Why flexible working is good for business
Posted on August 31, 2015
4 min read
Last week Andrew Penn, Telstra’s CEO, addressed an 800-strong audience at the Male Champions of Change Forum in Sydney. The Male Champions of Change are a high profile coalition of men with influence committed to driving change on gender equality.
Andrew is the group’s newest member. His presentation centred on Telstra’s policy of making “All Roles Flexible”, an approach which has driven enormous change across the organisation.
The key data points highlighting the impact of “All Roles Flex” on Telstra include:
- The number of women joining Telstra has exceeded the number of women leaving for the 8th successive quarter, reversing a long-running trend.
- The total number of Telstra employees has increased in the past year by 2.8%, while the total number of women increased by 5.8%
- The numbers of male managers at Telstra taking primary parental leave has increased threefold in the past year. The numbers are still small, but point to a shift in our culture, and a new norm around men and flexibility at Telstra.
Andrew said a key factor in embedding “All Roles Flex” at Telstra, particularly early on, was how it was modelled by the leadership. He said Telstra was fortunate to have leaders who led by example in showing what it meant to be balanced, flexible, creative and effective in how they worked and led.
Behind the metrics though, were many human stories of how the approach had changed lives.
Andrew described the experience of one of Telstra’s senior lawyers who had been able to balance an extremely challenging workload with the need to care for his elderly parents. Without the ability to work flexibly, there was every chance the lawyer would have had to leave the company. Telstra would have lost an exceptional lawyer and his career may have suffered.
Instead, a flexible arrangement was put in place that included periods working from home, quarantined times in the week where he could be directly involved in caring for his parents, and the introduction of a nine day fortnight.
Another example involves two Telstra lawyers who have been job sharing for over eight years. Kath and Angela are based in Melbourne.
They began their sharing arrangement while working at another company because they had two and three young children respectively. Neither had the capacity to work full time, but both wanted intellectually stimulating roles. They came up with the idea of job sharing themselves, pitched it to their managers and made it a great success.
In 2007 they applied for a position at Telstra using a joint CV – a novel approach at the time – and they have been with the company ever since.
Kath and Angela now both work a three day week, with an overlapping day on Wednesday to ensure a smooth handover of open matters. In their job share arrangement they have worked successfully in roles throughout the company, from credit and billing, wholesale, the NBN rollout and the privacy team.
Job sharing has been a great success for them both personally and professionally. They have also mentored a number of other staff wanting to start their own job share arrangements and now Telstra’s legal team have seven other sharing arrangements.
Andrew said that “All Roles Flex” had been great for Telstra in terms of diversity, inclusion, employee engagement and attracting and retaining good people. He said it was inspiring that flexibility was starting to become the new normal at Telstra.
That is not to say that Telstra is there yet – but we are learning every day, and we are changing, Andrew added.