Flexible Working: “I don’t really care how they deliver it, so long as they deliver”

Recent research conducted by the MCA with Research Now has shown the case of flexible working is growing. 100 clients who are involved in purchasing management consultancy took part in the survey on consultants working flexibly. The majority are happy for consultants to operate a flexible working policy.

From the 100 surveyed, a third said that knowing a consultancy had a flexible working policy for their staff made them more likely to purchase from that consultancy. For clients the specialist knowledge and experience of the consultancy brand were far more important factors in the purchasing decision than the availability of labour; 58% of respondents wanted the best person for the job regardless of their availability, with only 15% less willing to have a consultant on a project if they are working flexibly.

The most important factor that influences the views of purchasers of consultancy is the flexible working policy of their own company. The more positive the clients flexible working policy the more positive the impact that a consultancy company giving staff the chance to work flexibly was viewed.

The research confirmed the view that consultancies do not have to worry about talking about flexible working when they are pitching for a job. If you are confident and have experience of it working, and are still providing the best people, then that is good enough for the vast majority of clients. Those who are more sceptical want to know that flexible working will not affect project reaching agreed deadlines. As one respondent wrote

“When I buy consultancy I buy a solution, I don't really care how they deliver it so long as they deliver.”

The options for flexible working are limitless, from remote working and part time, to job share or annualised hours. But for many consultancies the difficulty comes with the inherent need to travel and clients demand for a responsive service. The more senior the consultant the more difficult flexible working is seen to be.

The real obstacles now to getting more flexible working in consultancy are internal. While consultancy is inherently flexible, that flexibility is created around a long hours culture rather than shared responsibilities and overlapping communications within teams.

The Job Share Project, http://www.thejobshareproject.com/, which held a conference at KPMG on Monday, has been tackling this very problem, gathering case studies of job shares in senior client facing roles and gathering research and best practice on how to make job share work.