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Flexibility is key to navigating rocky road ahead

In the fight for talent, the winners will be those employers that can offer a genuinely flexible working arrangement, argues executive coach Geraldine Gallacher.

Geraldine Gallacher

September 2017 

Without doubt the year ahead will be a challenging one for the accountancy profession. While the government’s decision to delay digital tax plans may offer some relief in the short term, the volume of work generated by Brexit, FRS102, the European General Data Protection Regulation, anti-money laundering legislation and cyber security, will require an unprecedented level of focus.

Experienced staff will be in demand and competition to attract and retain the best talent will be stiff. Employers will benefit from having a clear plan to support the wellbeing of existing staff and position themselves as an employer of choice to attract new joiners.

I believe a key way for employers to differentiate themselves from the competition is to develop a solid track record for flexible working arrangements.

Flexible working is already being used in the fiercely competitive graduate recruitment market to differentiate the top consulting firms. While graduates are important, the profession needs more experienced hires to deal with the challenges ahead.

The quickest way to achieve this is to bring back experienced women who have taken an extended career break to raise a family.

ICAEW has established a Comeback Community to attract women returners back to the profession. The message to employers wishing to snap up talent through this route is clear; flexible working arrangements must form a core component of your employer brand.

A recent Career Returners’ survey conducted by ECC highlights the critical importance of flexible working for returners. It found the majority of women (60%) went back to work in a different function and of this sample 38% changed industry sector in order to get the flexibility they require to manage work and childcare responsibilities.

Men benefit from flexible working arrangements too. A global study recently published by the University of Georgia found men are struggling to juggle work and family life just as much as women, but feel less able to talk about the issue.

The forthcoming year will offer challenges as well as opportunities for considerable personal and professional growth. Firms that can support staff to grow during this period without asking them to compromise family life will be well positioned to attract and retain the best performers.

Geraldine Gallacher is founding partner of the Executive Coaching Consultancy

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