to replicate without a very real level of pressure, such as that of having children who depend on you.
And perhaps the biggest change of all has been my sense of what it means to be busy. I always used to think and tell people that my life was crazy busy but to quote Michael McIntyre, “before children, I just had no idea!!!”
As with all parents who are handling careers and children, I have had to become a first class multi-tasker, developing systems that are efficient and that cut to the chase at an instant. This has meant not only developing the obvious organisational skills but tuning up my emotional intelligence as well. When negotiating with a child, you have to be able to work out what it is that is going to have the right effect as quickly as possible and with minimum fuss. This means listening, understanding, being two steps ahead, all of which has now become second nature.
When I decided to return to work and set up my own business two years ago, little did I realise the extent to which all these new skills would help me. But it is perhaps even more gratifying to see how other employers are also now starting to recognise these skills, seeing the value, talent and commitment that busy mothers can bring to the workplace.
Long may this quiet revolution last… it’s creating a world in which both mothers will thrive and the companies that are lucky enough to snap them up.
Juliet Turnbull is CEO of 2to3days.com – a private online community that connects enlightened employers with talented mothers looking for rewarding work on a part time or flexible basis.